For the past 50 years, elected Indigenous leaders in the Legislative Assembly have brought up over and over again the dire need to hire more Indigenous staff in the GNWT so that the public service is representative of the people it serves.
What happens instead is the Minister of the Human Resources at the time directs their staff to find data to justify why the numbers are so low for the hiring Indigenous people, citing a lack of education and training good enough to work for the GNWT public service.
That’s why the GNWT cannot get past the 30 percent Indigenous representation mark in the public service. Why don’t they just apply the Affirmative Action Policy when hiring? That is what the policy is for, right? While the policy was “revised” in 2017, the revisions did not include solutions for fixing the problem.
Here’s what we know from the Public Service Annual Report: Indigenous representation in the public service is at 30 percent. Indigenous people make up about 51 percent of the population and therefore, they aren’t being properly represented at the public service level.
Here’s what else we know, 12 per cent of the GNWT public service is made up of Indigenous non-Aboriginals but the GNWT does not know what their population is in the NWT and so we don’t know if they have achieved equal representation under the Affirmative Action Policy.
What does this have to do with Indigenous representation in the public service? Well, in the nine years that I worked for the GNWT, the departments considered the hiring of Indigenous non-Aboriginal candidates as fulfilling their Affirmative Action obligations.
Deputy ministers (DM) aren’t held responsible for their lack of hiring Indigenous people and that is evident by the low number of Indigenous employees in their departments. The Affirmative Action Policy also states that DMs are to develop and implement affirmative action plans. I did not see any of that done by any department in my time with the GNWT.
The Affirmative Action Policy also states that a review is to begin once a “target” group achieves equal representation. Without the population data of the Indigenous non-Aboriginals, the review cannot be triggered and it probably will not be triggered any time soon by the low employment of Indigenous people in the GNWT.
It is my hope that the Affirmative Action Policy is scrapped for a true employment equity policy, one that doesn’t exclude Indigenous people and doesn’t give preference to those that, in any other jurisdiction, would not be considered affirmative action candidates.