Summer jobs for Indigenous youth and the potential renewal of the Aboriginal Skills Education Training Fund were among the topics raised at a Liberal Party of Canada Northern Ontario Caucus meeting in Thunder Bay.
“We’ve talked a lot at Northern Caucus about using our collective voice to support the work I am doing to boost up that (Aboriginal Skills Education Training) Fund, to bring it forward, to rejuvenate it to make sure that we are respecting what Indigenous people have been telling us through the consultation process,” says Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu, minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.
“It is going to be really helpful to have the Northern Caucus work with me on that message so that by the time we get to budget time, there has been a very loud and clear message, not just from me as the minister of Employment, but also from Northern Caucus, to say this is critical to turning the page. We know that intergenerational poverty is really only solved through economic development and through employment.”
Hajdu also announced earlier in the day that up to 276 students in Indigenous communities across northern Ontario will receive summer job opportunities through more than $870,000 in Canada Summer Jobs funding. Ninety-three organizations committed to hire Indigenous students, which will enable them to get meaningful work experience and save money to pay for school.
“When young Canadians have the skills and work experience they need to get a strong start in their careers, our middle class is stronger and our economy thrives,” Hajdu says. “Thanks to this Canada Summer Jobs funding, more youth across northern Ontario will have summer jobs opportunities, save money to pay for their education and enhance their skills.”
The Canada Summer Jobs program is part of the federal government’s Youth Employment Strategy, into which the federal government invests more than $330 million per year.
“I am very pleased that the Canada Summer Jobs program is helping to create valuable job opportunities for 276 youth in Indigenous communities in northern Ontario this summer,” says Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré, chair of the Northern Ontario Caucus. “The experiences and skills that these young minds will gain from summer jobs will provide valuable experience for their future careers, and create an opportunity to save for their education and living expenses.”
Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Don Rusnak, chair of the Liberal Party’s Indigenous Caucus and a Lac des Mille Lacs citizen, stressed that there are many projects happening in First Nation communities across northern Ontario.
“There’s housing projects in Aroland, housing projects in Garden River, housing projects across NAN (Nishnawbe Aski Nation) territory,” Rusnak says. “So we want to get better at telling that story. We’re working with individual communities right across northwestern Ontario and a lot of good things are happening.”
Hajdu says there has also been progress in terms of self-governance and self-determination for First Nation communities.
“I look at communities like Red Rock (Indian Band) that had for eight years struggled to get the Addition-to-Reserve status for a piece of land they had purchased,” Hajdu says, noting that the Addition-to-Reserve process is a convoluted process involving the provincial and federal governments. “Eight years they had struggled with the previous government to get any movement, and we were able to secure that Addition-to-Reserve for them because we understand the principle of self-governance and we understand that communities are taking control of the lands that have historically been theirs and they want the ability to be able to determine how to use those lands in ways that are appropriate.”
The Northern Ontario Caucus meeting also included Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre, Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan and Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota.