Nova Scotia

Aboriginal workers underrepresented in Nova Scotia government

The province of Nova Scotia is raising concerns about its own ability to hire aboriginal people, according to an internal government note.

Government workforce is comprised of 0.9% Aboriginal people

The number of people employed by the Nova Scotia government is about 10,082. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The province of Nova Scotia is raising concerns about its own ability to hire aboriginal people, according to an internal government document.

The government workforce is comprised of 0.9 per cent aboriginal people, below the province's goal of about 2.5 per cent. 

"There are concerns within government that hiring staff are not fully aware of diversity programs offered through the [Public Service Commission], in order for government to achieve its targets for employee equity," reads a ministerial briefing prepared for the aboriginal Affairs Minister and Premier Stephen McNeil.

"That doesn't represent achievement of our employee equity objectives. We are concerned about that and working to improve upon that," says Joe Fraser, director of corporate diversity with the Public Service Commission.

'We're concerned'

The numbers have slightly increased in the past five years, but continues to hover below the one-per-cent mark.  In 2009, 85 people who identified as aboriginal worked in the public service. That rose to 103 in 2014.

"We're concerned about the lack of upward trending," said Fraser.

The numbers have slightly increased, but continues to hover below the one per cent mark. (Department of Aboriginal Affairs/CBC)

"As government we are looked to by Nova Scotians to set an example and to lead by example. As one of the biggest employers in the province and also because government has to provide services that are responsive to all Nova Scotians and Nova Scotians have to be able to see themselves in the services we provide."

There are about 10,082 people working for the Nova Scotia government. A 2012-2013 report shows aboriginal people make up 2.4 per cent of the working-age population.

Fraser says the province is investigating how it hires people in hopes of improving the numbers and reviewing potential barriers, like experience and education.

The province adopted an employment equity strategy last year.

Karen Boyd works for the Mi'kmaq Employment Training Secretariat and said she's not surprised at all by the numbers.

She said the province has set goals without connecting with people in the community.

"That is often the case. These plans are made up without engaging the communities they are trying to target.  It's just backwards in my opinion because they need our input, they need to understand the issues from our point of view so we can work on that together," Boyd said. "It kind of baffles me."

'We're seeing what works'

She said she's willing to help the Public Service Commission make those connections

"It's important for any workplace to be reflective of the community they work in and for," she said.

At the same time, Boyd said it's a learning process. 

"This is all some what new, considering even my father's generation was in residential schools. He was one of the first students to attend the transition year program at Dalhousie University for example. Education and employment weren't open other than to people in my generation now," she said. "We're seeing what works, we're seeing what doesn't work. We're seeing what needs to happen."

According to Fraser, the government is overhauling the way it tracks demographics in the public service. Instead of filling out a survey when they start, civil servants will be polled every few years.

"Based on an early look at those numbers I think that there are promising signs of how that representation is starting to trend," he said.

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