CHARBONNEAU – Indigenous labour is an untapped resource

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde with Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory. (Image: Facebook – Perry Bellegarde)

CANADIANS OPENED their hearts and homes to Syrian refugees last year. It was a warm humanitarian gesture as well as an economic imperative: Canada relies on immigrants to sustain our work force.

Treatment of our Indigenous people is puzzling in both regards. Refugees from Indian Reserves do not receive a warm welcome. Communities don’t sponsor Indigenous families and put them up in homes.

They are not being bombed but they are fleeing abominable conditions: mouldy housing, undrinkable water, poor education, appalling health care and little hope for employment. Instead of being helped, First Nations refugees often end up on city streets with few options for integration into society.

Not only are Indigenous Canadians uninvited in cities but the labour resource they represent is wasted.


David Charbonneau is a retired TRU electronics instructor who hosts a blog at

About Mel Rothenburger (5872 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on CHARBONNEAU – Indigenous labour is an untapped resource

  1. Ken McClelland // October 12, 2017 at 8:36 AM // Reply

    Noble and valid sentiments for sure. I believe, though, that it takes buy-in from indigenous leaders and communities as well. Too many seem to be willing to only maintain the status quo, and with it the appalling on-reserve conditions Mr. Charbonneau mentions. He also mentions, among other opportunities, resource extraction as a growing field of opportunity, particularly in the North. Too many times, imho, indigenous leaders have been more willing to sue for blockage of resource extraction projects and the infrastructure that goes with them i.e. mines and pipelines, rather than embrace the educational, economic and social opportunities these projects would bring to their own people. It could be argued that some indigenous leaders are keeping their own people in a perpetual state of poverty by denying these opportunities. I admire progressive first nations leaders such as Manny Jules, Clarence Louis, and Nathan Matthew, that work hard to bring about opportunities for their people, and give them the opportunity to rise above the on-reserve circumstances some are stuck in, while still retaining their cultural traditions. As things stand now under the Indian Act, indigenous peoples whether by design or intent, are to all intents and purposes wards of the state, not full Canadian citizens. They don’t own the land their on-reserve houses sit on, as an example, so have no real assets from a lender’s standpoint, and therefore no ability to raise seed capital for new business ventures. This is not a level field, and needs to change. It seems we spend a lot of money at INAC, but have trouble seeing any measurable progress year over year. Perhaps the money isn’t being spent in the right areas on the right things, but rather is being used to pursue what seems like a steady stream of lawsuits that result in missed opportunities and prevent the very progress Mr. Charbonneau refers to in his excellent article.

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