ResearchPDF Available

"I wanted a career, not a job" First Nations and Metis employment in the construction of the Lower Mattagami River Project

Authors:
First Nations and Métis
Employment in the Construction
of the Lower Mattagami
River Project
I Wanted a Career
Not a Job
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
2
Sincere thanks to the employment team from the MCFN who assisted
with transportation to site, logistics and information sharing , particularly
Kim Radbourne, Bert Wapachee, Bruce Nelson and Ernie Lafontaine.
Mark Gernon also helped with logistics and organizing interviews on
site. Both Jodi Evers and Kim Radbourne provided helpful comments
on the report and Elders Agnes Corston, Eva Lazarus and Josephine
Wesley provided important insights at the beginning of the project. e
Ontario Building and Construction Trades Council endorsed the project
and assisted with BCTU contacts. Over the course of the project several
research assistants provided invaluable assistance: Marrissa Mathews,
Russell Claus, Caroline Fram, Ellery Veerman and Sarah Lowe. Funding
for this project was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada.
Acknowledgements
Prepared for:
Moose Cree First Nation
22 Jonathan Cheechoo Drive
P.O. Box 190
Moose Factory, ON P0L 1W0
By
Suzanne Mills and Anne St-Amand,
School of Labour Studies and Geography
and Earth Sciences, McMaster University
McMaster University
1280 Main St. West
Hamilton, ON
L8S 4L8
October 9th, 2015
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
4
Acknowledgements ......................................................................................................2
Table of Contents .........................................................................................................4
Executive Summary .....................................................................................................6
List of Tables and Figures ......................................................................................... 13
List of Acronyms ....................................................................................................... 13
1. Introduction ........................................................................................................ 16
1.1 Building and Construction Trades and First Nations Employment ......... 18
2. Methods .............................................................................................................. 20
3. Project Background: Environmental Assessment and Negotiations
with First Nations ............................................................................................... 24
4. Employment at the LMRP .................................................................................. 27
4.1 Employment Commitments ........................................................................ 27
4.2 Implementation ........................................................................................... 29
4.2.1 Employment and Training Coordinator and the Creation of Sibi ..... 29
4.2.2 Committees to Oversee Employment Plan, Identify
and Remove Barriers to Employment ........................................................ 31
4.2.3 Employment Supports On and O Site ........................................... 31
5. Employment Outcomes ...................................................................................... 33
5.1 Hiring Numbers ........................................................................................... 33
5.2 Retention...................................................................................................... 40
6. Successes and Challenges ................................................................................... 41
6.1 Successes ...................................................................................................... 41
6.1.1 Employment Outcomes..................................................................... 41
6.1.2 Building Relationships and Capacity ................................................ 42
6.1.3 Raising Awareness amongst Non-Aboriginal Workers .................... 42
6.2 Challenges .................................................................................................... 44
6.2.1 Getting Hired ..................................................................................... 44
6.2.1.1 Apprenticeships ....................................................................... 45
6.2.2 Challenges to Retention .................................................................... 47
6.2.2.1 Workplace Environment .......................................................... 48
6.2.2.2 Travel for Work ........................................................................ 49
Table of Contents
Contents
5
6.2.2.3 Rigid Camp and Work Policies ................................................ 50
6.2.3 Funding and Structural Problems Post-Project ............................... 50
7. Worker Perspectives ........................................................................................... 52
7.1 Travelling for Work ...................................................................................... 52
7.1.1 Eect on Personal Life....................................................................... 52
7.1.2 Reasons for Travelling ....................................................................... 53
7.1.3 Adaptations to Travelling .................................................................. 54
7.1.4 Commute and Rotation ..................................................................... 54
7.1.5 Moving away from Moose Factory ................................................... 55
7.2 Training and Education ............................................................................... 55
7.2.1 Recruitment of First Nations Workers ............................................. 56
7.2.2 Providing Funds to Assist with Shortfall of EI to Attend Training .... 56
7.2.3 Apprenticeship Teams or Groups ..................................................... 57
7.2.4 Future Plans ....................................................................................... 58
7.3 Job Progression and Advancement ............................................................ 59
7.3.1 Moving into Apprenticeships ........................................................... 59
7.3.2 Opportunities for Advancement ...................................................... 60
7.4 Discrimination and Harassment ................................................................. 61
7.4.1 Gender Discrimination ...................................................................... 61
7.4.2 First Nations Identity ........................................................................ 64
7.4.3 Reporting ........................................................................................... 67
7.5 Equity of Layos and Recalls ...................................................................... 69
7.6 Language ...................................................................................................... 71
7.7 Knowledge of the Amisk-oo-skow Agreement ........................................... 73
7.7.1 Uneven Knowledge of Agreement .................................................... 73
7.7.2 Benets of Agreement for First Nations Workers ........................... 74
7.7.3 Perceptions of Aboriginal Rights and Access to Employment ........ 75
7.8 Health and Safety ........................................................................................ 76
7.9 Union Perceptions ....................................................................................... 79
8. Conclusions ......................................................................................................... 82
9. References ........................................................................................................... 84
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
6
Introduction
Employment opportunities figure prominently in the private agreements between
First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments and the resource companies who want
to develop on their territories. Resource companies and Indigenous leadership alike
often see employment opportunities as a key way that local communities can benefit
from resource-related development. Many early agreements, however, provided for
entry-level positions but not for training that would lead to meaningful work that is
well compensated for Indigenous communities. As a result, employment provisions
in agreements often strive to provide greater detail about access to training and
movement into higher skilled positions. Access to training is particularly critical in the
construction sector, since jobs are short term and range from unskilled positions that
have no upward mobility to registered tradespersons, foreman and superintendent
positions. is report offers a detailed examination of how a negotiated agreement
facilitated the training and employment of First Nations workers in the construction
phase of the Lower Mattagami River Hydro River Project (LMRP) from 2010 to 2015.
e Amisk-oo-skow agreement between the Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) and
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is a partnership agreement that provides the MCFN
with an equity stake in the hydro project, in addition to setting out environmental
protections, opportunities for Moose Cree businesses and an Aboriginal employment
program. Our research sought to document the strategies used by the MCFN and OPG
to maximize the employment and better understand the experiences of First Nations
and Métis workers, particularly the Nations included in the original Environmental
Assessment (EA) hereafter termed EA First Nations: MCFN, MoCreebec, Taykwa
Tagamou Nation (TTN) and the Métis Nation of Ontario. Specifically this report
seeks to identify employment strategies that were successful on the project as well
as remaining challenges from the perspectives of organizational representatives and
workers. e project asks:
·
What strategies were used by the MCFN and OPG to maximize EA First
Nations employment?
·
What were the challenges and successes of the employment plan and
strategies?
·
How did First Nations and Métis workers experience working the project?
·
How were the experiences of First Nations and Métis workers different from
those of non-Aboriginal workers?
Executive Summary
Executive Summary
7
Methods
To answer these questions we adopted a case study methodology, incorporating
community engagement strategies including consultations with the employment
coordinator, elders and a handful of workers that informed the design of the interview
questionnaires and the focus questions for the project. From February 2013 to Februar y
2015 the research team conducted 76 semi-structured interviews throughout Northern
Ontario and in Toronto with 39 workers and 37 organizational representatives.
e worker sample over represents First Nations and Métis (59% of the sample but
only 13.5% of total population), women (15.4% of the sample and 8.6% of the total
population) and workers living in local communities and in Northeastern Ontario
(84% of the sample and 40.2% of the total population). Interviews with organizational
representatives included employees of the Moose Cree First Nation, OPG, and Kiewit-
Alarie a partnership (KAP) involved with employment at the LMRP, business managers
and agents from the Building and Construction Trades Unions (BCTUs) involved with
the project, and managers and superintendents of some subcontractors.
Context
e LMRP includes the addition of generators to three dams built by Ontario Hydro in
the 1960s and the replacement of a dam that was built in 1931. e project is located
in the traditional territories of the Moose Cree on Treaty 9 lands, approximately 70km
North of Kapuskasing and 150km upstream from Moose Factory. According to Dylan,
Smallboy, and Lightman (2013), Treaty 9 included the protection of rights to hunt, fish
and trap in the territory. e hydro developments built in the 1960s caused flooding
and water fluctuations, hampered subsistence activities and destroyed areas of spiritual
significance including historic settlements sites and cemeteries. As a result of these
impacts, the EA First Nations developed mistrust towards Ontario Hydro, the precursor
to OPG.
In 1990 Ontario Hydro submitted an application under the provincial and federal
Environmental Assessment (EA) requirements for the LMRP at about the same time
that they initiated a process to settle grievances with First Nations. e project was
approved by the provincial government in 1994, without the consent of EA First
Nations, but the approval was subject to a number of terms and conditions. e terms
and conditions mandated that Ontario Hydro: negotiate benefit agreements with the
EA First Nations; provide a 10% price premium on contracting opportunities to EA First
Nations businesses; create a Lower Moose River Basin Aboriginal Employment Strategy
and an Implementation Plan; hire an undefined number of MCFN personnel into its
business unit for its work in the Moose River Basin; and attempt to provide at least
200 person-years of employment for workers from EA First Nations. is target of 200
person-years remains salient: many representatives from Moose Cree First Nation and
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
8
OPG mentioned this number, as well as the fact that it has been surpassed. After a delay
that spanned over a decade, during which the Ontario Hydro’s Demand Supply plan
was shelved, and the Ontario electricity industry and Ontario Hydro were restructured,
OPG began negotiating once again with the Moose Cree First Nation in 2006 and the
parties reached an agreement that was ratified in 2009. e Amisk-oo-skow agreement
is comprehensive in that it includes monies for the settlement of past grievances and a
community impact agreement. As a partnership agreement it allowed Moose Cree First
Nation to buy 25% ownership in the project.
Employment Commitments and Implementation
e Amisk-oo-skow agreement included: the creation of a supervisory position
and employment coordinator position; a requirement that the design-build (DB)
contractor prepare an annual employment plan in consultation with OPG and
EA First Nations; and a general statement regarding preferential hiring. Annual
employment plans were to include non-binding targets for First Nation and Métis
employment based on the forecasts by the DB of positions that they could reasonably
fill by employing First Nation and Métis workers. e agreement did not commit
the parties to providing funds for training, but directed OPG and the MCFN to
apply for funds from the federal government. e Amisk-oo-skow agreement also
set aside 9% of the subcontracted work for MCFN companies or joint ventures; set-
aside contractors became a vehicle to increase First Nations and Métis employment
since contracts often contained employment commitments that exceeded those in
the Amisk-oo-skow agreement. Employment commitments were not consistently
included in contracts with non-MCFN subcontractors, though the agreement
stipulated that they should mirror employment commitments in KAP’s contract with
OPG and the MCFN. Collective Agreements between the Building and Construction
Trades Unions and the Electrical Power Systems Construction Association (EPSCA),
included broad commitment to abide by Aboriginal employment provisions, but did
not include specifics about implementation.
e employment coordinator oversaw the implementation of the employment
commitments. One of the first steps was to create an organization (Sibi Employment
and Training) that served as the main hub for recruitment and training, maintaining
a database of available workers and skills and organizing training and placement
opportunities. All job requests were to be sent to Sibi for referrals at the same time as
they were sent to BCTUs. Working committees with representation from OPG, KAP
and the EA First Nations reviewed annual employment goals and identified barriers
and solutions. Supports for First Nations and Métis workers on site evolved over time.
For example, over the course of the project the team increased Aboriginal awareness
training, shortened worker rotations and provided traditional counselling and First
Nations advocates on site.
Executive Summary
9
Hiring Outcomes
e target of 200 person-years of EA First Nations employment was surpassed. MCFN
comprised 7.1% of the total employees on site and Aboriginal workers as a whole
represented 13.5% of total hires. Only in catering and housekeeping positions did
Aboriginal workers surpass 50% of total hires. In earlier phases of construction there
were higher rates of First Nation and Métis employment because civil work, such as
Earth Works, was concentrated at the early phase of the project and was often performed
by Moose Cree contractors who had higher rates of First Nation and Métis employment
than other subcontractors. e goal of MCFN, however was to ensure that EA First
Nation members were moving into trades apprenticeships. Aboriginal people represented
approximately 30% of the apprentices hired by the DB contractor. Trades subcontractors
had a much lower percentage of EA First Nations and total Aboriginal apprentices and
journeypersons than KAP. Some of this discrepancy can be explained by the mechanical
nature of the work performed by some of the subcontractors, while some of it is a result
of the tendency of smaller contractors to bring their own employees to work.
Table 1
Job type at LMRP based on gender and First Nations membership
GENDER FIRST NATIONS MEMBERSHIP
JOB TYPE1
Total
(N)
Men
(%)
Women
(%)
Moose
Cree
FN (%)
Other
EA FN
(%)
Other
Aboriginal
(%)
Non-
Aboriginal
(%)
TRADES
KAP employees
Journeyperson
Foreperson & subforeperson
Apprentice
Trainee
Subcontractor employees
Unspecified
1065
255
171
5
1719
99.6
99.6
94.7
80
98.1
0.4
0.4
5.3
20
1.9
2.2
0.4
19.9
40
3.7
1
0
1.8
0
0.8
3.8
3.1
8.2
40
1.9
92.9
96.5
70.2
20
93.7
NON-TRADES
Labourer & truck driver
746 97.9 2.1 13.8 3.2 7.8 75.2
Catering & housekeeping
476 60.7 39.3 27.3 4.6 19.5 48.5
Staff (not including
managers, engineers…)
345 59.1 40.9 6.4 1.7 3.8 88.1
Security
56 58.9 41.1 10.7 3.6 10.7 75
Engineers & surveyors
446 91.7 8.3 0.9 0.4 0.2 98.4
Managers, directors,
supervisors &
superintendents
221 91 9 0.5 0 0.9 98.6
Non-trades trainees
6 66.7 33.3 66.7 0 0 33.3
TOTAL
5511 91.4 8.6 7.1 1.5 4.9 86.4
1 From KAP employee list covering all hires over the life of the project up to and including Jan. 20, 2015. Gender numbers
estimated by modifying the employee list to code all employees with female rst names as women.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
10
Over the life of the project, 77 apprentices were hired through Sibi. ere was more
success placing EA First Nation members in some trades than others because of
a combination of interest, education requirements, the availability of work and the
willingness of the union to bring in new apprentices.
Retention
Retention was identified as a potential problem early on and mechanisms were put
in place to address it. Because construction involves fluctuating personnel needs,
retention efforts involved working to ensure that Métis and First Nations workers did
not end work prematurely, either voluntarily or as a result of layoff and that whenever
possible, they would retain their jobs longer than similarly qualified non-Aboriginal
workers. reats to retention identified by organizational representatives included
worker loneliness, lateness, absenteeism, and cases of dismissal that were deemed
unjustified by MCFN representatives. An MCFN representative became involved in
cases of discipline of EA First Nations workers that would potentially result in dismissal
and advocated for the retention of MCFN employees. Despite these efforts, retention
rates for EA First Nations workers are not as good as for non-Aboriginal workers: data
from the end of January of 2013 shows a retention rate of 44.7% for non-Aboriginal
workers and only 35% for workers from EA First Nations.
Successes and Challenges Identied by Organizational
Representatives
Organizational representatives cited the employment and capacity building among
Moose Cree First Nation people and companies as a major benefit of the project.
MCFN representatives also discussed how their relationship with OPG had improved
over the life of the project and cited how the project was a step towards Moose
Cree self-governance. Interviewees also felt that increasing the awareness of non-
Aboriginal workers and managers was a positive outcome of the project.
Interviewees described several issues that had been, or continued to be, challenges
to the employment of EA First Nations workers at LMRP, however. ese included
difficulties placing EA First Nations into jobs on site, particularly apprenticeships.
Not all job requests were sent to the Sibi office, and some unions were reluctant to
bring in new First Nations apprentices when they had unemployed apprentices in
their locals already. ere was also a lack of clarity about whether EA First Nations
would be prioritized in layoffs and recalls, particularly around the Christmas layoff.
Representatives from BCTUs cited difficulties placing apprentices on site because of
resistance from contractors. Educational requirements also limited the number of EA
First Nations who were able to enter mechanical trades apprenticeships.
Once hired, workers faced additional challenges related to the workplace environment.
Although only 29 cases of discrimination and harassment were officially reported to
Executive Summary
11
KAP and deemed legitimate, both interviews with organizational representatives and
grievance statistics suggest that many incidents were not reported. Of a total of 163
grievances filed over the course of the project, only six involved First Nations workers
(22 grievances would be representative of the population). Respondents described
the construction culture as one where racist and sexist comments and behaviour were
normalized. Several MCFN representatives also described how in several cases First
Nations women left the site and staff only found out after the fact that they were being
harassed. Although many respondents felt that MCFN was able to challenge the racism
on site this was not true in the case of sexism.
MCFN representatives also felt that the remote camp aspect of the LMRP created
additional challenges. Working at a remote camp was a new experience for most MCFN
workers and created additional stress on families and relationships. Efforts were made
over the course of the project to reduce absenteeism by creating shorter work rotations
(two instead of three weeks) and by striving to shorten work commutes to increase
time off.
Some MCFN representatives felt that a hard line approach to worker discipline resulted
in undue dismissals. Given the disadvantages that many of the workers faced in their
daily lives as a result of a long legacy of colonial policies, they faced additional challenges
adapting to the rigid regulations governing work and life at the camp. e advocates
and coordinators for the MCFN both on and off site also served as advocates for First
Nations workers vis-à-vis management.
Last, funding for training programs was also cited as a challenge to the overall
employment program. Since funding for training needed to be obtained externally,
funding levels were uneven over the course of the project. ere was a perception that
full funding for the duration of the project would have facilitated the entry of more EA
First Nations into apprenticeships in the mechanical trades.
Worker Experiences
e experiences of First Nations men and women and non-Aboriginal men were
similar in some respects, and different in others. First Nations men and women who
were interviewed were often new to working at a remote camp and being in a BCTU,
and First Nations apprentices were often new to their trades. First Nations men and
women also faced greater discrimination and harassment and additional barriers
to working at the site. e non-Aboriginal men interviewed were more likely to be
experienced journeypersons and many had been in their unions for years and were in
the mechanical trades. ey had a greater level of comfort at the site and had greater
economic security so they were able to talk back to contractors and in cases of strong
disagreement would sometimes ask for a layoff.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
12
Travel for work
- Travelling for work was difficult for all interviewees. First Nations
and non-Aboriginal workers, and men and women whether or not they had children,
described emotional stress and relationship difficulties that resulted from travelling
for work. Most trades workers, nonetheless, accepted travelling as an intrinsic part
of their occupation and some noted the positive aspects of travel. Workers travelled
because the salaries were higher or because of a lack of work opportunities in their
local communities. Parents of young children had particular difficulty, and single
workers often felt that work-related travel made it difficult to maintain relationships.
Workers often adopted strategies to preserve their relationships with their family
and community while travelling. More experienced non-Aboriginal workers would
sometimes ask to be laid off or take long breaks between jobs. Workers who got their
job through Sibi at times took cultural leaves to spend time with their family. Longer
work rotations negatively affected First Nations workers’ experiences of travel as did
long commute times. As a result some First Nations workers relocated to reduce their
commute time to the LMRP.
Training, Education and Opportunities for Advancement
- Most First Nations
workers accessed their training through Sibi and felt supported by the organization.
Workers described how Sibi helped them with financial support, encouragement and
the sharing of information and opportunities. Non-Aboriginal workers often described
financial challenges that they had faced when attending trade school in another city or
location. Perceptions about whether it was possible to advance were mixed for both First
Nations and non-Aboriginal workers. Several EA First Nations workers, particularly
trade apprentices, felt that their jobs did offer opportunities for advancement, however
others felt that nepotism excluded newcomers from higher-level positions such as
foreperson. Catering and housekeeping workers were less likely to feel that they could
move into higher-level positions easily and some older journeypersons did not want to
move into a superintendent or foreman position.
Discrimination and Harassment
- Interviews with some white and First Nations
workers suggest that the worksite as a whole was perceived to not be a safe environment
for First Nations women.
Racist perceptions that First Nations workers were on site only because of the
agreement with Moose Cree and that they were not qualified persisted among white
workers. Incidents of racism were most often covert since there was a perception
from non-Aboriginal workers that overt racism was not tolerated. Experiences of
racism also varied among work groups. In some work groups, First Nations workers
felt well supported and equally treated however in others they felt that they were
treated differentially. Women workers faced additional challenges at the construction
site. All but one of the women interviewed described incidents of discrimination and
harassment that had happened to them personally. Women at times had difficulty
Executive Summary
13
being properly apprenticed and being placed in positions that matched their skill level.
First Nations women had difficulty reporting incidents.
Language
- e use of the French language on site was a recurring theme that
emerged from the data. Since many of the superintendents and managers working
for the DB contractor and specialized subcontractors were Québécois, sometimes
instructions or communication occurred in French. Many First Nations workers
found this disconcerting. Workers felt that the use of French created communication
difficulties and safety hazards. Many First Nations workers also felt that the use of
French might have been used to guise racist comments and that not knowing French
placed them at a disadvantage.
Amisk-oo-skow Agreement
- Workers’ knowledge about the basis of the
agreement, the role of MCFN on the project and what the agreement meant for
employment was highly uneven and greatest among First Nations respondents. Almost
all respondents who felt that the agreement benefited First Nations communities felt
that the primary benefit was employment. When asked about the agreement, non-
Aboriginal workers were prompted to discuss their perceptions of how Aboriginal
rights are reshaping work in the north. ese perceptions of Aboriginal rights were
both positive and negative.
Health and Safety
- Worker perceptions of health and safety varied dramatically.
Many older workers described the worksite as unsafe and several had quit or been laid
off as a result of not being willing to work in unsafe conditions. In contrast, the majority
of workers who had obtained their job through Sibi felt that the worksite was quite
safe. is discrepancy may reflect the greater experience of senior journeypersons who
could compare the site to previous work experiences. e all injury rate (AIR) for the
project however (1.81), was more than twice as good as the AIR average for electrical/
incidental construction services (4.98).
Union experiences
- Although some longstanding First Nations union members
joined BCTUs through organizing drives, members from Moose Cree First Nation
and other EA First Nations joined through the creation of new apprentice positions
resulting from the agreement. Many First Nations workers had positive perceptions
of their unions. ese workers described advantages to being unionized, such as
improved wages, benefits, and protections, and described positive communications
and relationships with their union. However, some First Nations workers had lingering
uncertainty about whether they would be accepted fully and whether they would be
called for work after the end of the project.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
14
Conclusions
e project was successful in helping several workers gain training and experience in
construction. e project also helped OPG and the MCFN build relationships with
one another and with the BCTUs and construction contractors. Many strategies were
successfully implemented or adapted to improve First Nations employment. For
example, training individuals for jobs that were already secured and providing monetary
support and guidance for workers was critical to job placement. Other changes such as
improving the commute time, creating a 2:1 rotation schedule and allowing flexibility
around leaves also improved First Nations workers’ experiences.
Remaining challenges include: discrimination and harassment, particularly in the
case of First Nations women; ensuring that new workers are aware of their right to
refuse unsafe work conditions and challenge employers; ensuring that First Nations
workers are fully accepted into BCTU unions and appropriately apprenticed; improving
the wages and working conditions for catering and housekeeping workers; increasing
First Nations representation in company management and union leadership positions;
ensuring accountability for all subcontractors.
List of Tables and Figures
Table 1
Job type at LMRP based on gender and First Nations membership.................9
Table 2
Comparison of workforce and sample according to gender ..............................20
Table 3
Comparison of workforce and sample according to First Nations
membership .................................................................................................. 21
Table 4
Comparison of workforce and sample according to job type ............................21
Table 5
Comparison of workforce and sample according to home community ..........22
Figure 1
Sample according to First Nations membership
and previous work experience ..............................................................................22
Table 6
Traditional counselling service use ......................................................................32
Table 7
Job type at LMRP based on gender and First Nations membership...............32
Table 8
First Nations employment in LMRP set-asides .................................................36
Table 9
Employment in LMRP set-asides according to gender ......................................37
Table 10
Number of workers on site at LMRP at peak according to union local ............38
Table 11
Total apprentices hired through Sibi according to trade
through life of the project .......................................................................................39
Table 12
Number of safety incidents at LMRP according to year....................................79
15
List of Acronyms
ASEP
........ Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership
BCTU
.......Building and Construction Trades Union
BETC
........ Business and Employment Training Committee
CCOHS
.....Canada Centre for Occupational Health & Safety
DB
............ design-build
EA
............Environmental Assessment
EI
.............Employment Insurance
EPSCA
.....Electrical Power Systems Construction Association
FN
............First Nations
GED
.......... General Educational Development (high school equivalency)
HRSDC
..... Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
IBA
........... Impact Benefit Agreement
KAP
.......... Kiewit-Alarie a partnership
LMRP
....... Lower Mattagami River Project
MCFN
....... Moose Cree First Nation
MECC
....... Mattagami Extensions Coordinating Council
OPG
..........Ontario Power Generation
RFP
.......... Request for proposal
SEBA
........Socio-Economic Benefit Agreement
Sibi
..........Sibi Employment and Training
Ts & Cs
.... Terms and Conditions
TTN
.......... Taykwa Tagamou Nation
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
16
Indigenous governments and organizations are gaining influence in employment in
resource industries. Legal developments concerning the Crown’s duty to consult, the
recognition of Aboriginal title, and infringement of Treaty rights, have provided the
basis for the negotiation of private benefit agreements between First Nation, Inuit
and Métis organizations, companies and governments (McAllister 2007; Notzke 1995;
Saku 2002). Corporations or governments wishing to develop on Indigenous territories
now must negotiate private agreements such as Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs) or
Socio-Economic Benefit Agreements (SEBAs), with the Indigenous peoples who have
title or harvesting rights to the lands to be developed (Haysom 2005). Employment
provisions often figure prominently in these agreements since resource companies use
employment to compel communities to participate in development and Indigenous
leaders want to ensure that their members benefit from resource-related employment.
Negotiated agreements have therefore become an institution that seeks to increase the
employment benefits that northern communities receive from resource development
by addressing employment barriers faced by Indigenous peoples. Agreements outline
provisions for training, hiring, recall and retention of local Indigenous peoples on
resource development projects and set goals for the creation of Indigenous small
business opportunities (Mills and Sweeney 2013; Sosa and Keenan 2001).
e proposition that resource projects will spur broader community development by
providing employment to local Indigenous residents retains purchase in Environmental
Assessments and negotiations between companies and Indigenous communities. Over
time, however Indigenous communities across Canada have become more adamant that
the job commitments promised provide a pathway to work that is meaningful and well
compensated rather than settling for entry-level positions. As a result, employment
provisions in agreements now often provide greater detail about the skill level of
available jobs and outline opportunities for new workers to access training so that they
build skills that they can use in the future. Ensuring that there are opportunities for
training as well as jobs is particularly critical in construction, since jobs in this sector
are by their nature short term. Work in construction is also highly variable, ranging
from the unskilled position of general labourer or cleaner to work that garners higher
status such as that of a tradesperson, foreperson or superintendent. Examining the
potential of the construction phase of resource development projects to provide
opportunities for training and advancement, as well as employment, is therefore of
interest to Indigenous governments and the focus of this report.
Employment provisions in negotiated agreements can also be understood as a way to
address the barriers that Indigenous peoples face to wage employment that result from
1. Introduction
Chapter 1: Introduction
17
past and present systemic discrimination as well as direct or overt racism. Systemic
discrimination is more insidious than overt or direct racism and is defined by the
Ontario Human Rights Commission “as patterns of behaviour, policies or practices
that are part of the structures of an organization, and which create or perpetuate
disadvantage for racialized persons” (Ontario Human Rights Commission 2015, n.p.).
Indigenous peoples’ experiences of wage employment are therefore not only a result
of present-day discrimination, but are also influenced by the compound effects of past
systemic discrimination in multiple institutional spheres including criminal justice,
education, health care, and commerce. Discussing the impacts of systemic racism on
the lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada, Patricia Monture writes that “Canadians
are not aware of the large-scale impacts and layers of intersectional oppressions such
as addiction, violence, lack of educational opportunities, over-incarceration, fracturing
of family bonds, [and] loss of language on Aboriginal peoples” (2008, 73). ese
intersectional barriers in addition to geographical remoteness have created multiple
challenges to wage employment. While specialized training programs target education
and skill disparities that result from past and present systemic discrimination, hiring
and workplace environment provisions can challenge contemporary forms of co-worker
and employer racism.
Entry into the skilled construction trades can also be difficult for Indigenous people
because the sector is structured by informal relationships between project owners,
companies, unions and workers. Building and Construction Trades Unions (BCTUs)
have a proclivity towards exclusion because they are required to serve their existing
members for whom they operate as a hiring hall. In geographical regions and at times
where work is scarce, the drive to minimize unemployment for current members
often leads unions to limit union entry. In the case of unionized construction
work, longstanding exclusionary practices have historically hampered the entry of
women, racialized men and unskilled workers more generally into the skilled trades.
In construction, this tendency towards exclusion is also coupled with a culture that
privileges white working class masculinity (Paap 2006).
Whether employment provisions in negotiated agreements are able to address the
multiple employment barriers faced by Indigenous people that result from a myriad
of factors including the legacy of a colonial educational system and barriers to entry in
skilled construction remains an open question. Negotiated agreements such as IBAs
have come under criticism from academics who have questioned the ability of corporate
agreements to provide meaningful change (Caine and Krogman 2010). Furthermore,
some previous research has found that the strong personal networks in the unionized
construction trades can hamper the implementation of IBA hiring provisions (Mills
and Sweeney 2013). e following report builds on previous research on Indigenous
employment and resource development by providing a detailed examination of the
employment model used by the Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) and Ontario Power
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
18
Generation (OPG) to facilitate the entry of EA First Nations workers into construction
in the Lower Mattagami River Hydro extension and redevelopment project. e project
is an expansion of previous dams on the river, replacing a dam that was built by the
pulp and paper mill in 1931 and adding additional generators to three dams built by
Ontario Hydro in the 1960s. e project is situated on the traditional territories of
the Moose Cree and Treaty 9 territory approximately 70km North of Kapuskasing
and 150km upstream from Moose Factory. As such, this report seeks to answer the
following research questions:
·
What strategies were used by the MCFN and OPG to maximize EA First
Nations employment?
·
What were the challenges and successes of the employment plan and
strategies?
·
How did First Nations workers experience working on the project?
·
How were the experiences of First Nations workers different from those of
non-Aboriginal workers?
1.1 Building and Construction Trades
and First Nations Employment
ere are both benefits and challenges to the use of resource-related construction work
to increase employment and training in Indigenous communities. On the upside, the
volume of work provided by big development projects can serve an important training
function in the construction trades. Gaining access to an apprenticeship, however, is
often a barrier to prospective trades workers. In the unionized construction sector,
gaining access to an apprenticeship typically requires union membership. BCTUs often
minimize unemployment amongst new members by only bringing in new apprentices
if they know that they can place them on a job. It is particularly difficult to place
apprentices on smaller projects. In remote regions, fluctuations in the demand for
skilled workers are more acute since the overall volume of commercial and institutional
work is smaller. Employers’ needs for a readily available, highly skilled workforce, can
also act as a disincentive to bringing in new apprentices. In this environment, large-
scale resource development projects that have high demands for skilled workers serve
an important training function since they allow for more apprentices to be trained.
e relatively short time frame of most construction projects and the high level of
tradesperson skills required at the onset of construction, however, also leave a small
window within which to recruit and train local people. People from remote communities
often have less access to knowledge about trades work and may not be prepared with
the entry requirements.
Chapter 1: Introduction
19
Employment in the industrial construction sector is governed by multiple relations
between project owners, design and build contractors, and smaller specialized
construction firms and the BCTUs who act as hiring halls to supply skilled workers.
Because of the small size of many construction firms, the geographic spread of available
work and the industry’s need to bring differently skilled workers to the job at different
times and in different numbers, workers move continuously through a cycle of being
hired, laid off, unemployed and rehired. e BCTUs play a crucial role in employment by
ensuring that skilled workers are provided on the job and by providing workers with a
greater measure of job security than they would have on their own. As such, the industry
is built on relationships between unions, owners and firms that are in perpetual flux.
Although the relationships are governed by legal agreements, hiring is also governed by
the close-knit relationships between unions and contractors and individual workers. e
informal character of many of these relationships, and the propensity of craft unions to
limit new entrants for reasons explained above, however, has made it difficult to identify
and address sexist and racist hiring practices and workplace environments. erefore,
notwithstanding the over representation of many new immigrants and racialized groups
in lower skilled construction work, contractors employing more highly skilled trades and
union halls have a long history of perpetuating a white masculine culture that is hostile
to the entry of both women and racialized workers (Freeman 1993; Duke, Bergmann,
and Ames 2010).
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
20
e report is based on a series of semi-structured interviews with workers and
organizational representatives. Initial consultations, which were held in February
of 2013 with a Moose Cree First Nation LMRP Elders and a handful of workers,
were pivotal in helping to develop the interview questionnaires and shape research
questions. irty-nine worker interviews were conducted between June of 2013 and
February of 2015. Interviews were conducted by Mills and three research assistants.
Most of the interviews were conducted in person in Kapuskasing, Moose Factory and
Sudbury. Seven interviews were by phone. Participants were recruited through notices
sent out by the design-build contractor to all employees, by e-mail from BCTUs to
members and by word of mouth. A focus group with four workers was also conducted
in June of 2014 to validate the interview results.
We conducted a purposive sample, with the goal of ensuring that a diversity of
worker perspectives is represented. To this avail, some groups of workers are over
represented. ese include women (Table 2), First Nations (Table 3) and apprentices
(Table 4). e sample also over represents workers from Northeastern Ontario (Table
5), an aberration resulting from the locations where interviews were conducted.
Table 2
Comparison of workforce and sample according to gender
LMRP WORKFORCE1STUDY SAMPLE
GENDER
N % N %
Men
5037 91.4 33 84.6
Women
474 8.6 6 15.4
TOTAL
5511 39
1 From KAP employee list covering all hires over the life of the project up to and including Jan. 20, 2015. Gender numbers
estimated by modifying the employee list to code all employees with female rst names as women.
2. Methods
Chapter 2: Methods
21
Table 3
Comparison of workforce and sample according to
First Nations membership
LMRP WORKFORCE1STUDY SAMPLE
FIRST NATIONS
MEMBERSHIP
N % N %
Moose Cree First Nation
394 7.1 12 30.8
Taykwa Tagamou Nation
40 0.7 1 2.6
MoCreebec
19 0.3
Métis
25 0.5
Other First Nation
270 4.9 10 25.6
Non-Aboriginal
4763 86.4 16 41
TOTAL
5511 39
1 From KAP employee list covering all hires over the life of the project up to and including Jan. 20, 2015.
Table 4
Comparison of workforce and sample according to job type
LMRP WORKFORCE1STUDY SAMPLE
JOB TYPE
N % N %
TRADES
KAP employees
Journeyperson
Foreperson & subforeperson
Apprentice
Trainee
1065
255
171
5
28.1
6.7
4.5
0.1
12
11
30.8
28.2
NON-TRADES
Labourer & truck driver
746 19.7 6 15.4
Catering & housekeeping
476 12.6 6 15.4
Staff (not including
managers, engineers…)
345 9.1 3 7.7
Security
56 1.5
Engineers & surveyorsl
446 11.8
Managers, directors,
supervisors &
superintendents
221 5.8
Non-trades trainees
6 0.2
TOTAL
37922 39
1 From KAP employee list covering all hires over the life of the project up to and including Jan. 20, 2015.
2
Excludes 1719 employees of construction subcontractors because breakdown by job type is not available.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
22
Table 5
Comparison of workforce and sample according to home community
LMRP WORKFORCE1STUDY SAMPLE
HOME COMMUNITY
N % N %
Local communities
592 14.2 12 30.8
Other Northeastern Ontario
1086 26 21 53.8
Northwestern Ontario
505 12.1 2 5.1
Southern Ontario
780 18.7 2 5.1
Québec
784 18.8
Other provinces
385 9.2 1 2.6
United States
47 1.1 1 2.6
TOTAL
4179 39
1 From ‘Lower Mattagami Employment Summary Tables September 2013’, with employees with ‘unknown’ home
community removed.
As can be seen in Table 5, the over representation of workers from Northeastern Ontario
results in an under representation of workers from all other parts. In particular, the
sample contains no workers from Québec, while the workforce contains many.
As the high rate of First Nations apprentices suggests, workers from the EA First
Nations tended to be far less experienced than the other workers on site. Workers
within our sample, which in this respect appears to represent the workforce well, were
asked a number of questions related to experience: whether this was their first camp
job, whether they had traveled for work before, and whether they were first-time union
members. e differences in responses (in Figure 1) are stark, especially between EA
First Nations and non-Aboriginal workers.
Figure 1
Sample according to First Nations membership and previous work
experience
EA First Nations Other Aboriginals Non-Aboriginals
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
% First Camp Job
% First Time
Travelling for Work
% First Time
Union Members
Chapter 2: Methods
23
A majority of the Aboriginal workers in our sample obtained their job through the Sibi
Employment and Training Initiative (see 4.1 below): 85% of EA First Nations workers
and 70% of workers from other First Nations.
A series of 37 interviews was also conducted between February of 2013 and January of
2015 with organizational representatives from Moose Cree First Nation, OPG, BCTUs
and contractors on the project. e interviews were semi-structured, and questions
varied according to the position and organization of the person interviewed. Mills
conducted all but four organizational interviews, in a few cases with a research assistant
present. e additional interviews were done by research assistants.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
24
3. Project Background:
Environmental Assessment and
Negotiations with First Nations
Moose Cree First Nation is a signatory to Treaty 9 and the project is located on Treaty
9 lands. According to Dylan, Smallboy, and Lightman (2013) “signatories to Treaty 9
in part agreed to share jurisdiction over ceded lands, an arrangement that included the
retention of treaty rights to hunt, fish, and trap in their traditional territories” (62).
Hydro developments built by Ontario Hydro (a crown corporation) through the 1960s
had significant environmental impacts, particularly downstream in the Moose River
Basin. Water fluctuations resulting from the project caused erosion, lost spawning beds,
loss of food for beavers and the flooding of historic Cree settlements sites and cemeteries,
which were downriver from the dams. Hydro developments therefore hampered people’s
traditional subsistence activities as well as areas of spiritual significance.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Ontario Hydro
1
had begun a process of settling
grievances with First Nations who had been negatively affected by the construction
of hydroelectric dams in the past. is policy was motivated by the provincial
government’s desire to settle unresolved disputes with First Nations. Ontario Hydro
began negotiations with Moose Cree First Nation under the grievance process,
however Moose Cree First Nation rejected Ontario Hydro’s offer because they felt that
the compensation offered was insufficient and that the agreement did not provide
sufficient environmental protection.
Amidst this process, in November of 1990, Ontario Hydro also made an initial
application to fulfill the provincial and federal Environmental Assessment requirements
for the expansion and development of the Lower Mattagami River Hydroelectric
project. e application was part of a broader plan to increase electricity supply in
Ontario (the Demand/Supply Plan), which was eventually abandoned. At the time,
First Nations groups objected to an independent EA process for the LMRP since they
were concerned that cumulative impacts would be overlooked if other developments
in the Moose River Basin contained in the Demand/Supply Plan were not considered.
As a consequence, the initial EA application did not include input from First Nations,
although it did contain some general measures for maximizing Aboriginal employment.
e application nonetheless identified the First Nations located in proximity to the
project site: Moose Cree First Nation (named Moose Factory First Nation at the time),
MoCreebec Council of the Cree Nation and Taykwa Tagamou Nation (named New Post
1 Ontario Hydro split
into ve corporations
in 1998 one of which
is OPG. OPG is
responsible for the
construction and
operation of electricity
generating stations in
the province.
Chapter 3: Project Background
25
First Nation at the time). ese First Nations became the EA First Nations, a list which
has grown to include Métis living in the region. Moose Cree First Nation and Taykwa
Tagamou Nation are signatories to Treaty 9, and members of the Mushkegowuk
Council. MoCreebec Council of the Cree Nation is not federally recognized and is not a
signatory to Treaty 9. However they are included in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
e provincial response to the application (Review of Environmental Assessment:
Hydroelectric Generating Station Extensions Mattagami River, hereafter Review),
released in March 1992, was highly critical of the application in general and of the lack of
consultation with First Nations in particular. e Review mandated consultation with
First Nations, and included an early set of Terms and Conditions that were eventually
replaced by the Terms and Conditions from the 1994 Notice of Approval (see below).
In January 1994, Ontario Hydro filed an amendment to its EA, made necessary by
the withdrawal of the Demand/Supply Plan, and in June 1994 provided supplemental
information requested by the province. Ontario’s Review of the amendment included
documents resulting from consultations with the EA First Nations in appendix. ese
documents laid the groundwork for 24 final Terms and Conditions (Ts & Cs) for LMRP,
which were finalized in the province’s Notice of Approval in 1994. Despite continuing
opposition from the EA First Nations, the project was authorized to go ahead subject to
the final Ts & Cs. e Ts & Cs of approval included a requirement for Ontario Hydro to
negotiate community impact agreements with EA First Nations, measures to increase
Aboriginal employment and a proposal to create the Mattagami Extensions Coordinating
Council (MECC) a body with equal representation from the EA First Nations and the
Government of Ontario. e MECC was mandated to evaluate the project and oversee
the implementation of the Ts & Cs. According to an OPG representative, the mandate
of the MECC has remained constant, but the makeup has changed, with OPG rather
than the Government of Ontario being represented.
Employment and contracting measures in the Ts & Cs required Ontario Hydro to “promote
and provide meaningful and sustainable employment and contracting benefits to First
Nation individuals and enterprises” (Ministry of the Environment 1994, 11). Several
concrete measures to reach this goal were identified, including the requirements that:
1) Ontario Hydro create a Lower Moose River Basin Aboriginal Employment Strategy
and an Implementation Plan for “the meaningful and sustainable employment of First
Nations individuals” (Ministry of the Environment 1994, 11); 2) First Nations business
are promoted through the provision of a 10% price premium of contracts; 3) Ontario
Hydro work with MCFN and other parties to create training and development programs
leading to employment on the site; 4) Ontario Hydro hire an undefined number of
MCFN personnel into its business unit for its work in the Moose River Basin and 5) the
MECC be assigned the responsibility for mediating unresolved disputes regarding the
employment plan or the implementation plan. Despite not guaranteeing set numbers,
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
26
the Notice of Approval nonetheless suggested that Ontario Hydro should attempt to
provide at least 200 person-years of employment for First Nations workers. is target of
200 person-years remains salient: many representatives from Moose Cree First Nation
and OPG mentioned this number, as well as the fact that it has been surpassed.
e project was delayed for many years. According to an OPG representative, the
main reason for this delay was the lack of a revenue agreement between OPG and the
government, but the unresolved negotiations with First Nations also added to the
delay. In 2006 OPG began negotiating once again with the Moose Cree First Nation and
a tentative agreement was reached in 2007, however it was not ratified by the Moose
Cree First Nation membership. e Amisk-oo-skow agreement was subsequently
negotiated, and ratified in 2009.
e Amisk-oo-skow agreement is a partnership agreement, with a 25% stake in the
project for the Moose Cree First Nation. According to OPG and MCFN representatives,
the agreement is a comprehensive agreement since it combines the settlement of past
grievances settlement and a community impact agreement for the LMRP. Moose Cree
First Nation representatives refer to the Amisk-oo-skow as a treaty-based agreement
since it is based on infringement of treaty rights to hunt and fish. Almost every Moose
Cree First Nation representative referred to the agreement as treaty based, viewing it as
restitution for the harms caused by past developments, which they saw as infringements
on their treaty rights. According to one MCFN representative, the foundation for the
agreement was that, when dams were originally built altering the river system, they
disregarded the hunting, fishing and trapping rights of the Moose Cree, hence their treaty
rights were infringed upon and no one came to talk to them. Alternatively, all of the OPG
representatives said that the Amisk-oo-skow agreement was not rooted in treaty rights.
By the time OPG was ready to move ahead, a new EA was required federally, as a result
of changes in legislation. To this end, in July 2009, a Comprehensive Study Report was
released conjointly by OPG and the Moose Cree First Nation, following the ratification
of the Amisk-oo-skow agreement. e report contains a section entitled ‘Our View of
the Land’, prepared by Moose Cree First Nation “to provide counterpoise to the western
concept of the environment that is statistical and quantitative in nature” (Ontario Power
Generation Inc. and Moose Cree First Nation 2009, 4-2) and detail their relationship
to the land, the water, and animals. e section on socio-economic effects does not
cover employment because this falls outside of the scope of the Canadian Environmental
Assessment Act, which only deals with socio-economic conditions that are the effect of
an environmental change. Federal approval was granted in March 2010. Construction
began in June 2010.
Chapter 4: Employment at the LMRP
27
4. Employment at the LMRP
4.1 Employment Commitments
In partnership with OPG, Moose Cree First Nation was charged with ensuring that
the EA terms and conditions for employment and contracting were fulfilled for all EA
First Nations. During the negotiation of the employment terms of the Amisk-oo-skow
agreement, MCFN representatives wanted to ensure that their members gained training
and work experience that would provide long-term employability. ey were therefore
reluctant to specify employment targets since in previous cases employers could meet
targets by hiring workers into unskilled positions with little regard for increasing skills
or experience. e language of the Amisk-oo-skow therefore reflects the true goals of the
partners which were to increase the capacity and self-sustainability of the community
and to make all available employment opportunities accessible to interested members
of the community through the identification and removal of barriers.
e EA objective of 200 person-years of employment for workers from EA First Nations
remained as the only concrete hiring target, but it was redefined as a minimum benchmark
for employment. e Amisk-oo-skow agreement also provided for the creation of a
supervisory position, of an employment coordinator position, and included language on
preferential hiring. According to one interviewee, the agreement states that “the design-
build contractor should provide employment opportunities to interested Moose Cree
First Nation members in priority to other interested EA First Nations” (13_K_30)
2
and
adds that “Moose Cree First Nation members and other EA first nations must follow
the general hiring procedures, must meet qualifications and must comply with general
employment terms and conditions as set out in section 4” (13_K_30). e employment
plan created by the design-build (DB) contractor also needed to include employment
targets for EA First Nations employment per year that “will reflect the actual number of
job positions that the proponent considers can reasonably be filled by qualified EA First
Nations” (13_K_30). e Amisk-oo-skow agreement also includes the caveat that:
OPG and Moose Cree First Nation agree to use a reasonable effort to meet and
exceed this number, provided that parties agree that the annual target shall
not act as a quota nor shall the failure to achieve the annual target be legally
enforceable. (13_K_30)
According to one OPG representative: “e goal of maximizing employment as opposed
to meeting targets is a significant precedent… (although) the language proved difficult
to replicate in contract language, where performance measures tied to payments are
required to be quantifiable and measurable” (13_K_16). In lieu of targets, the design
and build contractor was charged with providing annual forecasts of employment needs
to guide recruitment, training and referral programs.
2 Interviews with
organizational
representatives are
identied by year of
interview followed
by a K and a unique
identifying number
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
28
e Amisk-oo-skow agreement also stipulated that approximately 9% of the subcontracted
work on the project would be set aside for MCFN companies or joint ventures. Amisk-
Kodim was the special purpose vehicle developed and clearly separated from the band
council to screen and select Moose Cree businesses to be referred for DB contract
opportunities. e project bids for MCFN companies needed to demonstrate how they
would benefit the MCFN either through donations to community organizations, business
development or employment. As a result, several of the set-aside contracts contained
employment commitments, ranging from a commitment to maximize employment for
MCFN members to commitments that 25% or 50% of hires were MCFN.
According to the Amisk-oo-skow agreement, non-MCFN subcontractors bidding on
Request for Proposals were also required to include employment commitments for
EA First Nations, mirroring those in Kiewit-Alarie a partnership (KAP)’s contract with
OPG and MCFN. According to representatives from OPG and Moose Cree First Nation,
although employment targets and commitments do appear in the contract between
OPG and KAP, they were not consistently included in KAP’s contracts with non-
Aboriginal subcontractors. One possible reason for this omission may be that KAP had
soft agreements in place with many subcontractors prior to issuing its bid on the LMRP.
e collective agreements between the BCTUs and the Electrical Power Systems
Construction Association (EPSCA), which govern work at LMRP, include a broad
commitment to Aboriginal employment, with no specifics about implementation. All
of the collective agreements include an Aboriginal Content Commitment clause, which
in most cases stipulates that “where an aboriginal commitment has been established
on a project, the Union will agree to the conditions required to meet the commitment”
(among others, e Electrical Power Systems Construction Association and the
Carpenters District Council of Ontario, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners
of America 2010, 41). In some of the collective agreements, the second part of the
clause reads “the Union will cooperate in meeting the content commitments” (among
others, e Electrical Power Systems Construction Association and the International
Union of Operating Engineers 2010, 46) rather than referring to agreement on the part
of the union. A few of the collective agreements also include “providing the candidates
meet the minimum requirements of the Union” (among others, e Electrical Power
Systems Construction Association and the United Association of Journeymen and
Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada
2010, 42) at the end of the commitment. Finally, in the majority of cases, a clause
stating “For a project, or jobs within a project, that are less than $100,000 field labour,
and have aboriginal content commitments, the terms of this collective agreement will
not apply to those aboriginal content commitments” (among others, e Electrical
Power Systems Construction Association and the International Union of Operating
Engineers 2010, 46) is also included.
Chapter 4: Employment at the LMRP
29
4.2 Implementation
Implementation of employment commitments involved several components: the
hiring of a Moose Cree employment and training coordinator to implement the Moose
Cree’s commitments and the creation of an organization to facilitate recruitment and
training; the regular review of employment goals and identification of barriers by
working teams including MCFN, OPG, KAP and TTN; and the creation of employment
supports for EA First Nations workers both on and off site.
4.2.1 Employment and Training Coordinator and
the Creation of Sibi
e Amisk-oo-skow agreement included a requirement to create a Moose Cree employment
and training coordinator to implement the Moose Cree’s commitments. is included
overseeing the recruitment, training and referral of First Nations candidates to the project
and the identification of outside sources of funding (i.e. ASETS (Aboriginal Skills and
Employment Training Strategy) dollars and provincial and federal funding programs).
e employment coordinator for Moose Cree First Nation sought to ensure that hiring
commitments were followed by: maintaining a database of available EA First Nations
workers; planning and coordinating training to employment plans in conjunction with
OPG, KAP and BCTUS; and by providing additional support to EA First Nations who
wanted to work on the project, particularly those who wanted to enter an apprenticeship.
Although EPSCA collective agreements included provisions allowing for the
implementation of the employment commitments, the employment and training
coordinator played a critical role in ensuring that these commitments were enforced.
is was achieved by working with OPG to build relationships with BCTUs and develop
training to employment plans that would allow for the entry of EA First Nations into
trade apprenticeships through affiliated unions.
e Amisk-oo-skow agreement also had a provision that the parties would seek funding
for employment training purposes. MCFN was successful in achieving funds for two
years through the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) program of
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). e funding application
leveraged funds from the LMRP project and followed a co-management strategy that
provided MCFN, OPG, KAP, TTN and the Métis with some ownership and say over how
funds were spent. Since the funding required the creation of a separate not-for-profit
entity to manage the funds, the Sibi Employment and Training Initiative (Sibi) was
created. Sibi supplemented the role of the employment coordinator. After the conclusion
of the two year ASEP funding period, feedback from HRSDC on Sibi’s outcomes was
positive but a subsequent application for HRSDC funding was denied, based on HRSDC ’s
assessment of regional needs. In-kind and cash contributions provided to Sibi through
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
30
OPG, KAP and MCFN remained a significant portion of Sibi’s budget throughout the
project and additional program dollars were achieved through a variety of partnerships
with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, local colleges, Amisk-Kodim
Corporation, Mushkegowuk Council Employment and Training and unions.
Sibi offers a wide range of training and employment services including pre-employment
training, career counseling, work placements and referrals. Sibi also provides
individualized support for apprentices, such as financial support, travel and child
allowances, and help preparing for trades examinations and filling out paperwork. In
its work referrals function, Sibi recruits, screens and pre-qualifies candidates who are
then referred to unions. New jobs get sent to Sibi, and if there is a qualified member
of an EA First Nation, their name is sent to the union who then screens the applicant,
registers them in the union and refers them to the employer. Members of EA First
Nations were to be hired preferentially for positions for which they were qualified
and obtain automatic membership in the appropriate union, even if they were not yet
members of that union. An MCFN representative explains:
So how it’s supposed to work is if I have a request come through, and that’s
a new request, so it’s a new job on site, and I have someone who has never
been there before, and entering the union, and qualified, then that’s where the
preferential access gets (applied). at that person ends up going to site, and
in fact what was agreed was that Kiewit would then deduct their initiation fee
because that is a huge barrier. (13_K_2)
Sibi therefore obtained all job requests at the same time as the union halls and was able
to check through their database for available EA First Nations workers.
Trades became the focus of the efforts of Sibi and the employment and training
coordinator since trades apprenticeships were a tangible way for workers to increase
their skills and future employability. Training was tied to employment positions so that
all individuals who were trained, if successful, would be able to gain employment on
site. Since the first part of the project, early training programs focused on employment
readiness, labourer and truck driver positions and apprenticeships in carpentry and as
rodbuster ironworkers. As described by one OPG representative:
We really didn’t want to have people train and sitting at home for a year. So,
we tried to work through a timeline. So that’s why we didn’t start with the
electrical, mechanical, because those positions won’t be available until late in
the project. (13_K_16)
Chapter 4: Employment at the LMRP
31
4.2.2 Committees to Oversee Employment
Plan, Identify and Remove Barriers to
Employment
A committee structure oversaw the development of training and employment plans,
and sought to identify and remove barriers to employment that emerged. Despite few
numerical targets, working teams including MCFN, OPG, KAP, and T TN representation
operated under the clear mandate of maximizing outcomes. An implementation
committee with members from OPG and MCFN was responsible for overseeing the
implementation of commitments in the Amisk-oo-skow agreement (including both
environmental and employment commitments). e working committee charged
with employment, Business and Employment Training Committee (BETC), comprised
contractors as well as OPG and TTN and MCFN. e DB contractor was responsible for
providing updated manpower requirement forecasts on an annual basis which were used
by the committee to guide recruitment, training and referral plans. BETC met regularly
to discuss the employment issues, identify barriers to First Nations employment and
propose training and employment plans. For the first two years, there was a weekly
teleconference to discuss HR issues on site in addition to the BETC meetings. KAP
also held a four square matrix meeting that discussed HR issues for the site. When
problems relating to employment were not resolved by Aboriginal liaisons, HR or the
BETC committee, they were brought to the Implementation Committee. According to
one OPG representative: “so any issues that they can’t get resolved and become a thorn
in everybody’s side get voiced at the Implementation Committee so any time there’s
obstacles or people are frustrated which is quite often.”(13_K_15).
4.2.3 Employment Supports On and Off Site
Implementation of the agreement also involved additional supports to remove
barriers for EA First Nations. Supports and changes were made over time as issues
arose and were discussed in HR, BETC and Implementation committees. Some of
the changes that were made included: adding a train stop at Fraserdale to cut down
on travel time to and from the LMRP site from Moose Factory; increasing Aboriginal
awareness training; changing worker rotation options so that employees could work
two weeks in one week out instead of three weeks in and one week out; and providing
traditional counseling and First Nations advocates on site.
Initially Aboriginal awareness training was included as part of employee orientation.
is training included anti-discrimination training and a description about why Moose
Cree First Nation was involved with the project. Later it became apparent that more
training was needed and a Moose Cree company was brought on site a number of
times, for four days each time, to provide more detailed training to all of the workers
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
32
on site. Later in the project, OPG organized a day-long training for managers provided
by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., a British Columbia based company.
e number of support personnel on site also increase over the course of the project. At
the outset of the project, MCFN hired a social advocate to work on site to address First
Nations issues. As time passed, however, additional positions were added to provide further
support for EA First Nations workers and to improve communication between the DB
contractor, MCFN, TTN, OPG and the subcontractors. An on-site project lead was hired
as a liaison between the MCFN employment, environment and business coordinators,
and project staff on site. Because of the number of First Nations issues, MCFN began
to provide on-site traditional counselling services periodically. An off-site community
support worker who would work out of Kapuskasing was also hired to help workers when
they were not on site or when they were traveling to and from the construction site. From
August 2012 to December 2014, the traditional counselling services were used over 4000
times by First Nations and non-Aboriginal workers (Table 6). First Nations and non-
Aboriginal women were more likely to access traditional counseling services than men.
While First Nations women represented 16.5% of the First Nations workers on site, they
represented 43% of the contacts with traditional counselors by First Nations workers.
Similarly, non-Aboriginal women comprised only 8.6% of the non-Aboriginal workers on
site, but 40% of the contacts with First Nations counsellors.
Table 6
Traditional counselling service use
COUNSELING CONTACTS
Men Women Men Women
First Nations and Métis
Totals (N)
214 182 2735 2028
Per Month (N)
7.4 6.3 94.3 69.9
Non-Aboriginal
Totals (N)
62 49 1743 1154
Per Month (N)
2.1 1.7 60.1 39.8
KAP also hired an Aboriginal Affairs worker to manage relationships between First
Nations subcontractors, employees and KAP and OPG hired another staff to manage
relationships with First Nations in Kapuskasing.
Chapter 5: Employment Outcomes
33
5. Employment Outcomes
5.1 Hiring Numbers
e employment provisions of the EA and the Amisk-oo-skow agreement resulted
in significant employment opportunities for Moose Cree First Nation members and
members of other First Nations. e target of 200 person-years of employment had
been surpassed at the time of the study. Table 7 shows the number of employees within
each job type at LMRP, with boxes drawing attention to the areas of high Aboriginal
employment: apprentices and catering & housekeeping.
Table 7 includes all independent hires (excluding rehires to the same company) over the
life of the project up to and including Jan. 20, 2015. Note that data for most construction
subcontractors was not disaggregated by occupation but was reported separately from
KAP’s data. Patterns of employment on the site resembled those of other construction
projects throughout Canada. Members of the MCFN represented 7.1% of total
employees on site however they represented 27.1% of the catering and housekeeping
employees. Aboriginal workers represented 13.5% of total hires and slightly over half
(51.5%) of hires in catering and housekeeping. Jobs in catering and housekeeping were
the lowest paid of all jobs on the site and had the lowest skill requirements. An area of
relative success was the placement of apprentices with the design and build contractor.
Aboriginal people represented approximately 30% of the apprentices hired by the
design and build contractor. Trades subcontractors had much lower percentages of EA
First Nations and total Aboriginal apprentices and journeypersons than KAP. Some of
this discrepancy can be explained by the more mechanical nature of the work of some
of the subcontractors or a tendency to bring their own employees along with them. Yet
the indirect relationship between subcontractors and the project owners also made it
difficult to enforce employment programs.
Employment at the LMRP can be compared with that of the construction of the
Wuskwatim Project, a partnership between Manitoba Hydro and the Nisichawayasihk
Cree Nation in northern Manitoba. e project had an employment program similar
to that of the LMRP. Northern Aboriginal people represented 28% of total hires on
the Wuskwatim Project (Deloitte 2013). Northern Aboriginal people were similarly
over represented in non-trades positions, representing only 5% of journeyperson hires
and 20% of apprenticeship hires (ibid.). Total Aboriginal people represented 29% of
apprenticeship hires and 17% of the total journey person hires (ibid.).
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
34
Table 7
Job type at LMRP based on gender and First Nations membership
GENDER FIRST NATIONS MEMBERSHIP
JOB TYPE1
Total
(N)
Men
(%)
Women
(%)
Moose
Cree
FN (%)
Other
EA FN
(%)
Other
Aboriginal
(%)
Non-
Aboriginal
(%)
TRADES
KAP employees
Journeyperson
Foreperson & subforeperson
Apprentice
Trainee
Subcontractor employees
Unspecified
1065
255
171
5
1719
99.6
99.6
94.7
80
98.1
0.4
0.4
5.3
20
1.9
2.2
0.4
19.9
40
3.7
1
0
1.8
0
0.8
3.8
3.1
8.2
40
1.9
92.9
96.5
70.2
20
93.7
NON-TRADES
Labourer & truck driver
746 97.9 2.1 13.8 3.2 7.8 75.2
Catering & housekeeping
476 60.7 39.3 27.3 4.6 19.5 48.5
Staff (not including
managers, engineers…)
345 59.1 40.9 6.4 1.7 3.8 88.1
Security
56 58.9 41.1 10.7 3.6 10.7 75
Engineers & surveyors
446 91.7 8.3 0.9 0.4 0.2 98.4
Managers, directors,
supervisors &
superintendents
221 91 9 0.5 0 0.9 98.6
Non-trades trainees
6 66.7 33.3 66.7 0 0 33.3
TOTAL
5511 91.4 8.6 7.1 1.5 4.9 86.4
1 From KAP employee list covering all hires over the life of the project up to and including Jan. 20, 2015. Gender numbers
estimated by modifying the employee list to code all employees with female rst names as women.
Although the LMRP had a lower ratio of Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal workers than
the Wuskwatim Project, this discrepancy should be understood in light of the higher
representation of Aboriginal residents in Northern Manitoba than in northern Ontario.
A government website states that 65% of the approximately 81,000 residents of
Northern Manitoba are Aboriginal (Manitoba Aboriginal and Northern Affairs 2015).
In contrast the total number of Aboriginal people living in northern Ontario appears
to be substantially lower, though First Nations in Canada are often underreported in
statistical data for numerous reasons. A study by Moazzami (2003) found that the
Aboriginal population represented 9.28, 15.41 and 6.72% of the total population of
Northern Ontario, Northwestern Ontario and Northeastern Ontario, respectively.
e proportion of Aboriginal people who reside in the local communities designated in
the EA is higher. Four non-First Nations communities directly surrounding the project
Chapter 5: Employment Outcomes
35
reported more than 250 Aboriginal residents during the 2011 National Household
Survey, which was the threshold for a profile of the Aboriginal population to be reported.
ese communities include: Cochrane, with an Aboriginal population of 1 050 out
of 5 340 (19.7%); Constance Lake, with an Aboriginal population of 655 out of 670
(97.8%); and Kapuskasing, with an Aboriginal population of 500 out of 8 196 (6.1%)
(Statistics Canada 2011a). e local communities that did not report an Aboriginal
population had an overall population of 10 139 (Statistics Canada 2011a), placing the
reported Aboriginal population for the local communities at 9.1%. If Moosonee and the
populations for nearby First Nations are included in this estimate, however, the number
of residents who are Aboriginal people is 7 685, approximately 29% of the population.
Moosonee has a reported Aboriginal population of 1 205 out of 1740 (69%) and the
Government of Canada reports that the population the Moose Cree First Nation and
Taykwa Tagamou are 3 899 and 376, respectively (Aboriginal Affaires and Northern
Development Canada 2013; Statistics Canada 2011a). Ontario also has 86 015 Métis,
however this number includes Métis living throughout the province, most of whom
live outside of the project area (Statistics Canada 2011b). Since MoCreebec is not a
registered First Nation, no number is available. If the nearest regional centre, Timmins
is included in the population estimate, Aboriginal people comprise approximately 18
percent of the population.
In earlier phases of construction, there were higher rates of Aboriginal employment.
For example compiled data from 2013 showed approximately 16% Aboriginal hires
over the life of the project. is is in large part because civil work, such as Earth
Works, was concentrated at the early phase of the project, and the larger Moose Cree
First Nation contractors, often in joint ventures, were responsible for much of this
work. ese contractors had much higher rates of Aboriginal employment than other
subcontractors who were responsible for more of the mechanical aspects of the project.
is higher rate of Aboriginal employment for Moose Cree First Nation companies and
joint ventures can be seen in Table 8. e table gives the rate of Aboriginal employment
for all companies awarded set-aside contracts, for specific types of work on site which
were guaranteed to go to Moose Cree First Nation companies or joint ventures.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
36
Table 8
First Nations employment in LMRP set-asides
COMPANY CONTRACT(S)
Employee
(N)
Moose
Cree
FN (%)
Other
EA FN
(%)
Other
Aboriginal
(%)
Non-
Aboriginal
(%)
Advanced
Security
Site security 56 10.7 3.6 10.7 75
Air Creebec
Air Transportation n/a
Archie
Sutherland
Site security n/a
Cree Aski
(CreeVill)
Road Upgrade 71 32.4 7 5.6 54.9
Cree Carriers
Land Freight, On
Site Trucking 63 14.3 3.2 11.1 71.4
CS Enterprises,
Nuna Logistics
Clear & Grub,
Camp Complex,
Transmission
Lines, Substations
83 37.3 6 4.8 51.8
Ernie
Sutherland
Bussing n/a
Filion Bus Lines
Bussing 9 0 0 0 100
First Nations
Timber
Land Freight, On
Site Trucking,
Road
Maintenance, Site
Remediation
n/a
Innlink
Batch Plant 4 75 0 0 25
Kiewit/KAP
Batch Plant n/a for
Batch
Plant
alone
Larabie
Land Freight,
On Site Trucking n/a
Morris Modular
Camp Complex 66 1.5 4.5 3 90.9
Paytahpun
Fuel Supply and
Transport n/a
Power Tel
Transmission
Lines
n/a
Sodexo
Catering &
Housekeeping 474 27.4 4.6 19.6 48.3
Tro w
Third Party Survey n/a
Vallard
Substations 13 0 0 0 100
TOTAL for set-asides
839 24.2 4.6 13.8 57.3
Overall total for LMRP
5511 7.1 1.5 4.9 86.4
Chapter 5: Employment Outcomes
37
e rate of Aboriginal employment was indeed much higher for the set-asides than for the
project site as a whole: 42.7% compared with 13.6%. Some caution is required in interpreting
these results, given that over half of the employees of set-asides are from the catering and
housekeeping contractor, Sodexo, which has high rates of Aboriginal employment, but does
not represent highly-skilled or well-paid employment. ere were also a substantial number
of First Nations workers employed by the companies responsible for road upgrades and
clearing and grubbing. e rate of Aboriginal employment for both Cree Aski (CreeVill)
and CS Enterprises/Nuna Logistics is nearly half, a rate much higher than the nearly 25%
Aboriginal employment for Labourers & Truck Drivers at LMRP overall (see Table 7).
Table 9 provides the rates of women’s employment for the set-asides. Here too the
numbers are much higher than the overall figures, and here again, this is in large part
due to Sodexo, which has a large number of women employees. e only other set-aside
to offer a substantial number of positions to women was Advanced Security.
Table 9
Employment in LMRP set-asides according to gender
COMPANY CONTRACT(S)
Employee
(N)
Women
(%)
Men
(%)
Advanced Security
Site security 56 41.1 58.9
Air Creebec
Air Transportation n/a
Archie Sutherland
Site security n/a
Cree Aski (CreeVill)
Road Upgrade 71 1.4 98.6
Cree Carriers
Land Freight, On Site Trucking 63 1.6 98.4
CS Enterprises, Nuna
Logistics
Clear & Grub, Camp Complex,
Transmission Lines, Substations 83 2.4 97.6
Ernie Sutherland
Bussing n/a
Filion Bus Lines
Bussing 9 0 100
First Nations
Timber
Land Freight, On Site Trucking,
Road Maintenance,
Site Remediation
n/a
Innlink
Batch Plant 4 25 75
Kiewit/KAP
Batch Plant n/a for Batch
Plant alone
Larabie
Land Freight, On Site Trucking n/a
Morris Modular
Camp Complex 66 1.5 98.5
Paytahpun
Fuel Supply and Transport n/a
Power Tel
Transmission Lines n/a
Sodexo
Catering & Housekeeping 474 39 61
Tro w
Third Party Survey n/a
Vallard
Substations 13 0 100
TOTAL for set-asides
839 25.5 74.5
Overall total for LMRP
5511 8.6 91.4
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
38
A major focus of the efforts of Sibi was recruiting EA First Nations members to become
apprentices. is involved close work with BCTUs to secure access to apprenticeships
for Aboriginal workers, as well as individualized support services for the apprentices.
We therefore asked union locals for estimates of how many First Nations apprentices
they placed at the LMRP site relative to the total number of apprentices placed on site.
We also asked each local how many First Nations workers and women they had on site
at the peak. Table 10 provides estimates by union local of employment numbers, with
overall numbers as well as numbers for apprentices, First Nations and women. While
these numbers are estimates, they provide an indication of how the participation of
Aboriginal peoples and women varied among BCTUs.
Table 10
Number of workers on site at LMRP at peak according to union local
UNION LOCAL1
Total (N) Apprentice
(N)
First Nations2
(N)
Women2
(N)
Brick and Allied Craft Union 28
(Sudbury) 5 1 0 0
Carpenters and Joiners 1669
(Thunder Bay) 250-300 40-50 15-20 4
Construction and Allied Workers
(LiUNA) 6074 (Thunder Bay) 300 4 0r 5 120-150 10-15
International Brotherhood of
Boilermakers 128 (Sudbury) 25-30 5 or 6 2 1
International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers 1687 (Sudbury) 90-100 20-25 30-334?
International Union of Operating
Engineers 793 (Oakville) 130 3 15 3 or 4
International Union of Painters and Allied
Trades 1671 (Thunder Bay) 5 or 6 3 0 0
Millwrights 1151 (Thunder Bay) 60 15 8-10 0
Sheet Metal Workers 397 (Thunder Bay) 35 < 5 3 or 4 ?
Teamsters 230 (Markham) 60-70 n.a. about 25 4 or 5
United Association (Plumbers, Fitters &
Welders) 600 (Sudbury) 36 9 5 ?
United Association (Plumbers, Fitters &
Welders) 628 (Thunder Bay) 25-30 5 1 0
1 Estimates provided by union locals, in most cases representing the highest number of workers on site at a given time, in
others the total number they remember being at site.
2 Including apprentices.
3 For construction only, not Sodexo.
4 According to staff from the Moose Cree First Nation, this is an overestimate
Chapter 5: Employment Outcomes
39
LiUNA and Teamster locals had the highest estimates of Aboriginal workers on site
estimating that 40-50 and 36-42% of their workers were Aboriginal, respectively.
ere are likely two reasons for this. First, these unions represented workers for the
MCFN-owned contractors, and second, the unions represented the lowest-skilled
workers on site and largely did not offer apprenticeships. Excluding the IBEW, the
IUOE, the Millwrights, UA 600, and the Carpenters and Joiners were the unions with
apprenticeships that brought in the highest proportion of Aboriginal workers. In some
of these cases, the intake of Aboriginal apprentices was a result of informal agreements
between Sibi, the union, OPG, KAP, and a subcontractor if relevant. BCTUS who had
smaller numbers of workers at the LMRP often had fewer apprentices and Aboriginal
workers. Table 10 also illustrates the scarcity of women within the construction trades.
Women were only present in five of the 12 unions and were only present in the unions
representing civil trades and general labourer or truck driver positions.
Table 11 provides the number of apprentices placed through Sibi on the project. is table
indicates that Sibi was most successful placing apprentices as carpenters or as reinforcing
ironworkers than in other trades. With the exception of apprenticeships in reinforcing
ironwork, there were fewer First Nations apprentices in the mechanical trades.
Table 11
Total apprentices hired through Sibi according to trade through life of the project
TRADE N1
Cook
Cook’s helper 5
Third cook 2
Cook 1
Carpenter 31
Electrical worker 5
Heavy equipment mechanic 2
Ironworker
Reinforcing 16
Structural 2
Millwright 1
Operating engineer
Mobile crane 2
Tower crane 2
Parts person 3
Pipefitter 4
Power line technician 1
TOTAL 77
1 Figures from ‘Coordination Report 14-04-17’ and ‘Apprentices Total.’ Note that Sibi also trained 10 apprentices who
worked on projects other than the LMRP.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
40
5.2 Retention
Despite the fact that the Amisk-oo-skow agreement had no language on retention,
several MCFN representatives identified retention as a potential problem early on and
mechanisms were put in place to address it. Because construction involves fluctuating
personnel needs both in terms of numbers of workers and skill requirements,
retention efforts involved working to ensure that First Nations workers did not end
work prematurely, either voluntarily or as a result of layoff and that whenever possible,
they would retain their jobs longer than similarly qualified non-Aboriginal workers.
e main threats to retention that were identified by organizational representatives
included worker loneliness, lateness, absenteeism, and cases of dismissal that were
deemed unjustified by MCFN representatives. Two positions, social and community
advocate and employment training coordinator, were created to address barriers that
EA First Nations employees might face, provide support and improve their retention.
Additionally, an MCFN representative became involved in cases of discipline of EA
First Nations workers that would potentially result in dismissal and advocated for the
retention of MCFN employees.
MCFN advocates often sought to provide EA First Nations workers with support when
they faced difficulties at work that were related to problems such as substance abuse,
family difficulties or experiences of discrimination and harassment. is involved
educating management about systemic discrimination, arguing against dismissals
in some cases, and facilitating leaves and returns to work. Several MCFN advocates
felt that being owners on the project was an essential element of their leverage when
talking to contractors or management.
Despite these efforts, it seems that retention rates for EA First Nations workers are not
as good as for non-Aboriginal workers: data from the end of January of 2013 shows
a retention rate of 44.7% for non-Aboriginal workers and only 35% for workers from
EA First Nations
3
. As discussed in relation to Table 7, this may be a result of the shift
from civil to mechanical work over the life of the project and the over representation
of MCFN workers in civil work, and particularly in the workforces of Moose Cree First
Nation contractors who were working in the early phases of the project. Other reasons
for a discrepancy in retention will be discussed below in section 6.2 and include the
work environment, the effects of long distance commuting and living away from home,
and management approach to dismissals.
3 Calculated from
numbers in “5.3
Employee List 2013-
01-28 Summary”.
Chapter 6: Successes and Challenges
41
6. Successes and Challenges
6.1 Successes
Representatives from Moose Cree and OPG discussed many positive aspects associated
with the Lower Mattagami Hydroelectric Project. e employment that resulted for
members of Moose Cree First Nation was often cited as a major project benefit (6.1.1).
Representatives also discussed the relationship between OPG and Moose Cree First
Nation in positive terms, as well as how the project was a step towards Moose Cree self-
governance (6.1.2). Finally, many interviewees talked about how positive the project
has been in shaping the perceptions of non-Aboriginal workers of First Nations and
Métis issues and experiences (6.1.3).
6.1.1 Employment Outcomes
Staff from Moose Cree First Nation and OPG emphasized that employment targets,
in particular the EA target of 200 person-years of employment for EA First Nations,
had been exceeded at the time the interviews were conducted. e number of Moose
Cree First Nation members who had entered apprenticeships was in particular seen as
a success by many Moose Cree First Nation representatives:
I: What do you see as the main employment successes of the Lower Mattagami?
K: Uh, I think it’s getting people into the trades. Where generally people, when
they started they were looking at, you know, getting in as labourers. However,
when they got exposed to the environment at the project, it kind of opened
their eyes and some of them took their apprenticeship training and some of
them that had the previous experience or who were easily qualified, we’ll say, to
do particular work, to become an apprentice or whatever, is that, I think that’s
where the benefits were as far as employment and training. (13_K_18)
Representatives talked about the life-changing effects that getting and keeping a job
on the project had for Moose Cree First Nation members. Moose Cree First Nation
representatives talked about having seen members transformed by becoming aware
of the possibilities for their life, and seeing beyond the limitations that some felt life
on the reserve had. Interviewees also talked about witnessing some Moose Cree First
Nation members coming onto the LMRP site to work jobs requiring lower skills, and
being inspired to pursue apprenticeships to become skilled tradespeople, and changing
the course of their life.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
42
6.1.2 Building Relationships and Capacity
Many representatives for Moose Cree First Nation described the working relationship
they had built with OPG in very positive terms. ey viewed members of the OPG
team as allies in addressing a range of issues about the participation of Moose Cree
First Nation in LMRP, and in particular mediating their relationship with KAP. Moose
Cree First Nation representatives also talked about the importance of the partnership
agreement in building their autonomy. In particular, interviewees described the funds
received as an advance on future revenues as important for community betterment,
and the creation of Sibi as key to long-lasting employment gains for the community. A
Moose Cree First Nation representative described the strategy adopted by Moose Cree
First Nation to use the Lower Mattagami development for long-term gain:
One thing that we are trying to really avoid is favouring money to individuals.
We are totally against that; we want to use this money that is coming in
for community development purposes… We are trying to increase further
development of Moose Cree Nation. (13_K_30)
Another important aspect to building Moose Cree First Nation capacity had to do with
the contracts awarded to Moose Cree First Nation businesses, often in joint ventures
with larger, more established companies. A representative explained that Moose Cree
First Nation began by focusing on contracts where they had existing expertise, but that
their expertise grew:
And, you know, it was basically [a question of beginning with] the existing
capacity we had. What we wanted to do, we wanted to expand on that. Like we
didn’t want to go into an area where we didn’t have no expertise. However, if
you were to ask me that today, we are capable of building the dam ourselves.
(13_K_18)
6.1.3 Raising Awareness amongst
Non-Aboriginal Workers
Representatives from Moose Cree First Nation and OPG talked about the impact on
non-Aboriginal workers they had seen Moose Cree First Nation’s participation in
the project and the cultural awareness training that was offered to LMRP workers
have. ey felt that the training that was given to workers, as well as the experience
of working side by side with First Nations and Métis workers, gave non-Aboriginal
workers an unprecedented understanding of the experiences of Métis and members
of First Nations and of the issues they faced. A representative from Moose Cree First
Nation discussed a supervisor who he considered racist, and the positive impact that
Aboriginal Awareness Training had on her: “She was the first that spoke up and said
‘this is the type of training that should be held as soon as we go to work because I
learned so much in this little training’” (13_K_4).
Chapter 6: Successes and Challenges
43
In general BCTU representatives were guarded in discussing their interactions
with Moose Cree First Nation and Métis and First Nations workers. A few
BCTU representatives described their relationship with Moose Cree First Nation
representatives in positive terms:
And so we had numerous discussions, in regards to how we are going to attack
or address, you know, some of the requirements in regards to Aboriginal
content. And so, you know, most of the building trades unions had their input
based on, usually, their criteria in regards to entry into apprenticeship and
what the requirements are and what we would be looking for. And, you know,
the saving grace was the fact that, uh, Sibi and Moose Cree First Nation, you
know, weren’t asking us to deviate from our normal processes, right? Because
they were quite confined to, they want to play by the rules too, which was good.
(13_K_17)
A few BCTU representatives also offered positive assessments of First Nations workers,
with one representative stating “they’re a very happy people” (13_K_20), and a second
commenting that there had been recent changes that he judged to be positive:
e First Nations, they used to be timid when they came on the job, or very
sensitive, listen to every word, oh are they talking about me? Seems like it’s
disappearing that feeling that they had… So now they interact with the rest
more than what used to happen before and before was really, really bad. I’m
talking about five, ten years ago. (13_K_12)
Although this comment unfairly places the onus on First Nations workers (and not
on non-Aboriginal workers) for a poor working relationship between First Nations
and non-Aboriginal workers on job sites in the past, it does indicate that the worksite
environment has improved over time. As a result, First Nations workers are feeling
more comfortable working on the construction sites.
Furthermore, almost all of the BCTUs recognized that they needed to increase Aboriginal
representation within their memberships. is was in part instrumental: business
managers and agents stated that they need First Nations and Métis members because
projects like the LMRP increasingly require that a certain number or percentage of the
workforce is Aboriginal. Other business managers, however, understood the inclusion of
local First Nations workers within an understanding and respect for Aboriginal territory:
e argument is that if we don’t agree to this, we are not going to be up there
at all… you have to look at the laws, you have to look at the rights, you know, if
it’s their land… people made those decisions a long time ago. If we want to work
on that land then, it’s like… if you’ve got somebody coming in from another
country to work here, well these are the rules, these are the laws, these are the
regulations, this is what you have to do. (13_K_17)
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
44
6.2 Challenges
Interviews with organizational representatives identified a number of issues that had
been, or continued to be, challenges to the employment of EA First Nations workers
at LMRP. Interviewees identified several challenges to participating in training and
getting hired (6.2.1), particularly access to apprenticeships (6.2.1.1), both for EA First
Nations members was also challenge. ere were also challenges to retention (6.2.2)
that related to the workplace environment (6.2.2.1) and travelling for work (6.2.2.2),
and MCFN’s relationship to the contractors (6.2.2.3). Finally, funding was discussed as
an issue (6.2.3), in particular by Moose Cree First Nation representatives.
6.2.1 Getting Hired
Representatives from Moose Cree First Nation, OPG, BCTUs and contractors discussed
problems that arose in securing access to employment at LMRP for EA First Nations.
All representatives emphasized access to apprenticeships (6.2.1.1) in their discussion
of employment, since this was seen as the main avenue to well-paid employment. Non-
trades employment also posed a challenge, however. One Moose Cree First Nation
representative discussed the fact that ensuring EA First Nations access to non-trades
employment was particularly difficult, given that non-trades jobs are often obtained
through informal networks on projects like LMRP. MCFN representatives described
how contractors would hire workers without sending the employee requests to the Sibi
office. Ensuring that EA First Nations workers were aware of all of the opportunities on
the project required constant vigilance on the part of MCFN personnel.
Several MCFN representatives also felt that their understanding that EA First Nations
would be the last laid off and the first recalled was not followed on the project and
several referenced the Christmas layoffs as an example. ere was a perception that
First Nations and Métis workers were not being called back to work on an equal basis
with non-Aboriginal workers. Work at LMRP was suspended over Christmastime for
the first three years of operation. e Christmas shutdowns at LMRP created major
issues related to unfair layoffs and dismissals of Aboriginal workers. A representative
for Moose Cree First Nation explained:
As an example, after the Christmas shutdown, 2012, they shut the project down
for a period of… 10 days. After the layoff, the commitment that we had from
KAP was that our First Nations employees would be called back to work first…
But they would not give it to us in writing, and uh the previous two years at the
Christmas shutdown, we never had any real positive outcomes to the recall of
our First Nations employees. So we were really reluctant to believe that this was
actually going to occur and we were right. Out of 180 employees we had working
before Christmas, they got rid of 73 or 78 of them and had no intent to call them
back at all and uh so we had took some strong disagreement with that. (13_K_4)
Chapter 6: Successes and Challenges
45
By the time of the interview, in June of 2013, all but two or three workers had been
called back, however this required significant efforts on the part of Sibi. OPG also
required that the contractor address the MCFN’s perceptions of wrongdoing.
When faced with resistance from the DB contractor or the subcontractors, MCFN
often used their political leverage as co-owners with OPG to insist that employment
commitments were upheld. is existed even in the case of the set-aside contractor
Sodexo, who initially did not hire a sufficient number of EA First Nations workers.
As noted previously, MCFN had greater leverage with the DB contractor and the set-
asides than with the other construction subcontractors. For example, representatives
from Moose Cree First Nation talked about how they used their ownership stake in the
project to push the DB contractor to follow through with employment commitments:
So there was a couple people that were, umm, not supportive of our involvement,
and were not supportive of us trying to get people enrolled in apprentice
programs… we said “no, this is our project”, we wanted things to change, so
they changed the structure of KAP upper management again and now we are
having really good successes. (13_K_4)
e management turnover led to a more positive climate, but issues related to
employment persisted, in particular having to do with placing EA First Nations
members in apprenticeships.
6.2.1.1 Apprenticeships
A variety of perspectives related to placing First Nations apprentices came out of the
interviews with unions, MCFN and OPG staff. For representatives from Moose Cree
First Nation, challenges arose from unsupportive KAP management (see above) and
the need to build a relationship with BCTU representatives. For BCTU representatives,
unwillingness by KAP and other contractors to take on apprentices, the lack of
availability of qualified First Nations and Métis members, and issues specific to First
Nations and Métis workers were hurdles that had to be overcome. For KAP, resistance
from BCTUs and lack of availability of qualified First Nations and Métis members
created problems.
For Sibi, building strong relationships with the BCTUs was a fundamental aspect of
placing apprentices. Representatives talked about targeting only those workers who were
interested in long-term union membership for apprenticeships, in order to satisfy the
unions who wanted new members to be committed to remaining union members. Some
BCTU representatives reported initially feeling that Sibi had unrealistic goals for Aboriginal
hiring, but many representatives described their current relationship with Sibi as positive.
Representatives from the BCTUs talked about the fact that it was difficult to get KAP and
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
46
subcontractors to hire apprentices, for First Nations and non-Aboriginal apprentices
alike. Some of the EPSCA agreements did not have provisions guaranteeing specific
numbers of apprentice hires. Only eight of nineteen agreements include ratios between
apprentices and journeymen, and in some cases the ratio is only to specify a maximum
number of apprentices but not to ensure an employer must accept apprentices. Possibly
as a result of the absence of apprentice ratio language in the agreements, a number of
BCTU representatives talked about having to convince contractors to take apprentices.
K: I had to, well I didn’t bribe them, but I had to encourage Kiewit to take
apprentices for [trade specified] because they don’t have language in the EPSCA.
I: So they didn’t want to take apprentices?
K: ey were reluctant. Same as any, you know, they are always reluctant. But
they took them. (13_K_19)
But other BCTU representatives, including from trades that had agreements not
specifying apprentice ratios, reported that they had no problems placing apprentices.
Experience in this respect seems to have varied, although as the following excerpt
suggests, this may be a question of perspective as the interviewee who claimed to not
have had problems nonetheless refers to having to push to get apprentices on site.
I: So they were willing, all these contractors are willing to take apprentices?
K: Oh yeah. I never had a problem with getting an apprentice, I always push.
(13_K_20)
According to a number of BCTU representatives, the main obstacle to placing First
Nations and Métis workers in apprenticeships was the inability to find a sufficient
number of people wishing to become apprentices. One representative described low
turnout at a job fair that had been organized to draw Aboriginal people to apprenticeships.
Some BCTU representatives described a similar situation to describe the low number of
women in apprenticeships, stating that they were unable to find women who wanted to
become apprentices. ese perspectives, however, were contradicted by the experiences
of Sibi, and by further comments from BCTU representatives themselves, which suggest
that there was a desire by BCTUs to ensure that non-Aboriginal apprentices who they
had accepted in the union were also able to gain work hours on the project.
BCTUs were also sometimes hesitant to bring First Nations workers into apprenticeships
because of negative preconceptions that they held about First Nations workers. Despite
Sibi’s attempts to only place apprentices interested in long-term union memberships
(see above), several BCTU business agents or managers believed that First Nations and
Métis apprentices were less likely to want to stay with the union in the long term. BCTU
representatives also stereotyped First Nations workers as being more likely to have
problems with absenteeism and lateness. Finally, BCTU representatives talked about
the fact that some First Nations workers were not prepared for apprenticeships, either
because they did not have their high school diploma, or because the pre-apprenticeship
Chapter 6: Successes and Challenges
47
training did not adequately prepare First Nations workers for work on site.
Despite these opinions, most BCTU representatives claimed to have done their best to
place First Nations apprentices, and denied feeling pressure from their membership
to provide jobs for longstanding (white) union members rather than workers from EA
First Nations. One interviewee from a BCTU did however discuss this tension:
So we have to be careful because we get it from both sides, you know? First
Nations are squeezing us, our members are saying what the hell are you doing,
why you bringing First Nations there, I’m out of work. I’ve been a member for
30 years. You hear all kinds of things, so we’re trying to balance it. (13_K_12)
When asked why they did not have more First Nations apprentices, subcontractors also
stated that they had difficulty finding qualified people from EA First Nations to place
into apprenticeships:
e other issue with dealing with the Aboriginal employment group is
educational barriers. A number of the employees… they’re parents at very
young ages, they haven’t completed high school in many cases… that created
barriers for moving into the more skilled trades, so a majority of the people that
were hired here are, um, are from like a labour force like Sodexo, housekeeping,
kitchen help. On the construction side, you have the, uh, labourers… or some
of them move into more of, uh, carpentry… for us to move them into electric,
um, functions, move them into piping, mechanical, um, millwright work, there
are barrier tests of course, aptitude tests and math and uh it’s not significant
math, it’s not, you know, big bang theory algebra, it’s adding, subtracting, um,
working with some fractions and they were not passing. (13_K_7)
A representative from KAP described KAP as committed to bringing First Nations
apprentices on site, and facing obstacles from BCTUs. He described pressure from
BCTU representatives to bring in their own apprentices, and having to negotiate with
them to also bring in First Nations representatives:
So, we’ve said, I think, we want two First Nations and that gives room to bring
in two of theirs, we’ve got enough people… It’s usually just a phone call “can I
bring in, can you let these two come if they pass” but they said we won’t lower
our standards, they have to meet the minimum standards (13_K_7)
6.2.2 Challenges to Retention
ere were several challenges to retention cited by organizational representatives. ese
included challenges related to workplace environment (6.2.2.1), such as experiences of
racism or sexual harassment for First Nations and Métis women, travel for work and
camp life (6.2.2.2) which was hard on families and individuals, and challenges related
to a lack of flexibility in camp and work policies (6.2.2.3).
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
48
6.2.2.1 Workplace Environment
MCFN representatives felt that the workplace environment was not always conducive to
ensuring that EA First Nations workers were free from discrimination and harassment
on site. KAP reported that there were 29 documented cases of discrimination and
harassment from the beginning of the project to April 2015. is number did not
include cases that were reported but that were not deemed to be acts of discrimination
or harassment after investigation by KAP management nor did it include incidents that
were communicated to MCFN support staff but not reported as an official incident to
Human Resources.
While 29 incidents is low for a project that is five years in length, other statistics
suggest that many incidents may not have been reported. In a chart of statistics kept
by the MCFN support staff on site, the category “workplace environment” accounted
for 182 visits from First Nations and Métis workers. While broad, this category
included workers’ descriptions of feeling discomfort on site related to experiences of
discrimination and/or harassment that were not reported to Human Resources. Some
interviewees also commented on the reluctance of First Nations and Métis workers to
report incidents of discrimination or harassment to HR.
Grievance statistics indicate that First Nations and Métis workers may also be less
likely to approach the union for support in cases where they feel that they are treated
unfairly. First Nations workers were less likely to file grievances than other employees.
A total of 163 grievances were filed over the course of the project and only six of these
involved First Nations workers; if the number of grievances were proportional to the
number of First Nations and Métis workers on site it would be 22 (Gernon, pers. com
2015).
First Nations and Métis women faced additional challenges on site and were also reluctant
to report incidents of sexual harassment. Several organizational representatives stated
that they would often find out about harassment after a woman had quit. As described
by one MCFN representative, “construction fields are predominately male… so it’s not
‘till after the female chooses just to leave the project where we find out that she was
being sexually harassed as well” (13_K_4).
Some BCTU respondents and contractors described how perceived discrimination was
the result of First Nations and Métis men and women not understanding the culture
of construction work. When asked about discrimination and harassment, one BCTU
representative said that he felt that there were more incidents reported at the LMRP
than he “had ever heard of” (13_K_13). He further described how he would warn
workers going up to the LMRP that the site was ‘sensitive’ and that they could not talk
in the way that they would at a regular construction site.
Chapter 6: Successes and Challenges
49
Another interviewee felt that reports of discrimination and harassment were subjective
since they depended on who was conducting the investigation. e respondent
suggested that at times they were underreported by management because people
would not want to jeopardize their future relationships in an industry where work and
jobs are highly reliant on relationships and reputation.
ere was a general feeling amongst organizational representatives, however, that the
MCFN was able to challenge the racism on site because of their ownership capacity.
In one case, MCFN staff fought to have a manager from the DB contractor let go.
According to some people interviewed, however, the zero tolerance for racism was not
matched by a similar attention to sexual harassment. When asked about the experiences
of women on site, several people interviewed implied that the masculine culture of
construction that degraded women was unchangeable. For example one organizational
representative stated “you’re working at a construction site with a lot of construction
workers… and they’re rough around the edges… it’s harder to speak, properly or politely
to a lady… Not everyone is politically correct” (13_K_5).
6.2.2.2 Travel for Work
Working at a remote camp was particularly challenging for many of the First Nations
workers, adding a degree of stress and contributing to worker retention. Working at
a remote camp was a new experience for most MCFN workers. One MCFN member
described how living in the camp could be triggering because of past experiences living
in institutions. Another MCFN representative described how traveling for work created
additional stress on families and relationships: “the stress of being on a remote camp
site… things coming up at home and… that’s a big problem… for First Nation workers…
they’re separated for an extended period of time, loneliness” (13_K_5).
Deaths in extended families and the need to spend time with children and partners
caused many workers to leave the worksite. Although workers were only entitled
to three days of bereavement leave for immediate family members, First Nations
and Métis workers were able to request unpaid leaves for deaths of extended family
members as well as additional days for all deaths.
Catering and housekeeping was identified by many of the MCFN representatives as the
unit with the highest turnover. One factor that contributed to high turnover among
Sodexo employees was the long rotation schedule of 3:1 versus 2:1 for other workers on
site. e longer rotation schedule was preferred by Sodexo employees since it allowed
them to earn more money; since their hourly wages were much lower than those of
other workers, working more hours allowed them to approximate the money of other
workers. Staying at the camp for three weeks at a time, however, was more emotionally
taxing for workers. One interviewee drew a connection between absenteeism and the
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
50
short amount of time off faced by this group of workers:
e biggest concern that we were faced with right now is absenteeism and
lateness… People not coming back on their turnaround. ree weeks is a long
time away from home and then they go home for a week and then you’ve got
two travel days and then you’re only home for five days versus 21 days gone
so we face a lot of times [when workers] don’t call back to work or show up.
(13_K_4)
6.2.2.3 Rigid Camp and Work Policies
To address lateness and absenteeism, advocates and coordinators offered support and
counselling to EA First Nations workers experiencing camp life and long work rotations
for the first time. Some MCFN representatives felt that the hard line approach to
dismissals of the DB contractor resulted in undue dismissals. Given the disadvantages
that many of the workers faced in their daily lives as a result of a long legacy of colonial
policies, they faced additional challenges adapting to the rigid regulations governing
work and life at the camp. e advocates and coordinators for the MCFN both on and
off site also served as advocates for First Nations workers vis-à-vis management. One
Moose Cree First Nation representative described a typical situation:
Say the guy misses a shift or two because he didn’t hand in his doctor’s slip
right away, or something like that, but he had it… So the guy comes back to
work and they say, “You’re fired,” and we say, “No, no, no.” ey [KAP]’ve done
that too many times to our people. (13_K_6)
e DB contractor sought to apply strict policies equally for all workers, yet this meant
that many First Nations and Métis workers were losing their employment. As a result
MCFN aimed to educate the DB contractor about the additional challenges faced by
First Nations peoples so as to provide more leeway in terms of discipline.
6.2.3 Funding and Structural
Problems Post-Project
Funding issues featured as a major challenge in many interviews with Moose Cree
First Nation representatives. When the funding for Sibi was not renewed by HRSDC,
it created challenges to the delivery of training to job programs. At the time of
the interviews, Sibi was being funded by OPG and KAP, but not at the level of the
previous HRSDC funding. e reduced funding meant that programs that successfully
trained and placed workers in jobs were not replicated to the same extent later in the
project. Representatives expressed frustration at the inadequacy of funding, both for
employment and training purposes, and for supporting workers from Moose Cree First
Nation and other EA First Nations on site. ere was a perception that full funding for
Chapter 6: Successes and Challenges
51
the duration of the project would have facilitated the entry of more EA First Nations
into apprenticeships in the mechanical trades.
ere were also some structural factors that created barriers to future work for First
Nations apprentices post-project. For most BCTUs, Northern Ontario was serviced by
two locals that were based in the more southern centres of Sudbury or under Bay. e
dividing line between these two areas was near Timmins and Kapuskasing. is north-
south division worked for most BCTU members who lived further south, however it
created difficulties for more northern residents since a worker might be unavailable for
jobs that were close geographically but located on the other side of the dividing line.
Moreover, because jobs near the local did not provide a live-out allowance, it would
not be feasible for northern residents to travel to jobs further south. e structural
organization of the hiring hall function of BCTUs therefore tended to favour southern
workers who lived near their union hall.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
52
7. Worker Perspectives
A number of themes emerged from the interviews with workers at LMRP: travelling
for work (7.1), training and education (7.2), job progression and advancement (7.3),
discrimination and harassment (7.4), equity of layoffs and recall (7.5), language
(7.6), knowledge of the Amisk-oo-skow agreement (7.7), health and safety (7.8), and
union perceptions (7.9). Workers discussed these topics both as responses to direct
questions related to the themes and unprompted in some cases. e sections below
deal with each theme in turn, concluding with recommendations based on the worker
interviews. Note that since we only interviewed one Métis worker we were not able to
make generalizations about Métis employment experiences. For this reason, and to
protect the confidentiality of the worker, in the analysis below, we refer only to First
Nations workers when discussing Aboriginal worker experiences.
7.1 Travelling for Work
e difficulties related to travelling for work featured in interviews from all groups of
workers. Most workers discussed the negative effects travelling had on their personal
lives, although many workers felt that travelling was an intrinsic part of their occupation,
and some found positive effects in travel. Most workers travelled because the salaries
were higher or because of a lack of work opportunities in their local communities, and
a number of workers had developed adaptation strategies to address the difficulties
this created.
7.1.1 Effect on Personal Life
Most workers cited the toll that travelling takes on their personal lives. e difficulties
related to travel were expressed differently depending on personality, how long
workers had been in their profession, and whether people had children. Parents,
especially women and single parents, felt the effects of being away from their children
very strongly. Single workers also felt the negative effects of being away from their
community.
I: How does travelling affect your home life, like with your family and
participating in the community that sort of thing?
21: To be honest I guess I was missing out some things, you know, like social
events. at’s about it, just the social events. I don’t have any kids, but it’s hard
on the other guys who do have kids. (MCFN man)
4
Other single workers felt that the travel related to their work was the reason they were
4 In quotations from
worker interviews,
a unique number
identies the work-
er, preceded by FG
in the case of work-
ers who were focus
group members. ‘I’
identies the inter-
viewer. At the end
of the quotation,
the worker’s First
Nations member-
ship (MCFN=Moose
Cree First Nation,
TTN=Taykwa
Tagamou Nation,
FN=other First
Nation) and gender
are provided in
brackets.
Chapter 7: Worker Perspectives
53
single. Some workers expressed that travelling lead to an inability to maintain healthy
relationships, while others talked about the toll it took on families, and the addictions
that they felt resulted from it. One male worker as part of a focus group specifically
mentioned how being away from home for work damaged his relationship at home:
“FG42: ings weren’t working at home in under Bay because I was travelling, gone
most of the time… so it wasn’t working out, yeah, travelling home and going to work,
yeah that kind of affected my life” (MCFN man).
Women seemed to feel the effects of travel more acutely, in particularly citing loneliness
as a negative effect.
2: It is lonely a bit I guess. When you have people up there that you know it is
okay. But I sleep most of the time, so, well now I sleep most of the time because
it passes the day I guess. (FN woman)
Another woman remarked on the tiring nature of the travel as well as the negative
impact on her ability to be there for her children’s’ milestones.
I: What were the impacts of travelling on your life?
39: Tiring. at’s about it. Tiring and I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time
at home.
I: Like family life or anything?
39: Yeah… One thing I did notice is I missed a lot of my kids’ lives. Graduations.
Birthdays.
7.1.2 Reasons for Travelling
When asked whether they would be willing to travel in the future, most workers said
yes, however the reasons they cited were instrumental. Money was universally cited
as the main reason for travelling. In the case of apprentices, this financial motive
meant that they were willing to travel to get the hours required to reach the next
stage of their apprenticeship, and eventually achieve journeyperson status. More
experienced workers had more choice in their decision to travel, as they were not
dependent on reaching a specific number of hours worked, and in some cases had
capital saved, so were in a better financial position to say no to work. As a result, some
of the apprentices who got their job through Sibi and did not like travelling for work
were willing to travel for work until they became journeypersons, but planned to stop
travelling after getting sufficient hours to obtain their Red Seal: “31: But my plan after
I get my journeyman ticket is to slow down and work back at home [Moose Factory]
for a year or so” (MCFN man).
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
54
7.1.3 Adaptations to Travelling
Both seasoned journeypersons and workers who got their job through Sibi had also
adopted strategies to preserve their relationships with family and friends in light of the
difficulties from travelling. Some workers who got their job through Sibi talked about
taking leaves to spend time with family, especially during particularly trying times for
spouses or children. e more experienced white workers did not have the same access
to leaves as workers who got their job through Sibi, but had strategies to take time off.
Some talked about asking to be laid off to take time off, while others planned to take
long breaks between jobs. Some workers also put limits on the distances they were
willing to travel, with some for instance deciding to stay in Ontario, or saying they
would not go to Alberta.
7.1.4 Commute and Rotation
e impact of travelling for work was also affected by workers’ commute and their work
rotation. Having a reasonable commute time was important to allowing some workers
who got their job through Sibi to continue living in Moose Factory rather than moving
to more southern locations. e interviews highlighted the importance of ensuring
that commutes are reasonable for workers without personal vehicles, for workers who
got their job through Sibi in particular. is was successful in the case of the commute
to and from Moose Factory: the addition of the Fraserdale stop on the train resulted in
a six-hour commute, which workers seemed satisfied with. e commute to and from
Timmins however required at least some workers to spend hours in a Tim Hortons in
the middle of the night. One worker as part of a focus group described such a scenario:
FG40: I had to travel by bus, stay overnight all night, and I had to wait for the
bus to go to camp then go straight to work and I was just dead tired by the time
I get to work. (MCFN man)
Living further away from the construction site often meant longer commute times,
even though workers could take airplanes. When workers were coming from other
northern locations such as northern Manitoba, commute times were longer than if
workers were coming from southern centres such as Toronto.
Work rotation also had an effect on workers’ experience of travelling. At the time of the
interviews most workers had the choice of what they wanted their rotation to entail,
either three weeks on and one week off or two weeks on and one week off. Because of
this, there were few complaints about rotation, which highlights the fact that choice
is fundamental for this aspect. Workers typically preferred the two and one rotation,
choosing more time with their families and in their communities over more money. In
some cases, if workers were going to be required to work three and one, they chose to
not work at LMRP. As an example of this, this EA First Nations worker initially opted
Chapter 7: Worker Perspectives
55
not to work at LMRP because he would have had to work three weeks in a row, which
would have been too difficult on his family life:
22: e reason [I did not work at LMRP for a period of time] is because the
turnaround or the rotations were three and one, and I had a small family,
two kids at the time. So with a three and one rotation, it was just too much.
I worked [elsewhere] for two years then I got wind that it was a two and one
now. (MCFN man)
However, many workers preferred three and one (or even longer) rotations when they
needed money.
One worker reported that Sodexo workers were initially required to work particularly
long rotations which negatively affected retention.
38: [Housekeepers] and kitchen staff … When they first started… they had to
do five weeks, they had no choice. But now towards the end of that project, now
they had choices to work two and one, two and one. So at the beginning they
had no choice but to put in five weeks and that was a long time, it was hard to
keep them there. Because being away from home and their children and their
boyfriend. (MCFN man)
As described in the above excerpt, later in the project Sodexo workers were able to work
shorter rotations, normally three and one, but they could request a shorter rotation if
they desired. However most preferred the three and one rotation, likely because their
lower wages meant that the financial need was greater.
7.1.5 Moving away from Moose Factory
Moose Cree First Nation workers discussed reasons to move away from or stay in
Moose Factory. Many chose to move away after obtaining jobs at the LMRP, for a
variety of reasons. Some felt that Moose Factory was too small a community, with
limited infrastructure and opportunities. In some cases, the reluctance to stay in Moose
Factory was also related to conflict or personal problems with specific individuals. One
worker talked about moving away from Moose Factory because he likes living in larger
cities, another due to the high cost of living, and for some workers moving away was a
natural consequence of their occupation.
7.2 Training and Education
Many workers described how Sibi helped them find out about and enter training to be
an apprentice. Sibi facilitated the movement of many workers into apprenticeships by
recruiting First Nations and Métis workers, anticipating potential problems apprentices
might face along the way in their training and resolving problems pre-emptively. Sibi
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
56
also addressed problems workers faced as they arose. Sibi helped workers by advertising
training opportunities, organizing the provision of courses, providing funds for
training and ensuring that workers were properly registered as apprentices and that
their hours were counted accordingly. In addition, Sibi organized for groups of First
Nations and Métis workers to enter pre-apprenticeship training and apprenticeships
together helping to shield against tokenism that may be experienced by workers if they
were to enter as individuals.
7.2.1 Recruitment of First Nations Workers
Although not all First Nations and Métis workers described finding out about their jobs
initially through Sibi, Sibi was central to the placement of many in necessary training
programs and positions on site. Not all of the workers specified how they found out
about training opportunities, but of those that did, two workers found out through
postings at LMRP, one from a job board at a different worksite, two went into the Sibi
office, one learned about the apprenticeship training because he did his GED through
Sibi, and six heard about training and employment opportunities from someone (Joyce
Spence, in one case; Kim Radbourne, in another; and family members in three). Once
people heard about the training, they described the process of obtaining it as simple:
“5: ere was a job posting for apprentice [trade specified] so I called that number. en
I was directed from Sibi to call the union hall and I went to the pre-apprenticeship there
for three weeks” (FN man).
7.2.2 Providing Funds to Assist with Shortfall
of EI to Attend Training
Most trades require in-class training after a certain number of hours are completed to
obtain the required training to become a journeyperson. Funding is provided through
the federal government through Employment Insurance (EI), but the first two weeks
without work are unpaid. Apprentices are therefore typically out of pocket for the first
two weeks of their training. In addition, funds are not provided for transportation to
the location of the training. e locations where training is provided differ by trade.
e training for some trades is provided by union training centres, while for others it is
provided by community colleges. Very few trades had all the required training available
in Northern Ontario, and for several trades the only training available was in Southern
Ontario. Most apprentices living in the north are therefore required to travel for their
in-class instruction.
Most tradespeople interviewed felt that EI funds themselves were not sufficient
to pay for short-term accommodation and food. As a result, travelling to attend
apprenticeship training was potentially prohibitory for both First Nations and Métis,
and non-Aboriginal respondents. Non-Aboriginal workers described a variety of
Chapter 7: Worker Perspectives
57
financial strategies that they had used to attend the in-class training such as finding an
inexpensive place to rent with many other apprentices to cover their costs, staying with
a friend or relative or bringing a trailer such as the respondent below:
I: So how did you manage? … Especially living in Toronto?
32: It was brutal. You can know someone. I brought my tent trailer down there,
the one year, and my buddy and I stayed in a campground, which was pretty
awesome. (white man)
Despite the financial difficulties involved, however, only three of the white men
interviewed discussed facing challenges obtaining training. Some of the challenges
included being able to get time off from their employer to attend the required training.
First Nations workers who obtained their employment through Sibi did not describe
challenges to attending training because Sibi provided additional support to ensure
their success at trade school. e cost of attending school would likely have been
prohibitory for many northern First Nations and Métis residents because of higher
travel costs to attend trade school from more remote locations and because northern
First Nation and Métis workers may be less likely to have funds from personal or family
sources saved that they could draw on while at school. e provision of funds by Sibi
was therefore crucial to ensuring that northern First Nations and Métis members had
financial means to complete their apprenticeship training. Several respondents showed
a deep trust in Sibi helping them attend their apprenticeship training:
31: I am not too worried about money once my E.I. comes in, because I’m pretty
sure Sibi will continue to help, because that is what they did last time too when
I was [living in a city in Northern Ontario]. (MCFN man)
7.2.3 Apprenticeship Teams or Groups
Another strategy Sibi used to help ensure that First Nations workers would complete
their apprenticeship training successfully was to organize apprenticeship training
in groups. Often new apprentices were brought in together in groups of four to
eight workers. Cohorts of First Nations apprentices guarded against the tokenism
of working in a predominantly white environment and also facilitated mentorship
among workers. An older apprentice described how he helped other apprentices
through the training process:
36: Probably because I’m a little bit older than the guys, umm, you know, a little
more experienced I guess, umm, I don’t know, I tried to help them out as much
as I can, especially the young guys, you know, push them when it came time to
go to trade school, help them with their studies, mentored them, you know. I
do what I can, you know. (MCFN man)
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
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Another experienced worker recounted how cohorts of First Nations workers
also created competition on the worksite with non-Aboriginal work groups to the
benefit of production:
38: And all us Moose Cree we stuck together as a group because you know at
the beginning there you gotta stick together. And then the non-natives had
their own group. So we worked together… [and] we seemed to be faster… and
they didn’t like it. And they said: “you guys are racing.” “We’re not racing,” I
told them, “we’re just doing our work. Everybody has a job to do and we put it
together.” … But I mean, I think they tried to keep up with us… So we sort of
gave them a push… So we sort of sped up their work a bit because they’re trying
to keep up with us. So that was one of the good benefits. (MCFN man)
Bringing in apprentices in groups, however, required that Sibi negotiate with unions to
get a commitment for them to bring in certain number of new First Nations apprentices
and in some cases modify the entrance requirements. One respondent described the
latter as an example of how the union was helping First Nations workers.
18: I think my union has done a perfect job because when we first wrote the
entrance exam… there was a high rate of Aboriginal, we’re not passing the exam
because, what they told us is, well it’s just common sense but for us, for the
majority of the people back at home they had no knowledge of construction,
of the trades… So they noticed the high rate of people not passing so what my
union did was they offered a course… they told us, hey, take this course, you
know, basically if you take it and if you fail our exam we’ll let you take it over
and over and over until you pass because they wanted to know how we learned
and what was wrong and how can they improve the success rate. (MCFN man)
7.2.4 Future Plans
When asked whether there was training they were interested in for the future, all of
the workers who got their job through Sibi said yes. Several workers identified the
next steps in their apprenticeships as the future training they were interested in,
four workers identified training in a trade related to theirs (for instance, getting their
welding ticket), one wanted to get their red seal, one identified a leadership course to
become foreperson, two wanted to get their GED, one planned to go to college, one
planned to complete more university level education, and one wanted to get their GED
and go to college. One last worker mentioned many possibilities:
I: Is there any other education or training at a higher level that you would want
to participate in?
22: Well, I could be pragmatic or I could be idealistic right, so which do I say?
I: If you were to be pragmatic, what would your answer be?
22: It would be a welding ticket, boom tickets and operator tickets for the job,
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related, and idealistic would be project management or something like that. And
to consider a completely different career path it would be to go to university as
a [science] student or something like that. (MCFN man)
Despite the major challenges to obtaining training that Sibi addressed for the
workers, First Nations apprentices still faced a range of challenges. ese ranged from
fundamental life changes to more minor organizational issues including moving into
the trades from a different occupation and not having a high school diploma to enter
their desired profession.
7.3 Job Progression and Advancement
One hope of the Moose Cree First Nation was that the LMRP would provide
opportunities for First Nations members to gain skills and move into more highly
skilled jobs. In addition to progressing through the apprenticeship process, workers
also advanced by changing their employment on site. Of the 18 workers who obtained
their job through Sibi, 11 changed at least one aspect of their employment such as their
employer or job description. In some of these cases, changes allowed workers to move
into jobs with a greater opportunity for advancement.
7.3.1 Moving into Apprenticeships
Four workers started their employment at LMRP with Sodexo, but moved to a different
subcontractor to pursue better opportunities in the trades. When explaining why he
took a job at the LMRP, one man described how his approach changed from getting a
job to training for a career.
36: ln the beginning it was about work. I was doing seasonal work at the time…
the season was coming to a close and this opportunity came up. I got my foot
in the door at LMRP through Sodexo and, when the apprenticeship was offered
and a date was given, I continued working for Sodexo in maintenance until I
had to leave to start my pre-apprenticeship training. (MCFN man)
Compared to other work on site, working in cleaning and housecleaning offered few
opportunities for advancement. One of the few opportunities that did exist was to
apprentice as a cook or baker. One worker described leaving Sodexo when he discovered
that the company was not submitting his hours to the ministry as an apprentice.
Another worker described leaving Sodexo so that he could enter a career and because
the pay difference between Sodexo and work covered by the BCTUs was substantial:
5: As a janitor they paid me $13 but because I went to pre-apprentice training
you usually start off at 60% of journeymen rate. Since I went to that thing
for two weeks, the hall jumped us right away to 70% which was about $24
something an hour, and it goes up from there. It goes 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%,
95% then once you write your test you get the full rate.
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I: at is a lot better.
5: Yeah, it is almost double.
I: Any other reasons for changing employers?
5: I wanted a career not a job. (FN man)
Two First Nations workers similarly started with Kiewit and then moved into
apprenticeships within the same company. One moved from a non-construction staff
position while another moved from a labourer position to an apprenticeship position
in a mechanical trade. Other moves were lateral. Several workers worked for more than
one contractor on site and some workers moved within Sodexo.
Most workers who did not get their job through Sibi remained with the same employer
while working on site. In a handful of cases workers changed crews or advanced to foreman
on site. First Nations workers who obtained their job through Sibi were more likely to
return to work at the site with another employer after layoffs because of the efforts of
personnel to ensure that EA First Nations obtain the first chance at employment.
7.3.2 Opportunities for Advancement
ere was some optimism among EA First Nations, particularly trade apprentices,
who felt that their jobs did offer opportunities for advancement. ese perceived
opportunities included moving forward through more training, gaining journeyperson
status, or becoming a foreperson or superintendent.
I: Do you have any opportunity for advancement in your job?
36: Oh yeah, uh, we started out at the bottom, and we’re working our way
up. Now that we’re journeymen, you know, there’s opportunities for us to
move up the ladder, become subforeman, or foreman, or general foreman, or
superintendent, you know, maybe even management within the company, you
never know. (MCFN man)
However, other workers from EA First Nations, particularly more seasoned workers,
were less optimistic about the prospects for advancement. For example, one
journeyperson described how most supervisory positions were already occupied by
workers from Québec.
I: So for the LMRP job, did you have opportunity for advancement in that job?
38: Not there, I don’t think. ey had their own people.
I: …You say their own people, like that they brought in from the South?
38: More like East. Québec, Montreal, around that area, mostly from there…
Even at the beginning, when we first started, a lot of Québec people… Well, I
mean, they’re all hired from Québec, most of the foremen, some supervisors.
So basically they have control of the project. (MCFN man)
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is view of workers from Québec was echoed by other EA First Nations workers as
part of a focus group: “FG42: ere was people from other locals like 1669 under Bay
could have been foremans taking positions instead of people from Québec, you know.
I find that, you know, discriminating ‘cause Kiewit’s from Montreal” (MCFN man). Still
other EA First Nations workers instead expressed a lack of interest in the prospect of
advancement in general.
Amongst the non-EA First Nations workers, about half felt that there were opportunities
for advancement. One maintenance worker and one labourer felt that they were stuck
in their positions, with no possibility for advancement within their employment at
LMRP. For some of the more experienced white workers, advancement would mean
becoming a foreman or other supervisor, and a number of workers expressed that they
were either not interested in this, or felt it was not a possibility for them.
7.4 Discrimination and Harassment
Our interviews with white and Aboriginal workers suggest that the worksite as a whole
was not a safe environment for Aboriginal women. Although there were fewer incidents
on the basis of Aboriginality than gender, perceptions that Aboriginal workers were on
site only because of the agreement with Moose Cree and that they were not qualified
persisted among white workers. Incidents of racism towards Aboriginal peoples seemed
to be localized within particular work groups. In other work groups, Aboriginal workers
felt well supported and equally treated. Aboriginal respondents were also more likely to
report incidents of discrimination and harassment than white men.
7.4.1 Gender Discrimination
Both men and women working at the site described challenges that women workers
faced at the construction site. Although very few men reported observing incidents
of discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender, this was not the case for
the women interviewed. Similar to men, women were reticent to answer yes to the
direct question of whether they had witnessed discrimination and harassment on the
basis of gender, yet all but one woman had described incidents of discrimination and
harassment that had happened to them personally at some point in their interview.
When asked if the Amisk-oo-skow agreement benefited women, one woman responded:
“9: Not really, no. Where we work, they don’t seem to care and nothing has changed.
ere is a lot of discrimination” (FN woman).
Several women described feeling uncomfortable with the lewd comments or unwanted
gazes of male co-workers. When asked if she faced discomfort being a woman on the
site one woman responded: “11: Um, sometimes, yeah… Just the guys there, they’re
sometimes really perverts, or they make comments, try to like ask you to like come to
their room and…” (FN woman).
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e experiences reported by women were also confirmed by those of several men who
felt that women faced discomfort on the construction site. One man described how he
felt that women would feel uncomfortable being stared at by men.
I: Do you think that women face any discomfort being a woman on site?
16: Yes.
I: Can you describe?
16: Uh, get gawked at. Gawking, you know what I mean. (white man)
Respondents also described particular difficulties for women working in catering and
housekeeping. Particularly telling was one man who described some specifics regarding
the kind of harassment experienced by women working in housekeeping:
38: Basically I think the housekeepers are getting the worst of it… the
washrooms, for instance… you see discrimination there… Writing stuff or, I
mean, you know, plugging up the toilets. Toilet paper in the disposal there.
So every time they go in the washroom when it’s time to clean, they see those
things almost every day. Or even someone wiping it on the toilet seat or even
on the shower stalls, and the cleaners have to clean that. (MCFN man)
Two women also discussed incidents of sexual harassment that had happened to
other women on site. A small number of men also described being aware of incidents
of harassment of women, although in some cases it was not clear whether the men
considered the incident to be gender-based sexual harassment, or simply personal
conflict: “22: ere is this one woman that was getting, a guy was being a jerk, and she
said I don’t like that” (MCFN man).
Worksite policies prioritizing the employment of Aboriginal workers have been
linked to feelings of tokenization on the part of the workers that benefit from the
policies (Mills 2011). ese feelings can be exacerbated for Aboriginal women, who
represent a small minority of workers on site, and a vanishingly small minority of
tradespeople. Several workers commented on the very low numbers of women on
site, and within construction and specifically within the BCTUs. e only woman in a
trade in the sample reported being the only woman at her union meetings. A number
of men also commented that there were few women in their trade or in trades in
general. One stated:
I: What do you think your union can do to better represent women on site, if at
all?
18: To tell you the truth there aren’t that much women in the union. Like,
for example, like [woman worker], she is the first woman that happens to be
Aboriginal to be [an apprentice in this trade] for our union and our union covers
all of Ontario [for our trade]. So like unions are all about brotherhood and all
that… So I guess you could say it’s not a girls club. (laughs) (MCFN man)
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Another suggested that the Amisk-oo-skow agreement did not help women as much as
men since there were not very many women apprentices:
I: What about women, do you feel like the agreements helped First Nations
women?
36: … I think maybe they could have pushed a little bit more to get the females
into the trades… I didn’t find that there were enough, especially for our members,
Moose Cree First Nation, and any other First nation involved… I noticed a lot
of the Aboriginal people that were working there were in the kitchen and then
housekeeping, was there anything offered to them to advance? You know I’m
not too sure. (MCFN man)
Other respondents also pointed to the limited opportunities women had for
advancement because of their under representation in the trades and their over
representation in catering and housekeeping, positions that offered almost no
opportunity for advancement and were paid much lower wages. In response to the
question of whether the Amisk-oo-skow agreement benefited women, one man
stated: “16: I really haven’t seen too much of it… maybe administration… As far as
advancement, I’m not too sure how many will get away from Sodexo, but it does get
them more job opportunities…” (white man).
Several respondents also remarked on the small number of women in many BCTUs:
27: To this day, because that hall just got taken over by Toronto, about six
months, to that day, we had three Natives in that hall but never a woman. at
hall had never taken a woman… they never ever wanted a woman in that hall,
and the reason why was because they figured it would be trouble on the job site,
like with the men and whatnot. (white man)
Since women are a small minority both at the dam and within the BCTUs in
Ontario they were perceived to be an anomaly. is token status contributes to
the construction of women as unskilled workers. Previous research has found that
women entering construction are held to higher standards than white men since
the definition of skill in construction is embedded in notions of masculinity (Paap
2006). Accordingly two women experienced discrimination by supervisors. In
one case, a woman apprentice described difficulties getting properly apprenticed.
According to her, the journeyperson she was working under felt that women needed
to be taken care of and should not do difficult tasks. She approached her foreman
with her concerns, but he did not act, so she then went to her shop steward. is
angered her foreman, who assigned her to unsupervised tasks, forcing her to teach
herself required skills. Another woman described a series of issues and problems
with co-workers and supervisors, and concluded: “9: If you argue more, you’ll get
fired, especially if you’re a woman” (FN woman).
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Métis Employment
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Notwithstanding the material above, many men described the site as being a positive
environment for women. e presence of any women in non-traditional trades seemed
to be sufficient to give workers the impression that the site was a positive environment
for women, and/or that the agreements between OPG and First Nations were benefiting
women. For example, the worker below suggested that there were now women in the
trades where there were none before.
5: I guess you hear things like teasing sometimes. ings are changing now and
I think even the unions are starting to realize that, because back in the day, you
know what I mean, you wouldn’t see a women in construction. But now they have
women truck drivers, ironworkers, welders. I don’t know, some people would tease
them, I guess, but in solidarity type thing, I guess. Not to put them down just, I
guess they would still have to put up with it sometimes though. (FN man)
In his comment, the worker above acknowledged that women in the trades were often
teased, though he minimized the potential impact of the teasing suggesting that it was
a form of worker solidarity. Another worker described a situation where he observed
woman apprentice being properly trained:
FG42: I know this one apprentice just like, she uh… she got treated right, I
guess. ey made her try to handle the work situation, do it on your own kind
of thing and try and figure it out… is journeyman who’s a foreman… came
there to show her… techniques, you know, how to do things. (MCFN man)
7.4.2 First Nations Identity
Overall, First Nations workers reported there not being a great deal of discrimination
on the basis of First Nations identity and that when incidents of racism were reported,
they were handled quickly and seriously. Only two of the women interviewed felt
that the discrimination and/or harassment she experienced was related to being
Aboriginal. e other women attributed discrimination they faced to being women,
stating either that there was not racism on site, or that they did not feel discomfort
being Aboriginal on site.
Most of the thirteen Aboriginal men who got their job through Sibi were aware of
incidents of harassment or discrimination, although there were only two cases where
respondents described incidents that were specifically directed at them. In most cases,
however, workers described an environment where comments that were overtly racist
were not tolerated. One worker described overhearing racist comments:
5: I notice stuff like that. Overhearing people saying “I don’t know, see, why
they get this and that, you know what I mean, I have to work and they get tax-
free money”. It’s just ignorance is what it is. Or “I don’t care that it is their land,
why is it their land anyway?”, you know. Stuff like that, you hear. It is kind of
hush-hush it seems at times. (FN man)
Chapter 7: Worker Perspectives
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e comment of this worker indicates that although he was aware that there were racist
comments shared among white workers, they were not being shared openly. Another
respondent described how there was less racism on site than what he had anticipated
when starting his job:
I: Did you think there would be racism more than there was?
31: I thought there would be some. But I haven’t encountered any except for
one guy, but he got fired shortly after because he started picking on quite a few
Natives. So everyone kind of banded together and they got rid of him.
I: By everyone banded together, what do you mean, who is everyone?
31: It was everybody, like he wasn’t a very liked guy. He was an asshole to most
but he did a lot of his picking on towards natives. en even the French guys
and the English guys from [Northern Ontario] noticed that. (MCFN man)
is worker similarly described an environment whereby overt racism was not tolerated
by white and First Nations workers. Other First Nations workers who obtained their
jobs through Sibi described observing racism in job allocation on site even if they did
not experience it directly. Two workers observed that First Nations workers were being
given the more tedious or physically arduous jobs such as the dish pit in the kitchen or
digging work in the case of labourers.
Another worker described how the systemic racism faced by First Nations translated
into racist constructions of First Nations workers as incapable or unskilled on the
job site.
18: And so when we come work here… we’re working with people that have,
years of experience. eir fathers have been in the trades, it’s like their third,
second, fourth generation… So we’re working with them and… we’re not that
knowledgeable about the trade. And so, as being a Native, we’re, I guess you
could say looked down upon. And we’re, it’s like we’re not fit for the job because
we’re competing… you know, something new to us, to, opposed as a worker
that’s fourth generation [trades worker]. And so, we’re looked down upon and
so it’s like we’re incapable to do the job. (MCFN man)
First Nations workers’ perceptions of whether they were being properly apprenticed or
trained, however, were very dependent on their trade union. Some workers had very
positive experiences being apprenticed: “24: But with our hall… I have seen that they
treat us with respect and they teach us. ey are not pushing us away or pushing us to
the back. ey care and everyone is awesome… it’s a great union” (MCFN man).
Other First Nations worker had less positive opinions about whether or not people
were being properly apprenticed on site. One experienced worker had the view that
First Nations apprentices were not always properly used, and explained how he would
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work to rectify that issue, stating:
38: [e] apprentice is just the one that’s carrying the lumber: “oh we need that
tool there,” and they need to get into that practical. at’s why sometimes I just
stand back and let the younger ones do the work, because my time is almost
up… and these ones are just starting out, so I give them some opportunity for
some practical work at least.
Several participants in a focus group of First Nations workers also expressed frustration
and negative perceptions of the quality of apprenticing on site. Of these workers, one
even decided to resign his position due to his perceptions of unfair treatment:
FG41: I quit because three rotations I was just cleaning… I didn’t look at it as
racial, it was just because I was apprentice they always wanted to put me in
shittier jobs so I just said: “I wasn’t hired for this so I’m quitting.” (MCFN man)
Another participant in the focus group described his own exper ience of being improperly
apprenticed and the consequent conflict with his supervisor:
FG40: It was my first time working on the dam eh, my first night shift. I was
there and my site supervisor came up to me like: “What are you doing? What
the hell are you doing?” “I don’t know man, everybody’s speaking French, like
what do you want me to do?” Like he expected me to know, you know where to
go, what to do. “I never did this before in my life man, like, tell me where to go,
there’s a reason why they call you a supervisor, you know?” (MCFN man)
is same worker also described observing a woman working as a carpenter’s apprentice
being improperly apprenticed.
A few of the white men interviewed were aware of incidents of discrimination or
harassment against Aboriginal workers.
I: Did you ever observe or experience any behaviour that you considered to be
discrimination or harassment that other people faced?
34: Yeah, mainly the Natives. Not from electricians but in a subtle way. Just
in a derogatory sense, you know, calling a guy a brown man. You know what is
meant.
I: Which is what?
34: He is not going anywhere. ey were mostly housekeeping and cooking
staff… (white man)
Another worker perceived a connection between the Aboriginal identity of workers
and their likely place in the informal hierarchy of the construction site. In the case of
the LMRP, he noted that many First Nations workers were concentrated in the lower
Chapter 7: Worker Perspectives
67
skilled jobs such as housekeeping and consequently experienced particularly poor
camp conditions.
38: I don’t know if it’s all of them at Sodexo, but we had some temporary trailers
before they had the main camp available. It took about almost a year and a half
I suppose before they got a permanent camp. So I think that first year and a
half, two years, was pretty rough. Because one trailer was in pretty bad shape, a
lot of First Nations were in there… they mentioned it a few times, and nobody
done anything about it. Finally, got to the point where we almost had to get the
chief in there to back us up. So they finally condemned that trailer. Well it was
condemned, I don’t know why people were living in it. (MCFN man)
In this comment, the worker states that it was not only Sodexo workers who were living
in the condemned trailer but specifically many First Nations workers, drawing a parallel
between poor conditions, lower skilled labour, and Aboriginal identity.
7.4.3 Reporting
Reporting about incidents was uneven. First Nations women faced some challenges
reporting incidents, in some cases feeling more comfortable reporting to Aboriginal
Liaisons representatives than to employers. Also, in the case of the woman apprentice
previously discussed, she had to bypass her foreman for her issues to be addressed,
and the results were not optimal. However, another First Nations woman told the
interviewer of a sexual harassment incident where the victim reported the incident to
their supervisor and it was handled to the satisfaction of the victim.
When First Nations men who were interviewed reported incidents, they felt that
incidents were responded to promptly, often with the perpetrator being laid off. One
worker described:
18: I had a situation, um, with one person… I guess you can call it racism and
all that. He’s no longer here though.
I: And who did you go to for help about it?
18: I went to my union steward.
I: And was it addressed right away?
18: Yeah it was, um, when I reported it, I was, um, it was a day before turnaround
and when I came back he was already, he was no longer here. (MCFN man)
However, other First Nations men found the Aboriginal Liaisons less helpful, as
indicated by the experiences of some of the participants in a worker focus group:
FG41: I found that there were two guys hired at the site… because [the liaison
office] office is either [in Timmins] or in Moose Factory, but the other two that
were at the office didn’t help me at all… and as soon as you see them: “oh I’ll get
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back to you on that,” and you don’t see them for two months. (MCFN man)
is sentiment was echoed by a second focus group participant: “FG42: I stopped
talking to the Aboriginal Liaisons, [one] person there… gets right on to it, but other
ones…” (MCFN man).
Another First Nations man indicated that despite seeing evidence of discrimination on
site, such as washroom graffiti, he did not report such incidents, not because of a lack
of faith in Aboriginal Liaisons, but because he did not feel it was worth reporting:
38: Well usually I just brush it off, and just know that things do happen like
that in reality. Nothing to say about it, but it does. Not just First Nations, but
everybody. Just how they see people I guess, for some reason. (MCFN man)
is reluctance to report incidents of discrimination by First Nations workers is also
reflected in a report on the training and employment initiatives of the Wuskwatim
Power Generation Station compiled by Deloitte. e authors of that report indicated
that there was a “preference [among Aboriginal workers] to avoid confrontation and to
only discuss issues with other members of the community” (Deloitte 2013, 88).
e white men differed substantially from the Aboriginal men with respect to reporting
harassment and discrimination. White men were less likely to report harassment and
were also less happy with the outcome of reporting. One worker described an incident
which was reported, but he did not feel was dealt with adequately:
1: Umm, uh, in our department there was a lot of harassment being made from
that foreman and it was never looked over… like, he harassed a Native and
it went pretty far. He also went doing death threats and it never even went
anywhere, so I was like, hmmm.
I: Did anybody report it?
1: Yes, but it went underneath the carpet.
I: Oh, even to the union? So?
1: It went to management and even up to safety.
I: Yep. Did it go to the union at all?
1: Yes it did. Mmhmm. (white man)
Other white men who said they were not aware of any cases of discrimination or
harassment said they would not report it if they were. When asked why, one worker
stated “16: uh, just, I don’t want to disturb the cart” and another stated “7: Uh ‘cause
I’m not a rat”. eir comments reflect the culture of the building trades where if you
have a problem you discuss it with the person who you have the problem with rather
than reporting it to a higher authority.
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7.5 Equity of Layoffs and Recalls
One way that women and racialized men in the construction trades are disadvantaged
is by being more quickly and frequently laid off and for longer periods of time than
white men. Because of the fluctuating labour needs on a construction site, layoffs
are frequent and it is not uncommon for workers to be at the site for relatively short
periods of time prior to being laid off. While some of the EPSCA collective agreements
require that layoffs follow the reverse order of seniority, others provided employers
with discretion to layoff whomever they chose. One strategy used by contractors to
increase their control over their crews was to hire more workers than necessary and
then lay off workers who they felt were unproductive.
Layoffs are also used to minimize costs resulting from inclement weather. Each year KAP
shut down the site, laying off all employees, over Christmas. In January and February
workers would begin to be rehired depending on how much work the employer wanted
to do given the weather. For two years in a row, there was a delay bringing First Nations
apprentices back onto the site. First Nations workers were not receiving priority being
called back to work. Also, when First Nations workers left for trade school, there was
often a delay in getting them back to work. One worker described a long break in his
employment after the Christmas layoff, stating:
5: I got laid off in December of last year because there was no work. And then
we had to go to school in January.
5: School finished March 1st and I have been laid off not working since March
until two weeks ago [interview in early June].
I: Why is that?
5: I don’t know. ey had trouble getting us back on site I guess, I called them
almost every day for I don’t know how long. ere just wasn’t enough work
at the dam at the time to hire us back, or not enough journeymen for the
apprentices. (FN man)
In other cases, however, First Nations workers were called back to work at the site in
a timely fashion after layoff, either because of the company’s desire to prioritize First
Nations workers or because their name had risen to the top on the union list. One
worker described getting a call from the union to go back to site after two months,
stating: “21: e next thing I knew when drill and blast came to an end, I got a call to
go back to work from the labourers union…” (MCFN man).
Since most of the First Nations workers who obtained their job through Sibi
were apprentices, they were also more vulnerable to layoffs. When describing his
vulnerability to layoff, one worker stated: “24: Because the project is over, like we are
done the dam, so it goes down to the bottom of the ladder, seniority, right? I am an
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apprentice, so I was the first on the chopping block” (MCFN man).
While some workers described vulnerability to layoffs and slow recalls to work, others
felt that the agreements between First Nations and OPG had protected them from
layoffs. Two workers describe:
I: So you didn’t get laid off and the others did?
22: No.
I: Why not?
22: Because I am a local, and so they have an agreement with the Moose Cree.
(MCFN man)
36: … because of the agreement I think it benefitted any members, or First
Nations people, working at the project, knowing that as long as there’s work
there, yeah, we’ll bring you back. So I think that it affected my work life that
way, I didn’t use it to my advantage… I knew I had to work and I had to prove
to the company, yeah, I’m worthy of working for you guys, you know, yes, I’m a
Moose Cree member, that’s good, but you know. (MCFN man)
A majority of the workers who did not get their job through Sibi also described layoffs.
Most workers who were laid off at Christmas said that it was easy for them to get back
on the site.
ree workers also described their understanding of how KAP used the Christmas
layoff and recall to bring in workers who they knew from Québec, violating collective
agreements and causing conflict with northern Ontario trade union halls.
35: Yeah, ‘cause well Kiewit is from Québec, so they try to bring as much people
as they can… A lot of guys were getting laid off from KAP and they were bringing
in a Québec guy. (white man)
32: Labour problems. KAP wanted all of the guys from Québec to come back,
but it is not their jurisdiction. So there was a grievance filed by the carpenters
after they had been off for a bit, and all of the Québec guys came back. ey said
that is not right, you’re signatory with us, those guys are gone, we are coming
back and you are paying us for when they were there too. So it ended up costing
KAP $2 million from what I heard. (white man)
38: I know we had a grievance there a couple years ago… a grievance regarding
returning to work because they hired guys from Québec first before we were.
And some of the under Bay locals weren’t hired… [and] under Bay local is
priority. (MCFN man)
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7.6 Language
e perception, discussed directly above, that a number of workers from Québec had
unfairly been brought on site by KAP contributed to a recurring theme that emerged from
the data: the prevalence of the French language on site. Since many of the superintendents
and managers working for the DB contractor and specialized subcontractors were
Québécois, sometimes instructions or communication occurred in French. Several
workers found this disconcerting. When asked why it was a problem, workers’ responses
ranged from providing no justification to citing difficulty communicating and/or feeling
as though they were being discriminated against.
Several workers justified their claim that French should not be used saying that the
LMRP was officially an English-speaking project:
19: It was supposed to be an English-speaking project… a lot of their [Kiewit’s]
supervisors were French speaking. Didn’t seem, I found they didn’t seem to
honour it being an English-speaking project. Radios, all that.
I: And what problem has that caused if people are speaking French?
19: Lots. (laughs) (FN man)
During a focus group with First Nations workers, one participant also mentioned the
officially English-speaking project while describing the use of French language on site
as an issue:
FG42: We signed an agreement that everybody is supposed to speak English
on site, so everyone [could] understand each other. A lot of times you got your
partner with you [and] he’s French… it feels like you’re left out when the foreman
talking French to the worker, you don’t know what’s going on. (MCFN man)
Other workers more specifically cited the language barriers this created:
22: ere is a communication barrier too almost, the powerhouse [the area where
the turbines are] is French and the intake [the area where the water comes in]
is English. So when [an employee] came over to the powerhouse, they were all
speaking French in the meeting rooms, when they were discussing their ideas and
their goals and sharing input, so he was basically left out in the cold. (MCFN man)
Four workers (none of whom got their job through Sibi) felt that the language barriers
created by the use of French on site were safety issues:
25: ere are people who could barely speak English. Like it is fine to speak
French, it is a lovely language, but on a dangerous worksite that is big and that
requires a lot of communication, something as basic as a miscommunication
due to the language barrier, I thought that was ludicrous. (FN man)
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Several workers expressed negative opinions about employees from Québec. ese
negative opinions about workers from Québec were due in part to the language barrier
issues discussed above, in part to preconceived discriminatory notions about Québécois
people and also to the perception that the local area was not benefiting from the project as
much as it should, because of Kiewit bringing in employees and sourcing products from
Québec. For example, one French-Canadian worker from Northern Ontario generalized
that all people from Québec are dishonest, and claimed that for this reason the Québécois
employers were bringing in workers from Québec rather than hiring locals.
15: And Québec is not the most honest people. You just look at the Charbonneau
inquiry, it will tell you a whole whack. And they feed their own, okay? ey feed
their own, that’s what they, that’s how they do it. And really, this is an OPG project,
it’s Ontario project. Kapuskasing area should be profiting quite a bit more than it
is. Quite a bit more and it’s not profiting. It’s profiting a bit. (white man)
A First Nations worker participating in a focus group also had a negative opinion about
French-speaking supervisors:
FG42: I would say they’re racist yeah, you know a few times they just don’t want
to talk to you, you know. Like they have a group of them talking and they just
ignore you, like I feel like I was left out. Even the guys I used to work with, our
foreman… [he had] guys in his crew he didn’t like… who are French [and] give
him a hard time and I don’t want to say anymore, but it gets me in trouble man,
but we had issues with French people yeah. (MCFN man)
Not all of the workers interviewed had concerns about the use of French on site. About a
third of the workers who discussed language issues did not make any negative statements
about French, and some workers who spoke French as well as English felt that they
had an advantage at LMRP because they were able to communicate with everyone. One
worker dismissed claims that the French language was creating a safety hazard, stating:
6: e guys that I worked with on that crew were fine. And a guy I worked with,
[name], he’s another mechanic, he’s still on the site too and he doesn’t speak a
lick of English. He speaks about as much English as I do French, and that’s not
very much. And we were fine. Nobody ever got hurt, there was no injuries, there
was no issues. We were fine. (white man)
Another worker also dismissed claims that French was a problem stating that he didn’t
mind the French language on site:
21: At Kiewit, I know a lot of people are complaining about the French people
coming to work over here.
I: And what do you think about that?
21: I don’t mind it, at least they can teach me French. (white man)
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Although many workers complained about the French language on site, tensions likely
arose from the fact that French workers represented managers, superintendents and
foremen rather than workers, the fact that Québécois workers were displacing local
union members, and the perception of insufficient local sourcing of products by KAP.
7.7 Knowledge of the Amisk-oo-skow Agreement
Questions about the Amisk-oo-skow Agreement elucidated several themes. First,
workers’ knowledge about the basis of the agreement, the role of MCFN on the project
and what the agreement meant for employment was highly uneven and greatest
among First Nations respondents (7.7.1). Second, almost all respondents who felt that
the agreement benefited First Nations communities felt that the primary benefit was
employment (7.7.2). ird, the question about the agreement prompted white workers
to discuss their perceptions of how Aboriginal rights are reshaping work in the north
(7.7.3). ese perceptions of Aboriginal rights were both positive and negative.
7.7.1 Uneven Knowledge of Agreement
Worker knowledge of the Amisk-oo-skow Agreement was uneven. Few white workers had
a clear understanding of the origins for the agreement or of how it affected employment.
Almost all First Nations workers who obtained their job through Sibi were aware of the
agreement, however many only had a vague understanding of the agreement. All five
workers who described a basis for the agreement said that it was because the project
was on Moose Cree First Nation land. Workers often had more knowledge about the
priority hiring provisions that result from the agreement than the fact that MCFN was
a partner, and only two workers talked about training and education measures. Workers
were also asked what other people on site knew about the agreement. Some felt that it
was common knowledge that Moose Cree were part owners of the project:
I: Are most people aware that Moose Cree are part owners of the site?
24: Yeah, every one of us who are Moose Cree we know.
I: What about non-Moose Cree workers, do they know?
24: ey know too because they are rip us a little bit. Just joke with us that we
are owners, you know. (MCFN man)
Other workers felt that many of their white co-workers were not aware of the agreement.
I: To your knowledge are other people on the site aware or do they know
about the agreements properly?
38: Oh no. I think that probably has to be mentioned I guess, with the
agreement… at’s why the contractor was really trying to push their weight
too much with their own policies, not knowing that.
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Of the 21 workers who did not get their job through Sibi, only two (both of whom
were white) were unaware of the Amisk-oo-skow agreement and another three were
only vaguely aware.
 7.7.2BenetsofAgreementforFirstNations
Workers
When asked what effect if any the agreement had on their work life, approximately half
of the workers who obtained their jobs through Sibi felt that it had no effect, and one
said he did not know. ose who saw a benefit described how the agreement helped
them get a job, and two thought that they were prioritized in layoffs and therefore
were able to continue working on site longer than other workers. One worker described
getting a job as a result of the agreement:
I: how has the agreement affected your life?
22: I got a job. Because that is one of the things that they do, they provide
training for local guys. I got a job there now. (MCFN man)
Several First Nations workers also felt that the agreement helped their home community
by providing youth with employment opportunities. One worker described how he felt
it was good for the community, while also describing how it was helping young people
see life off of the reserve.
I: What do you think about the agreements?
12: Well, it’s good I guess. People get trained for certain fields they’ve never
been in before. It gives the younger generation a chance to experience a new life
other than the reserves.
12: A lot of them leave home. (FN man)
However, another worker felt that the agreement did not benefit the community as
much as it should have.
I: Do you feel that the employment and training has benefited your community?
38: I don’t think so.
I: You don’t think it benefited your community?
38: I wouldn’t say a high percentage, maybe a low percentage… by the time they
get all trained the project will be over. But it’s more like small, the only thing
that benefited me was they got me the scaffolding two week crash course to get
a little cracker jack certificate there. (MCFN man)
Another First Nations worker who participated in a focus group had a more ambivalent
view of who benefited from the Agreement, stating:
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FG41: It’s all mixed.
I: You think it’s all mixed?
FG41: Some people benefit on it, some people don’t, they’re neutral. (MCFN man)
Several white workers also felt that the agreement benefited Aboriginal communities.
In response to a question about whether the agreements benefited different First
Nations communities, one white worker stated:
16: Absolutely. Opportunity. Tremendous.
I: And what do you think about the agreements?
16: I think it’s awesome. Great opportunity for the First Nations people. I see it
every day here. (white man)
In one case a First Nations man said he hoped the agreement did not affect his work life
since, having experience in the trades, he wanted to be able to obtain work for his skills:
I: And do you feel that the agreements have affected your access to work?
25: I’d like to think not because that is not why I do all of this training and all
of the thousands of apprentice hours. I didn’t do all of that to get preferential
treatment. (FN man)
7.7.3 Perceptions of Aboriginal Rights and
Access to Employment
Almost all of the workers who did not get their job through Sibi felt that the
agreement did not affect their work life. ree workers did say that it caused
them to be more aware of Aboriginal issues, while one white worker from
Kapuskasing said that the agreement allowed him to get his job. In a small
number of cases, questions about the agreement prompted white workers to
describe their opposition to the notion of Aboriginal rights. One worker stated:
I: Do you have any opinions about the agreements?
15: Well, I know they got a lot of pull. I know the Natives got a lot of rights. And,
uh, I have my opinions on that, let’s say, sometimes they are not favourable
and sometimes, you know, I’d rather maybe not discuss those, those, uh, not
feelings but those thinkings… (white man)
Although not all Aboriginal workers were aware of how the Amisk-oo-skow agreement
affected their employment at LMRP, those who were aware tended to have positive
perceptions. White workers similarly had incomplete knowledge of the agreement, but
when they did have some understanding most felt it didn’t affect them and a few had
negative perceptions.
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7.8 Health and Safety
Worker perceptions on health and safety varied dramatically. Many older workers
described the worksite as unsafe and several had quit or been laid off as a result of
not being willing to work in unsafe conditions. Alternatively, the majority of workers
who had obtained their job through Sibi felt that the worksite was quite safe. Well
over half of the workers who did not get their job through Sibi described the worksite
as unsafe. Workers who did not get their job at Sibi were more likely to be experience
journeypersons and tended to compare the site to previous work experiences.
Workers who felt the worksite was not safe attributed the lack of safety to systemic
problems: attempting to save money in sourcing parts and equipment, lack of
leadership, generalized low worker morale and Kiewit pushing production. One
worker described an incident where he felt cost-cutting had resulted in a near miss
for a co-worker:
34: One guy almost fell into the tailrace. Do you know what a tailrace is?
I: No.
34: He wanted to solve the problem because the reality was the condition
wasn’t safe. A tailrace is the discharge end of the turbine and it is water that is
probably 20 feet deep and 20 feet wide coming out at a tremendous volume…
He was working up here, it is a fairly wide walkway but he leaned over to
pick up a cable and the railing gave way… somebody had ruined the railing’s
security condition so that it was no longer rigid… Had he not fallen the way
he did he would have fallen into this tailrace, but his foot snagged in the cable
and it held him there. So the real solution here is nets but nobody wanted to
pay for them so they mandated that nobody could go up there anymore.
34: … the general foreman told him “don’t say anything because we are not
supposed to be up there and we will be in shit”… So the general foreman hung
him out to dry so he left that job. [e contractor] fired him. (white man)
ree white workers felt so strongly about the lack of safety on site that it lead to
disagreements with management and ultimately to their being laid off. In these cases
workers were experienced journeypersons and therefore willing to lose their job rather
than perform or assist with the performance of unsafe work. In one case, a worker
tried to address a problem created by leaking propane because of faulty piping: “1:
ey had to evacuate the camp a couple of times because a furnace will blow out,
propane is leaking, there was propane leaks. We addressed that problem and that’s
when we kind of got laid off” (white man).
In another case, a worker disagreed with a superintendent about whether a lift should
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be used to move a heavy object. He describes:
I: Why did you quit or stop working there?
27: Because I had butted heads with management… What happened was the
one day they pissed me off because I had two guys, and said okay you have to
put this big flange up… We are going to get a borrowed lift, you guys grab your
harnesses and we will meet back. So I left and they went to get their harnesses
and came back and two of the head supers came and said well what are you
doing? He said [worker’s name] just went to get the lift… and they said no just
lift it up. So the kid, because he was young lifted it up, and the other guy was
on a ladder. (white man)
Some workers who did not get their work through Sibi described the worksite as
safe, often citing the DB contractor’s safety policy with little elaboration. One more
experienced worker answered the question of whether it was a safe and healthy
worksite stating:
8: Yes, I do feel that it is a safe and healthy worksite. Safety mostly I’ll speak
about. I have never seen in my thirty years’ career, or more, the safety that is
implemented within this site. Every step, it really is safety before all. (white man)
In some cases, however, workers pointed to a discrepancy between an emphasis on
safety in meetings and policy and safety in practice. One worker who initially stated
that the site was safe reconsidered his position when asked how the employer could
improve the work environment on site:
7: It’s not any better. I’d say it’s the same as any other place I’ve worked you
know, any other union job I’ve worked, safety is always priority.
7: Well they preach safety, safety, safety, so much… we’ve had a lot of mishaps
lately with some pretty dangerous stuff like people could have been seriously
hurt by them not following their, the protocol that they enforce, you know I
guess, just practice what you preach. (white man)
Another worker also highlighted the incongruity between the company’s emphasis on
safety at meetings and the high number of safety incidents that had occurred at the
LMRP when compared with a previous worksite:
3: Yeah, it’s safety first all the time… they talk safety every day… [But at
another remote worksite] … in our three years we were there and nobody got
hurt, and with rocky conditions it was dangerous. At LMRP, oh my god, people
got hurt all the time. (white man)
In contrast, most of the workers who got their job through Sibi stated that they
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felt that the worksite was safe and healthy. However, when asked to explain their
answer, few workers provided justification: most kept their answers short, or seemed
to hesitate. is hesitation may indicate that some workers did not feel comfortable
saying critical things about safety to the interviewers.
Alternatively, the discrepancy between the responses of more senior journeymen and
the new First Nations and Métis apprentices may reflect the youth and lack of experience
of the latter group. Not having other projects to compare with, new apprentices may
not be as aware of safety norms and what constitute unsafe practices. Some workers
who obtained their employment through Sibi described safety as the responsibility of
workers rather than the contractor. When asked why he had answered that his worksite
was safe and healthy, one worker responded “12: Well, you make it safe for yourself
(TTN man). Another worker who gave a quite detailed response attributed his feelings
of safety to working on a crew with co-workers who take care of one another:
I: Do you feel that it is a safe and healthy worksite?
24: I have never had any concerns. With my crew… we are forever watching
each other’s backs, looking overhead and making sure no one gets hurt. We go
through our meetings, safety meetings, every morning. It’s all about safety,
safety, safety that’s the number one concern because we all want to go home
to our families. (MCFN man)
One of the two workers who got their job through Sibi and did not think the site was
safe listed a number of accidents he had heard about, ranging from minor to serious,
while the other described an accident that happened to him.
Official safety records from the worksite do document a number of incidents although
based on data from the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association the safety record
for the project measured as the all injury rate (AIR) was more than twice as good
as the industry average the AIR at the LMRP was 1.81, whereas the AIR for the for
electrical/incidental construction services in 2013 was 4.98 in 2013). e yearly
number of safety incidents at the LMRP are in Table 12, according to type of incident:
Near Miss (an incident which could have resulted in fatality or disability), First Aid
(an incident which required first aid), Reportable Injury – WSIB (an injury reported to
the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario), Reportable Injury – MOL (an
injury reported to the Ontario Ministry of Labour), MOL Orders – Timed compliance
(a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for which the inspector from
the Ministry of Labour ordered compliance within a specified time frame), and MOL
Orders – Stop work (a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for which
the inspector from the Ministry of Labour ordered work to stop immediately).
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Table 12
Number of safety incidents at LMRP according to year
INCIDENT
1
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Near Miss
25 28 45 39 6
First Aid
78 55 146 178 54
Reportable Injury – WSIB
12 20 44 64 10
Reportable Injury – MOL
03430
MOL Orders – Timed
compliance
13 12 12 36 3
MOL Orders – Stop work
2 10 3 18 2
1 Data from KAP document: Safety Stat Table - February 2015
e LMRP is by no means unique within the construction industry for experiencing
safety incidents. According to a report published by the Canada Centre for Occupational
Health & Safety (CCOHS) (2010), 40 per cent of workers who died from workplace
accidents in Ontario between 2005 and 2009 were construction workers. During this
time period, ninety-seven workers died in construction-related incidents and 999
workers were seriously injured. According to the Infrastructure Health and Safety
Association (2011), the majority of Lost Time Injuries (LTIs) in heavy construction work
are caused by “musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), falls, and contact with equipment,
materials, and tools”, and the main causes of death are from workers “being struck by
materials and equipment”, motor vehicle accidents, and “falls from height” (29). Safety
violations on construction sites are problematic. According to the CCOHS (2010), in
only three months of inspections in 2009, the Ministry of Labour found over 2,800
safety violations on construction sites, mostly related to “missing or inappropriate use
of guardrails, scaffolding and fall protection systems” (n.p.).
7.9 Union Perceptions
While many of the white workers employed at LMRP were long-time union members,
for many workers from First Nations and Métis communities, particularly those who got
their job through Sibi, the project provided their first unionized employment. Although
some longstanding First Nations and Métis union members joined BCTUs through
organizing drives, those from Moose Cree First Nation and other EA First Nations joined
through the creation of new apprentice positions resulting from the agreement. Unlike
the longstanding members, many Moose Cree First Nation workers did not know about
the union or how to join prior to working at the site, as discussed by one worker:
I: So what did you know about unions before you started?
18: Absolutely nothing.
I: And why did you join your union?
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18: Uh, it was part of the requirements, because like I said, everything is lined
up for my apprenticeship. And if it wasn’t for the agreement I would never get
into, I would never be, like, in that union because, I don’t know. (MCFN man)
Some might have preconceptions of Aboriginal workers as anti-union or less supportive
of unions than non-Aboriginal workers, based on perceptions of unions as white
organizations, lack of experience with or knowledge about unions, or the fact that
union membership was obligatory at LMRP. However, in our results many First Nations
workers had positive perceptions of their unions. ese workers described advantages
to being unionized, such as improved wages, benefits, and protections, and described
positive communications and relationships with their union. One Moose Cree First
Nation worker who was asked why he planned on keeping up his union membership
after his work at LMRP ended explained:
36: e pay is good, the benefits are good, the pension plan, like I said before,
that’s what appealed to me. So they’re there for me, and if they can find me work,
great, you know. And union, I think, union workers are umm, uhh, how could I
put it, are looked upon as the skilled tradesmen, you know. (MCFN man)
A female apprentice summed up her interactions with the union, stating “29: they like
me and know who I am” (MCFN woman).
However, for some First Nations workers who had entered their union as a result of the
project, there was a lingering uncertainty about whether they would be accepted fully
and called for work after the end of the project:
5: I think the only reason we got in was because of the agreement, and then the
union hall needed people to work there but they had the agreement with OPG.
But I think if that didn’t happen, there would be no way I’d be able to get into
the union. It’s hard getting in, but I am in now. I know there are a lot of people
that are scared that after this job they will blacklist us. You know what I mean?
I: Yep, put you at the bottom of the list and not get you more work?
5: at’s what lots of people are worried about, but I don’t see it that way, like,
they have been good to me. But I guess there is always going to be that type of
insecurity about stuff like that. (FN man)
In regards to being called for work after the end of the LMRP, two First Nations workers
who participated in the same focus group had differing opinions and experiences. One
of these workers had a pessimistic view of the union contacting him for future work:
FG40: I [was hurt at work] and I was kind of mad at the union I guess because,
about that issue of compensation, and they wouldn’t help me at all, and when
I finally submitted my doctor’s note to return: “oh you’re on the waiting list,
okay, still waiting. (MCFN man)
I: To get called back you mean?
Chapter 7: Worker Perspectives
81
e other focus group participant had a more optimistic view as well as more
experience with his union. In this case, the worker reported that he made sure to
keep paying his dues despite not currently working to ensure that he kept in good
standing with his union:
FG42: I pay my dues all the time even though I’m not working, I still pay them
because they told me… if you don’t pay a few months of dues, you’re at the
bottom of the list plus you lose your benefits until those dues are paid up.
(MCFN man)
More white workers than First Nations workers expressed negative feelings about unions,
although here too, a majority had positive perceptions. One white worker described how
he was anti-union for a long time because he felt that unions created a lack of work ethic:
“6: I thought they, in laymen’s terms, protected dog fuckers, and I thought, a lack of work
ethic, they were kind of forced upon people, kind of slowed them down” (white man).
erefore despite having a lack of experience with unions, Aboriginal members actually
had positive perceptions of their unions while white workers were not always supportive
of their unions.
Direct contact with union representatives (stewards, business agents, etc.) was an
important factor in determining whether workers had positive feelings about their
union. When asked whether there was anything his union could do to better represent
workers, one apprentice stated:
24: Well my union, they represent us pretty good. Like our job steward, [name
of steward], comes into camp once in a while. He comes right into site, puts on
his hard hat and bends over talking to you while you work.
I: How often does he come on site?
24: Since I’ve been there I think I’ve seen him about five times. at’s pretty
good. He doesn’t hang out in the office or anything, he comes right on site. He
gets his boots dirty and I like that. (MCFN man)
Conversely, a truck driver who was asked the same question responded that the union
should come to see them, adding “20: I never seen them. I never seen that steward”
(MCFN man). Another worker also described observing a lack of union representative
presence for some unions, but not for others:
FG40: I noticed too that there’s a lot of union reps and union stewards, but
I never hear of union stewards or reps in carpentry, operators… just mostly
labourers you know, they’re visiting everywhere, I never see carpenters.
I: Carpenter reps?
FG40: Yeah or operator reps, you know like stewards, someone you could talk
to you know? … Yeah but… the labourer’s union was pretty good. (MCFN man)
Similarly, some focus group participants were dissatisfied with their union
representatives. Two of these workers agreed during the discussion that their union
representatives did not fight for them:
FG41: I could still work in a camp but I don’t think I’m interested in a union
anymore.
I: Okay… because they didn’t fight for you?
FG41: No. (MCFN man)
FG40: Yeah, like I asked them about that, I asked them about my compensation…
they didn’t really do anything, didn’t explain anything to me. (MCFN man)
Another First Nations worker described a situation where he did not feel he was given
adequate advice from his shop steward when dealing with the prospect of having his
employment terminated.
Attending union meetings also made workers feel more connected to their unions,
but for many, work schedules and meeting locations prevented them from doing so.
Workers talked about being too busy with work to attend meetings. is was particularly
the case for the few workers in our sample who worked nightshifts. While a number
of unions had held meetings on site, workers from those that had not or did not meet
regularly on site talked about travel distances being prohibitive to attending meetings.
Locations workers described as being too far for them to be able to attend included
Timmins, under Bay, and even as far as Burlington.
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
82
Chapter 8: Conclusions
83
8. Conclusions
Workers and organizational representatives cited a number of employment challenges
and successes from the LMRP hydroelectric project. e project was successful in helping
a number of workers gain training and experience in construction. Some workers
finished their high school diploma while at the site while several others attended trade
school and became registered apprentices. Others still were able to complete their
apprenticeships on the project and become journey people in their respective trade.
e project also helped OPG and the MCFN build relationships with one another and
with the BCTUs and construction contractors. Strategies that were implemented from
the outset and were successful included:
Recruiting and training individuals for jobs that were already secured
Providing monetary support and guidance for workers throughout the
training process
Many of the successes of the project, however, were the result of continuous efforts to
change and adapt policies and practices. Over the course of the project MCFN and OPG
adapted to challenges as they became apparent by making several changes including:
Providing greater support to EA First Nations workers on site
Providing additional Aboriginal awareness training to all employees and
management on site
Improving the commute time for workers from Moose Factory by creating
a Fraserdale train stop
Creating a 2:1 rotation schedule for the majority of workers
Allowing workers some choice in their rotation schedule and the ability to
change their rotation when needed
Training workers in cohorts or groups
Providing some flexibility around leaves for traditional activities
Learning and Areas for Improvement:
Discrimination on site towards Aboriginal people and par ticularly Aboriginal
women
Protecting the safety of women on site
Ensuring that new workers are aware of their right to refuse unsafe work
conditions and challenge employers
Ensuring that workers feel safe to approach personnel in cases of
discrimination and harassment
Providing mechanisms for Sodexo workers to advance, such as through chef
apprenticeships or movement to other work
First Nations and
Métis Employment
in Construction
84
Improving the wages and work conditions for the lowest paid workers on
site where women and First Nations men are over represented
Varying the times and locations of union meetings to allow participation
from the greatest number of members
Ensuring that shop stewards are present
Increasing First Nations representation in union leadership positions
Ensuring accountability for subcontractors – that employment language is
included in subcontracts
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... Ontario Power Generation and the local communities collaboratively developed more inclusive work policies. These included: § Creation of an Indigenous employment and training coordinator to support hiring § Formation of a committee to address cases of discrimination § Implementation of cultural awareness training for all employees § Shortened work rotations from 3 weeks to 2 weeks (to lessen the challenges of being away from family) § Traditional counseling and First Nations advocates available on site (Mills & St-Amand, 2015). ...
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