A hundred of the country’s best and brightest aboriginal university students have been whisked away to Vancouver for a three-day job fair intended to integrate First Nations, Metis and Inuit into Canada’s corporate stratosphere.
Inclusion Works ‘09, which ends today at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver, is sponsored by some of the biggest names in the fossil fuel and communication industries, who have teamed up with many aboriginal-owned human resource firms.
Yukon-born Stephanie Brown, who is Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, enjoyed the ambitious company she’s found at the “networking event.”
“The one message the (organizers) keep sending us is that you’re the best of the best and you’re here for a reason,” said Brown. “It’s amazing to be surrounded by peers that are educated in their special areas.”
The 26-year-old student is finishing her degree in public relations at Mount Royal College in Calgary this year, and hopes to get a job in the Yukon this summer.
“There’s a definite need for an aboriginal presence in the Yukon government,” she said.
Brown currently works as a public affairs officer with the Alberta government.
“I’m definitely open to working with a particular First Nation,” she said. “Connecting First Nations to mainstream or other organizations externally is needed.”
There are still many cultural gaps and a lack of understanding in First Nations relations, she said.
“It’s knowing your audience before communicating to them.”
The job fair received over 400 applications to attend the event, which offered job interviews with some of Canada’s most powerful multinationals.
Some make unlikely aboriginal cheerleaders, like Syncrude and EnCana, who are two of the largest developers of the Albertan oilsands.
First Nations in the affected areas of Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories have unsuccessfully asked for a moratorium on oilsands development and more consultations with them on water use.
They’ve also asked for baseline cancer rate testing, after it was revealed that communities downstream from the oilsands suffer from above-average cancer rates. The province of Alberta and the federal Health Department have refused to offer such testing, but the province is now considering a study, the Edmonton Journal reported.
TransCanada, a natural gas company currently negotiating with First Nations and the Yukon government to have a pipeline run from Alaska’s North Slope to Alberta, is also a sponsor of the event.
Contact James Munson at