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N.W.T. hopes new targets will increase Indigenous representation in public service

February 14, 2022
The Canadian Press

By Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


Multi-year plans to increase Indigenous representation in the N.W.T. government are set to be made public by the end of March.

Each GNWT department is expected to create plans that set three-year, five-year and 10-year targets for Indigenous recruitment and retention, part of an overarching initiative introduced in November last year.

On Wednesday, senior staff at the Department of Finance — which is overseeing that initiative — said plans will also aim to ensure Indigenous employees have fair access to senior management positions and support in those roles.


“If we achieve the fundamental goal of being inclusive, and culturally respectful, and representative of the public we’re serving, we’re a better public service for everyone and a better place to work,” said finance minister Caroline Wawzonek.

Wawzonek said the targets will form part of senior managers’ performance evaluations and progress will be publicly tracked.

The territorial government had promised the creation of such targets in 2020. Its affirmative action policy has long been accused of failing to meet the N.W.T’s needs.

In January, some residents at a public meeting told MLAs that policy is failing, objecting to what they considered to be internal nepotism, a lack of hiring oversight, missing entry-level positions, and the need to decentralize jobs currently based in Yellowknife.

The territory’s latest figures show 29 percent of the GNWT workforce is Indigenous. Three in every four identify as female. Comparatively, about half of the territory’s population is Indigenous.

As of March 2021, 20 percent of senior management positions at the territorial government were filled by Indigenous people and 20 percent by non-Indigenous residents born in the territory or who have lived here for more than half their life.

MLAs had earlier heard from some employees that they felt the GNWT’s hiring appeal process was ineffective and unfair.

William MacKay, the deputy minister of finance, said this week the appeals process is operated externally and won’t change as part of the planned Indigenous recruitment and retention overhaul.

MacKay said the department is “confident in the appeals process and that it’s fair,” and that privacy issues explained why unsuccessful candidates are no longer told why their appeals are denied.

“The process is transparent, and fair, and independent of the government’s hiring process,” he said.

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