The Columbia Valley Aboriginal Workforce Initiative Roundtable is a partnership opportunity initiated by Member of Parliament (Kootenay-Columbia), David Wilks, and the following local partners and communities: Akisqnuk First Nation, College of Rockies, Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, Copper Point Resort, Shuswap Band and Rockafellow Consulting.

On Monday, August 18th, 2014 over 40 stakeholders  met at Copper Point Resort to discuss how as a community we can best engage our First Nations workforce.  Up for discussion was First Nations employment, skills training, human resources planning and community partnerships.

To achieve its goal of increasing Aboriginal participation in the labour force, the Government of Canada is committed to breaking down the barriers and overcoming the hurdles (real or imagined) that deter the employment of Aboriginal peoples through a number of programs and partnership initiatives. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada wants to hear ideas from Aboriginal employees and employers that will lead to wider access for training, skill development and job prospects. The goal is a strong Aboriginal representation in our workforce.

By converging efforts of the Aboriginal employees and Columbia Valley employers of all sizes, this session will brought participants together to create dialogue on how to increase Aboriginal employment opportunities, assist employers with the process of hiring an Aboriginal workforce, and help the local economy in general. The road to be taken together is not without its rough spots; a theme of “hand-in-hand” was the August 18th roundtable’s focus for discovering the way forward – together – in the beautiful Columbia Valley located in the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation.

Partners attending this session were from all corners of the economy:

  • Aboriginal communities, employees, youth, businesses and organizations
  • Public and private corporations
  • Local governments
  • Industry and trade associations
  • Employment and social development professionals
  • Educational institutions

This dynamic “made-in-the-valley” three-hour working session was aimed at actionable results. Wendy Rockafellow of Rockafellow Consulting will prepare a final report that will identify the many ways in which Columbia Valley employers, current and potential Aboriginal employees and educational/training organizations can work together to create an increasingly educated, readily available local workforce. The report will also serve to inform the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada of priorities and supports that our employment partnerships require in order to be successful.

About Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

AANDC is responsible for three mandates: 1) Indian and Inuit Affairs; 2) Northern Development; and 3) Office of the Federal Interlocutor. AANDC’s activities under this triple mandate support Canada’s Aboriginal people and Northerners in the pursuit of healthy and sustainable communities and broader economic and social development objectives.

Helping to create employment opportunities for Aboriginal people is one of the ways Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) fulfills its mandate to improve the quality of life of Aboriginal peoples and their communities.  AANDC makes it easier for employers to access qualified Aboriginal candidates.  This in turn, increases Aboriginal employment opportunities, helps employers and helps the Canadian economy in general.

The Honourable Bernard Valcourt is the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AANDC). Bernard Valcourt was first elected to the House of Commons in 1984 and then re-elected in 1988 and then again in 2011. He is a Member of Parliament for Madawaska-Restigouche (New Brunwick). Mr. Valcourt is a barrister and solicitor who practiced law in Edmunston, New Brunswick, where he lives today.

Welcome to our Guests for the Columbia Valley Aboriginal Workforce Participation Roundtable

Mark Strahl
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Member of Parliament: Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon (British Columbia)

Mark Strahl was first elected to the House of Commons in 2011.  He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in September 2013.

Mr. Strahl worked as an intern in Ottawa with former Opposition Leader Preston Manning and in the offices of MP Randy Kamp, and former MP Grant McNally.
He has been a member of the Standing Committee on National Defence, of the Standing Committee on Health and of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations.

Mr. Strahl was born and raised in Chilliwack, BC. He is married to Lisa and they have one son.

David Wilks
Member of Parliament: Kootenay Columbia (British Columbia)

David Wilks was first elected to the House of Commons in 2011. He is a member of two Parliamentary Committees: the Standing Committee on Justice and the Standing Committee on Justice.

Mr. Wilks has been a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs Northern Development, of the Standing Committee on Official Languages (2012) and the Joint Committee on Statutory Regulations (2011-2).

David Wilks was born in Lethbridge, Alberta and served as an RCMP officer for 20 years in several BC communities: Terrace, New Aiyansh, Golden, Penticton and Sparwood. After retiring from the RCMP in 2000, Mr. Wilks was the Mayor of the City of Sparwood from 2005 to 2011, and a Councillor for the District of Sparwood from 2002 through 2006. He and his wife, Cindy, and purchased Sparwood Bowl and Billiards Inc., which they still operate today.