Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning, members of Parliament, chair, co-chairs, guests, and, of course, staff.
My name is Amanda Deseure. I'm the acting manager of the socio-economic development department of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.
I also want to send greetings from Pauktuutit's president, Rebecca Kudloo, who sends her apologies. She wishes she was able to attend today.
The socio-economic development department has a mandate to cover a broad range of social, economic, and political issues as they pertain to Inuit women. This includes work on education, housing, political equality, business development, and much more.
Pauktuutit is the national representative organization of Inuit women in Canada and is governed by a 14-member board of directors from across Canada. It fosters greater awareness of the needs of Inuit women, advocates for equality and social improvements, and encourages their participation in the community, regional, and national life of Canada. Pauktuutit leads and supports Inuit women in Canada through work that ranges from advocacy and policy development to community projects, to address their unique interests and priorities for the social, cultural, political, and economic betterment of Inuit women, their families, and communities.
Inuit women's economic participation in the Canadian economy is inextricably linked to their access to child care, proper, violence-free housing, food security, and empowerment. While I do not have the time today to explore all of these intersections, it is imperative that the committee keep them in mind while we continue.
The Inuit consistently experience lower economic participation levels than the Canadian average. In 2012, the national average unemployment rate was approximately 7.3%. For Inuit, the average unemployment rate was more than double, at 16.5%.
At first glance, Inuit women across the north appear to be more successful at securing employment than Inuit men. Despite similar participation rates, the unemployment rate for Inuit women in 2012 across Inuit Nunangat was 16.2%, compared to a rate of 23.5% for Inuit men. This means that Inuit women and men are actively seeking employment and entrepreneurship at roughly the same rate, but Inuit women are more likely to succeed.
This greater success is likely tied to Inuit women's higher educational achievements as compared to Inuit men. However, their education rate is still significantly lower than that of other Canadian or indigenous women. The aboriginal peoples survey shows that Inuit women in Canada are more likely than Inuit men to complete secondary school or the equivalent. Still, in 2012, only 46% of Inuit women aged 18 to 44 years had completed the requirements for a high school diploma or equivalent. The primary reasons for leaving school were pregnancy and/or the need to care for children.
Furthermore, the labour market participation rate of Inuit women in Inuit Nunangat is about 60%. This means that approximately two out of every five Inuit women are not working and not looking for work. There is serious cause for concern around the participation of Inuit women in the Canadian economy and their ability to build strong careers and futures for themselves.
The economy of Inuit Nunangat is far more concentrated than in southern Canada. The regional economies are reliant upon governments, resource development, transportation, and a small private sector for the vast majority of employment. The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CanNor, indicates that the northern economy is predominantly driven by the natural resource sector and the public sector. Employment in federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments remains the single largest source of jobs in the region.
Natural resource projects often are the highest paid employment in the north, and disproportionately employ Inuit men rather than Inuit women. This means that while Inuit women have a higher employment rate, on average their income is substantially lower.
In addition, recent census numbers suggest that while most Inuit live in Inuit Nunangat, a growing percentage live in southern urban centres. Indeed, in 1996, only 17% of Inuit lived outside of Inuit Nunangat, compared to a 2011 survey that indicated 27.9% of Inuit live outside Inuit Nunangat.
To better understand these trends and the needs of urban Inuit women, Pauktuutit just completed a comprehensive five-city research report on the needs of urban Inuit women. Most participants stated that urban centres brought economic opportunity through employment, training, and formal education. In contrast, women also highlighted that lack of options and opportunities were a major push factor for many Inuit women leaving their communities.
To begin addressing much of the research, feedback, and needs that were highlighted, Pauktuutit has developed numerous programs. Today I will be narrowing in on two of our programs. We have mentorship for Inuit women, and the Inuit Women in Business Network.
The Inuit Women in Business Network was created in 2011, through a three-year project jointly funded by Status of Women Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, to foster a sustainable local network of Inuit businesswomen to rely on for guidance and support, as well as to encourage entrepreneurship as a viable career option for Inuit women and girls. The IWBN was developed because of feedback that Pauktuutit received from Inuit businesswomen that they felt unsupported and socially isolated, but also that the barriers to entrepreneurship were overwhelming.
The Inuit Women in Business Network pilot began with face-to-face meetings in Iqaluit led by a Pauktuutit staff member, to get feedback, needs, and issues that the businesswomen in Iqaluit faced. Taking this feedback, Pauktuutit developed business resources, including a trilingual Inuit-specific guide to starting a business, and developed a website to house an electronic copy of this guide, in addition to a suite of plain language resources on banking, accounting, registering your business, and more.
Following the initial contact and networking, many of the women in the IWBN began meeting on their own for support and guidance. They are still meeting today.
The IWBN was granted new funding for the 2016-17 year, and Pauktuutit has just completed an expansion of the IWBN network and website to stretch across Inuit Nunangat. The process included developing new resources, outreach, and face-to-face meetings in Iqaluit, Kuujjuaq and Rankin Inlet. Today, the IWBN has over 90 members.
In addition, Pauktuutit also has a mentorship for Inuit women pilot project, funded by the Status of Women Canada, that works to pair Inuit businesswomen at different stages of business with each other for support and guidance. This project is currently entering its third year and has been a complementary project to the IWBN. While the majority of these projects are conducted in Inuit Nunangat, Pauktuutit plans to expand the IWBN to the rest of Canada to ensure that urban Inuit women are able to participate and feel supported.
Our recommendations moving forward would be that all programs and services must take into consideration the context of Inuit women's lives. The accessibility and availability of child care that is affordable, reliable, safe, and culturally relevant must be increased; it was the number one demand when we spoke to women. Service providers and stakeholder organizations must strengthen partnerships to share expertise, resources, and knowledge around the needs of Inuit women. Service providers must be innovative in their communications strategies to engage Inuit women locally, regionally, and nationally. Opportunities to build Inuit women's leadership capacity and empowerment must be developed and promoted. Targeted public investment in infrastructure is required to reduce the costs of doing business and seeking employment. Entrepreneurship services and programs must aim to provide a continuum of support to Inuit women, from pre-start to aftercare. Employment environments, services, and training programs must seek to accommodate the specific responsibilities, needs, and challenges of Inuit women in the workplace. Mentorship and networking opportunities must be developed to connect Inuit women with each other, elders, and topic experts for ongoing guidance and support. Finally, educational institutions, programs, and services must seek to engage youth and to accommodate their needs to support the development of future leaders, businesswomen, and executives.
For more information, I have brought a few hard copies of a strategy developed by Pauktuutit on how to engage Inuit women in economic participation. It's very nice, and I'm very happy to also provide an electronic copy for anyone interested. You're welcome to grab these on your way out as well.
Thank you very much.