Decolonizing Employment

Aboriginal Inclusion in Canada's Labour Market


Indigenous North Americans continue to be overrepresented among those who are poor, unemployed, and with low levels of education. This has long been an issue of concern for Indigenous people and their allies and is now drawing the attention of government, business leaders, and others who know that this fast-growing population is a critical source of future labour. Shauna MacKinnon’s Decolonizing Employment: Aboriginal Inclusion in Canada’s Labour Market is a case study with lessons applicable to communities throughout North America. Her examination of Aboriginal labour market participation outlines the deeply damaging, intergenerational effects of colonial policies and describes how a neoliberal political economy serves to further exclude Indigenous North Americans.

MacKinnon’s work demonstrates that a fundamental shift in policy is required. Long-term financial support for comprehensive, holistic education and training programs that integrate cultural reclamation and small supportive learning environments is needed if we are to improve social and economic outcomes and support the spiritual and emotional healing that Aboriginal learners tell us is of primary importance.


“A cogent, well-documented critique of neoliberal labour market policy and how it impacts Indigenous peoples in Canada. This book points out the implications of ideologically motivated policy which ignores the impacts of colonization. MacKinnon challenges some of the accepted norms of neoliberal policy, with well researched and compelling arguments for substantial policy reform”

Gayle Broad, Associate Professor, Department of Community Development and Social Work, Algoma University

"Decolonizing Employment bounds its arguments clearly within both the contexts of neo-colonialism and neoliberalism. Its insights are applicable across a number of contexts and regions in Canada and beyond. Well researched and clearly argued this timely, well-articulated study makes an important, original contribution to its field and to larger policy and practice debates. Those concerned with Indigenous issues and labour market policies will find it an invaluable source of high quality data and solid, well-evidenced arguments.”

Donna Baines, Professor, School of Labour Studies & School of Social Work, McMaster University

“An extremely informative and well researched book, which provides a nuanced discussion of the barriers surrounding Aboriginal employment under contemporary Canadian colonialism and neo-liberal policy.”

James Michael FitzGerald, Canadian Review of Social Policy/ Revue Canadienne de Politique Sociale

About the Author

Shauna MacKinnon is assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Inner City Studies at the University of Winnipeg.

Table of Contents


Ch. 1 Social Exclusion, Poverty, Inequality, and Policy in the Neo-Liberal Age
Ch. 2 The Labour Market, Policy, and Canada’s Aboriginal Population
Ch. 3 The Manitoba Labour Force and the Policy Environment
Ch. 4 Decolonization: Confronting the Elephant in the Room
Ch. 5 Assessing the Impact of Neo-Liberal Training Policy
Ch. 6 A Continuum of Training Responses
Ch. 7 Voices from the Front Lines
Ch. 8 Lessons Learned: Implications for Policy