Have you ever had to travel away from home for more than a week? Have you ever longed to be back eating a meal with your family, then sitting in your comfy chair watching a good movie or a football game? If you answered yes, then you understand the feeling of missing home. At the same time, if you are a worker whose job takes them away from the comforts of home for weeks at a time you also know you must pack that duffle bag and head to the airport to catch your plane. No matter what position you hold in that workplace, every worker at one time or another wishes they were at home with family and friends doing all the things they love to do.
Although the jobs that take a worker away to a remote/camp job are known to be higher than average wage and offer opportunity for added training through employment, it does not take away the longing for home from time to time.
Working in camps was not new to me. I had been to many camps, large and small, over the years. Getting on a plane, with people you’d never met, going to a place far away that you’d never been before was no longer worrisome for me. If you wanted the job and the paycheque, you just did it!
Most camps, depending on your department, have similar routines for the same type job. For example, a kitchen is fairly basic in it’s set up and a mechanics shop is comparable to any other mine depending on the organization and over all upkeep. Underground has different shafts and tunnels, but the job remains the same in most mines. When you arrive on site you are assigned a room, drop your gear and then attend a day or two of orientation where you learn the lay or the land and company rules. Then you hit the ground running, jump right in the mix and figure it out as you go along, based on your experience. Easy right? Not for many! It can be a scary, unsettling and lonesome experience.
I worked as a Night Supervisor up in the tundra at a large 1,500 worker camp. It was split in two separate operations (one camp was 700ish and the other newer camp was 800ish) on one very large, very busy work site. It was a go hard, everyone stay busy, construction camp, often short of workers on each shift. Even an experienced person could easily feel overwhelmed and lost in the shuffle some days. With an operation that large, many workers are needed. People came to work on this construction site from all over Canada. Some of the local/provincial hires had already worked in camp type jobs or in Yellowknife and were comfortable with being in a remote work setting, while others had never held down a job before. The people I worked with didn’t want to be away from home, but they knew it was their big opportunity to make a wage and support their families above the daily existence below the poverty line, so they boarded the plane! It was a complete shock to most of them.
They flew in from many remote communities in the Northwest Territories. Some were lucky enough to work with people of their own communities, but most found themselves meeting new people and learning totally new tasks on different shifts or a different camp from their friends. They were nervous, unsure of themselves and lonesome for home. How could anyone focus on the job, function to the best of their abilitity or even keep returning contract after contract?
Mining’s rotational work life can be a big change for Indigenous workers coming from remote communities. Education and even more importantly, confidence building surrounding mental health, social development and well-developed, appropriate trade skills are the key to a successful transition from Home Sweet Home to Home Sweet Away from Home (because that is what work/camp life becomes when you are there doing your job half of each month)!
When we work together to plan for a progressive and successful future with these three building blocks in mind, we will surely see inclusive, economic gain for Indigenous communities and the corporate world together. First and foremost, however, we need a solid plan and a company seeing these building blocks clearly that can liaise between the many entities in Canada. That is the forward moving, solid position It’s Time For Change brings to the equation.
Beginning in grade school right up to and including adult learning via micro- credential courses, together we can build the kind of economic inclusive and successful future we all dream of. In open discussion surrounding reconciliation and inclusion, change and planning need to be offered by government in core curriculum and then companies looking to do a hiring program. As stated in Call #92, these teachings should no longer be listed as opportunities, rather be imprinted in our minds as necessities and should proceed an actual hire. Before Indigenous peoples can see a real future leaving their families, communities and way of life, corporate Canada needs to address how rotational work can affect family dynamics and help workers learn to navigate that change to enable lasting employment.
We have to do better. We must do better!
To briefly explain Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action #92 which is directed at Canada’s corporate sector and it’s leadership, 3 points are made specifically related to adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The #92 Call states:
- A commitment to build respectful relationships and consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.
- To ensure Aboriginal peoples have equal access to jobs, training and education in the corporate sector.
- Education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, especially their history surrounding residential schools, Treaties and Rights, Indigenous law and relations with Crown. This would require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism.
These Calls need to be learned and completely understood. It’s Time For Change (aboriginal inclusion) will work with Indigenous Peoples, guiding and promoting a solid plan to ensure Corporate Canada is hearing and onboarding these Calls throughout their companies. When Indigenous communities and their peoples are included in talks and plans for the economic future, inclusion will bring about great opportunities all across our country.
The great economic divide between Home Sweet Home and Home Away from Home needs to be a priority in the future well-being of all Indigenous peoples.