City hall opened a new department dedicated to open up civic government to the aboriginal community.
A smudging ceremony this morning marked the grand opening of the offices of the aboriginal relations division.
"We have the largest aboriginal population in Canada," Mayor Sam Katz said at the ceremony. "This could become our greatest asset but it can’t …. unless you give the people the tools and that’s what this is all about."
Rhonda Forgues, manager, said the division has several roles within the civic structure.
Working with aboriginal relations leadership teams from every department, the division will ensure programs targeted to the aboriginal community are appropriate.
Forgues said the office will help develop programs that level the hiring field for aboriginal applicants and send teams out into the community to let them know about job openings and steer them through the application process.
Forgues said there are about 800 to 1,000 aboriginal people on the city payroll, reflecting 8.8 per cent of the civic labour force. She said there are no quotas or hiring targets but the city’s objective is to increase those numbers to reflect federal labour force guidelines.
Young people leaving the reserve and coming to Winnipeg face an uphill battle, Katz said. Without the appropriate training and education, "what hope do they have of what you and I would call a good life – the answer is next to none.
"With these types of initiatives to give them these tools, that’s what makes this so special," Katz said.