Section 1: Making the Most of This ToolkitSection 1: Making the Most of This Toolkit


Canada’s construction industry needs workers. 

Canada’s Indigenous communities include people who want to pursue a career in construction. 

There are successful models and practical steps that can connect these workers to the opportunities in the industry. This toolkit has been created to help industry and Indigenous groups to develop strong relationships leading to employment of the Indigenous workforce and skilled workers for the construction industry.

The toolkit presents a series of actions – with supporting details, tools and resources – to set up Indigenous recruitment, employment, training or apprenticeship initiatives for sustainable employment in line with industry needs. It addresses a range of interests – from the small employer in a rural location looking to hire and keep a few local Indigenous tradespeople, to the large construction project requiring a formal multi-year partnership providing skill development to nearby communities.

The toolkit itself is the product of a partnership – between the BuildForce Canada (formerly the Construction Sector Council) and Grand River Employment and Training (GREAT). 


GREAT and BuildForce Canada thank the following organizations for providing input and feedback to inform the content of this Toolkit:

  • William Macleod, CEO/President
  • Brent Maslow, Apprenticeship Training Coordinator
  • Brandi Jonathan, Apprenticeship Coordinator
  • Ernie Gillroy, CEO/President
  • Sim Akpalialuk, Community Economic Development Office (CEDO) Officer
  • Roberta Hewson, Executive Director
  • Dan Kohoko, Executive Director
  • Roger Schindelka, Construction Trades
  • Bob Bruyere, SLAAMB Coordinator
  • Christine Baker, Manager Employment and Training
  • Larry Becolia, President
  • Deborah Munroe, Executive Director
  • Cree Construction and Development Company, Quebec 
  • Government of Manitoba - Department of Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade, Manitoba
  • Grand River Employment & Training Inc., Ontario
  • Manitoba Floodway, Manitoba
  • Pangnirtung Community Economic Development Office, Nunavut 
  • Partners for Careers, Manitoba
  • Pikwakanagan First Nation, Ontario
  • Saskatchewan Indian Institution of Technologies, Saskatchewan 
  • Sioux Lookout Area Management Board, Ontario
  • Squamish First Nation Trade Centre, British Columbia 
  • Tulalip Tribal Employment Rights Office, Washington
  • Trade Winds To Success, Alberta

Glossary of Terms and Acronyms

The following terms and acronyms are used throughout this Toolkit.1

Term/Acronym Definition

Refers to all First Nations, Métis and Inuit living in Canada.

The term became the legal term and wording for “native peoples” in the Constitution Act, 1982, when protections for Indigenous and treaty rights were incorporated.

Indigenous agency Used in this document to refer to an Indigenous organization (other than ASETS holder), community or government that could be involved in an Indigenous employment- or skills-related initiative.
Indigenous people(s) "Indigenous peoples" is a collective name for the original peoples of North America and their descendants. The Canadian constitution recognizes three groups of Indigenous people: Indians (commonly referred to as First Nations), Métis and Inuit. These are three distinct peoples with unique histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. More than one million people in Canada identify themselves as an Indigenous person, according to the 2006 Census.
Indigenous rights Indigenous rights are inherent rights. They are not given to Indigenous people by the government, but are recognized and guaranteed by the Constitution. These rights usually have to do with hunting, fishing, required consultations or other activities that Indigenous people traditionally engaged in prior to contact with European settlers.
Indigenous title Indigenous rights are inherent rights. They are not given to Indigenous people by the government, but are recognized and guaranteed by the Constitution. These rights usually have to do with hunting, fishing, required consultations or other activities that Indigenous people traditionally engaged in prior to contact with European settlers.
Apprenticeship Apprenticeship is an agreement between a person (an apprentice) who wants to learn a skill and an employer who needs a skilled worker. Apprenticeship combines on-the-job experience with technical classroom training. For some apprentices, especially in Quebec, the classroom training can be taken upfront through the secondary school system, followed by on-the-job training.
Band Traditionally, a First Nation band refers to a First Nation community. There are more than 600 bands in Canada.
Band council A band’s governing body, consisting of a chief and several councillors elected for two- or three-year terms or appointed through hereditary passage.
BuildForce Canada BuildForce Canada (formerly the Construction Sector Council)  is a national industry and government partnership with a mandate to address the human resource challenges facing the construction industry.
Certificate of qualification Journeyperson certification or a certificate of qualification is issued to tradespeople who successfully complete an apprenticeship program or who meet all the requirements of a trade and attain the prescribed pass mark on the certification exam. Certified journeypersons can earn a higher wage and work anywhere in Canada.
Construction organization / stakeholder Used in this document to refer to organizations that form part of the construction industry, such as labour groups, industry associations - such as those specialized in safety, or a particular trade or category of construction - or industry apprenticeship boards.
Elder Any person regarded by an Indigenous community as the keeper and teacher of its oral traditions and or respected for their wisdom or natural leadership.
Employee Used in this document to refer to an Indigenous person that is currently or could potentially become employed in the construction industry – it is used interchangeably with the following terms, depending on the stage in the employment cycle under discussion: jobseeker, candidate, potential employee, or worker.

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is a department of the Government of Canada.

ESDC’s works to improve the standard of living and quality of life for all Canadians by promoting a labour force that is highly skilled and promoting an efficient and inclusive labour market.

First Nations

The term commonly used by on-reserve and Status Indians in Canada to describe themselves.

It replaced the term “Indian” (which is still the legal term under the Indian Act and Constitution), originally bestowed on Indigenous people upon first contact by Europeans who thought they were in India. Over the years, the term “Indian” has become a sensitive term for Indigenous youth. Many communities have also replaced the word "band" in their names with the words “First Nation.”

Friendship Centres Friendship Centres provide support services and programs to status, non-status, Métis and Inuit people living in urban areas. For those adapting to an urban setting after moving from remote communities, the Friendship Centre acts as a connection with their culture. The Centres provide referrals and offer counselling on matters of employment, housing, education, health and liaison with other community organizations.
GED test The GED test allows people who have not finished high school the opportunity to demonstrate high school academic knowledge and skills. Successful GED candidates earn a High School Equivalency Certificate for their province or territory.
Gold Seal The Gold Seal Certification Program is a national certification program for construction Project Managers, Superintendents, Estimators and Owners’ Project Managers. Certification is based on the candidate's education, experience and ability to satisfy the rigorous standards of the program. This may mean the successful completion of a Gold Seal exam.
GREAT Grand River Employment & Training Inc. (GREAT) is an Indigenous organization specializing in Employment and Training services for citizens of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario.

The government term describing all Indigenous people in Canada who are not Inuit or Métis.

There are three categories of Indians in Canada: Status Indians, non-status Indians and treaty Indians. For a detailed definition, see below.

Indian Act, 1876

The Indian Act, designed to encourage the assimilation or the voluntary renunciation of Indigenous root culture.

During early implementation, the Act made it illegal for Aboriginal people to vote in elections, to leave their reserves without permission, or to own businesses/property without government consent. Certain provisions have been removed in new versions of the Act I, in 1951 and 1985.

Indian agent A term used in the Indian Act that describes a Canadian government official authorized to oversee the implementation of the Indian Act with respect to a particular Aboriginal reserve or band.
Indian status An individual's legal status as an Indian, as defined by the Indian Act.
Initiative Used in this document to refer to an employment- or skills related initiative that could be set up to increase awareness, improve access, and/or create an employment action for the Indigenous population in the construction industry. Initiatives could range from a campaign by an ASETS holder to promote construction trades to its job seekers, to an Indigenous agency setting up a pre-apprenticeship construction training program for Indigenous youth, to a small employer hiring several Indigenous employees for a project.

The word “Inuit” simply translates as “people” in their language, Inuktitut. (One person is an Inuk.)

The Inuit were once called Eskimos – literally, “eaters of raw meat” – which is now considered an insulting term.

ISET holder The Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) Program provides resources allocated by the federal government to support an integrated approach to Indigenous labour market programming that links training to labour market demand and ensures that Canada’s Indigenous people can fully participate in economic opportunities. Under this strategy, Indigenous Agreement (such as ISET) holders (including First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities as well as some national Indigenous organizations) design and deliver employment programs and services best suited to the unique needs of their clients. ISET is the successor program to the Aboriginal Employment, Skills and Training (ASET) Agreement Holders, which was the successor program to the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Agreement Holders (AHRDAs), which have both expired.
Journeyperson A certified journeyperson is recognized as a qualified and skilled person in a trade and is entitled to the wages and benefits associated with that trade. A journeyperson is allowed to train and act as a mentor to a registered apprentice.
Land claims A claim to a territory and its resources made by a First Nation, tribe or band based on ongoing usage over time prior to first contact with European colonists. The federal government recognizes three classes of claims: comprehensive, specific, and claims of another kind.
Local hire Often, as a condition of getting a project, or of getting government approval, a construction employer must agree to hire a set number of local residents for a project. Similarly, the project may be required to hire a certain number of Indigenous employees. These local hire requirements conflict with most unions’ hiring hall rules. Special arrangements are often made at the start of each job to accommodate local hires.
Métis People of mixed First Nations and European ancestry who identify themselves as Métis people and are accepted as such by a Métis community. Métis history and culture draw on diverse ancestral origins, including Scottish, Irish, French, Ojibway and Cree.
Non-status Indians Indians who are not entitled or failed to be registered under the Indian Act. A lack of entitlement may be due to a person’s ancestors failing to be registered, or the person may have lost his or her status under former provisions of the Indian Act.
Pre-apprenticeship training programs

Pre-apprenticeship training programs help potential entrants to the apprenticeship system develop their job skills and trade readiness so they will be prepared to find work as apprentices.

Programs are up to 40 weeks long and include the Level 1 apprenticeship in-school training, relevant safety training and a minimum 8-week work placement. Programs may also include trade readiness, employment preparation and academic upgrading.

Red Seal The Red Seal is a symbol of certified journeypersons’ interprovincial/territorial qualifications in designated Red Seal trades. Adopted by the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program, the Red Seal is placed on the provincial or territorial certificate of apprenticeship and on the journeyperson certification. Fifty trades are currently designated as Red Seal trades, comprising about 90% of all apprentices and more than 80% of the total trades workforce in Canada.
Registered Indian A person who is defined as an Indian under the Indian Act, and who is registered under the Act.
Reserve Reserves are parcels or tracts of land that have been set apart by the Government of Canada for the use and benefit of an Indian band. Legal title to Indian reserve land is vested with the federal government. Most reserves were intentionally set far apart from roads, railroads or urban areas.
Self-government All First Nations were once self-governing. In modern language, the term “self-government” has come to mean reacquired control over all aspects of First Nations lands and negotiated governance on the lands and affairs.
Set-aside contract Indigenous set-asides are contracts on which only qualified Indigenous suppliers may bid. Indigenous companies bidding on set-aside contracts must have at least 51% Aboriginal ownership and control; if there are more than five full-time employees, one-third must be Indigenous. The purpose of set-aside contracts is to promote Indigenous economic development and the employment of Indigenous workers.
Specific claim A claim made by a First Nation based on an alleged failure of government to meet either the terms of an existing treaty or fiscal obligations under the terms of the Indian Act. Specific claims are negotiated outside of the treaty process.
Status Indians

The same as a Registered Indian, whether or not that person has registered under the Indian Act.

A First Nation person is recognized as a Status Indian if he or she can be included on the Indian Register, an official list maintained by the federal government. Status Indians alone are recognized as Indians under the Indian Act and are entitled to certain rights and benefits. They may or may not be members of their First Nation.

Test of Workplace Essential Skills (TOWES) TOWES is a nationally accepted test that measures essential skills in the workplace, namely Reading Text, Document Use and Numeracy.
Treaties Treaties are agreements between the government (federal or provincial) and First Nations that confer rights and obligations on both parties. The earliest treaties were made between First Nations and the British Crown. The Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes all treaties before and after Confederation.
Treaty rights Treaties established between First Nations and governments provided for certain rights to lands and entitlements. These became known as Treaty Rights and were recognized and affirmed by the Constitution Act, 1982.
Tribal councils Bands of First Nations that organize regionally at a higher level. These are governing bodies that support the member bands with service delivery, negotiations and disputes or the building of economic entities.
Tribe A term not commonly used in Canada – the word “band” is usually preferred. The term tribe refers to a group of Native Americans who share a common language and culture.
Union hiring hall Construction trade unions run hiring halls from their offices to supply contractors with qualified tradespersons. Union members who are available for work register in the hall. The union places them on one or more lists, depending on their qualifications. When employers call for employees, members are dispatched to the job based on their position on the list. Most unions have hiring hall rules that set out who gets priority on calls.

A more comprehensive glossary of terminology used in this Toolkit is available in Section 7: Key National Contacts.

  • 1. Some terms are adapted from