Nunavut’s fly-in workers see their share of earnings rise

30% of territory’s total earnings made by non-residents in 2017

Agnico Eagle’s Meadowbank mine in Nunavut. A new report by the Conference Board of Canada says that nearly 30 per cent of the total earnings made in the territory in 2017 went to non-resident workers, primarily in the mining sector. (Photo courtesy of Agnico Eagle)

By Nunatsiaq News

Nunavut’s mines have driven a big growth in the territory’s total earnings in recent years — and a growing share of those earnings is being collected by fly-in, fly-out workers who live outside the territory.

That’s according to a new report by the Conference Board of Canada that looks at the earnings of non-resident workers in Canada’s three territories over a decade.

In 2017, non-resident workers in Nunavut earned a total of $357 million — nearly 30 per cent of the total earnings made in the territory that year.

By comparison, in 2008, non-residents earned $131 million, which comprised 17 per cent of total earnings in the territory.

“A billion dollars in wages earned in Nunavut is paid to non-residents every three years. And [that] rate continues to grow,” wrote Iqaluit city councillor Kyle Sheppard on Twitter, in response to the report.

“With a territorial election coming in October, I hope potential MLAs will read this, then plan and work to keep more of these earnings in the hands of Nunavummiut.”

Tom Hoefer, executive director of the Nunavut and N.W.T. Chamber of Mines, said in an email that the industry’s dependence on workers from southern Canada “is not a new story, and we know it represents significant economic leakage of wages to the south. In many ways, it’s no different than the large number of medical workers that also fly in and out.”

“We fully agree that more work needs to be done to capture more of the benefits of mining in the North. The solution to this is multifold, and, at the least, would require more education, more training, and better retention of northern workers.… Success on this front will require the combined efforts of industry, governments and communities.

“Governments and communities need to help keep kids in school so that more of them achieve academic matriculation, and that more can pass the trades entrance exams, for example. Governments’ education departments can also help teach kids about career opportunities. It’s one of the reasons that our chamber created the Mining North Works program, to help spark kids interests in staying in school, and in picking any of a hundred plus, high paying, mining careers.”

The report is based on Statistics Canada data that draws on tax filings.

Of the three territories, Nunavut is the most reliant on non-resident workers, the report states. That helps explain why non-resident workers in the other two territories received a smaller share of total earnings in 2017 than their counterparts in Nunavut: 19 per cent in the N.W.T. and seven percent in the Yukon.

As well, of the three territories, Nunavut has the biggest share of non-resident workers employed in mining. In 2017, 78 per cent of Nunavut’s mine workers and 51 per cent of construction workers were non-residents, according to the report.

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(32) Comments:

  1. Posted by In Rankin on

    Unfortunately, this will not change until we Inuit get educated and/or trained. And we have to do this for ourselves, push ourselves and succeed and excel.

    • Posted by NUNAVIMIUK on

      I work at a mine ,make $36/hr plus overtime and bonus.

  2. Posted by Frank A. MacDonald on

    My frien i B.C. also a graduate Geoligist with 41 years in mining figures a way to is deveop a prospect he has a team in Vsncouver.Form a company and take 55 to 60% of company and go public selling shares.Hopefully Nunavut will buy a good percentage of the shares?

  3. Posted by Toonik’s Grandfather on

    In Rankin…….you are dead right. Completing grade 12 and get further education is the START, many parents only see finishing gr 12 is completion of their child’s education. Look beyond high school.

    • Posted by In Rankin on

      ?Not quite dead yet. I agree that high school is only the start to education. In the article it states that most of the workers are non residential from lack of skills and education. So to combat that, we need to move forward in our education and excel in our own territory. We need to be learnded more.

  4. Posted by Nunavut Agreement on

    Call a spade a spade.

    Under the NLCA most of this money should be going to Inuit, but until Inuit start focusing on education and working towards promotions for showing engagement and willingness to learn, local hires will continue filling low-level staffing positions such as custodians and assistants, while southerners fly up with their engineering degrees and make more money.

    • Posted by Jim on

      Many inuit are given the opportunity to work their way up the ladder , as for every other job in the world it’s not just gonna be handed to you , it takes time and dedication to learn what needs to be learned to progress. I am inuit , I started at the bottom, j bust my butt , was never late , never complained, and did what I was asked and did it safely, this landed me a promotion, time and dedication, another promotion, so on and so forth. If you want something WORK FOR IT

      • Posted by Lois Kroeger on

        Good for you ! I applaud your efforts and your common sense (which is not very common, is it ?) I hope you go far, as well as being an influence on others.

  5. Posted by Silas on

    I agree that the key for the success of Inuit is education. However, I disagree that it is the responsibility of governments and industry to keep the children in school. It is the responsibility of the parents to keep their children in school and graduate from high school.
    My mother told me once: “When we lived on the land we used to try to catch as much wildlife as we can to survive the winter for ourselves, our dogs and any others who may come and did not gather enough to last the winter.
    Today it is not that way anymore, it is now a qablunaaq world, today we depend on money. Money can last a lot longer than a winter, it can last a lifetime. Get an education that is how you will survive, Learn the traditional skills from your father but receive the education at school to succeed in today’s world.”
    That is just a summary of her advice. Parental encouragement does wonders for children if the parents would only do their part. Love them and guide them in the direction they should go.

    • Posted by Jim on

      I agree, very important to retain all the traditional knowledge on how to survive in the North as well as pass it to the next generation.
      There may again come a day when those skills are necessary for survival.
      I work in the mines and I would love to see more locals here learning a trade and getting a great paying job. There is much we can learn from each other.

  6. Posted by Pain In The Groen on

    “Education is the key!”

    You can expect to hear that a lot in the coming weeks.

  7. Posted by yup on

    times are changing for inuit, and it will take a while for all to see. once inuit start looking at school for the managerial jobs available that makes 2-6 times what they would be making as a lower level employee. only then you will see actual change within nunavut. one job at a time.

  8. Posted by Things we need on

    Education does matter, so does a good attitude and good work ethic.

  9. Posted by Uvanga on

    Education is the Key you say. Don’t the people hired from the south trained on the job anyway? How about providing the same training opportunity for the Inuit? Inuit are hands’ on training and learn faster that way. The mining heads would be amazed at how fast learners Inuit when hands on training is provided. Orovide that same opportunity for them.

    • Posted by Southerner in the North on

      Most of the positions being filled with Southerners in the mines require years of training and/or experience. Some also require technical or professional accreditations that cannot be learned purely “hands on”. Higher level management positions require advanced planning, financial, people management, and geological skills. Most of the jobs that can be learned with hands-on-training are already being filled by Inuit. Inuit currently in those jobs need to improve their education and training with formal learning so they can advance in the company and open up those limited hands-on-training positions for other Inuit.

      • Posted by Uvanga on

        The ones who occupy positions of privilege, the southerners, they benefit from the existing social arrangement, that their privilege is dependent on the unfair exclusion of Inuit.

        • Posted by Pork Pie on

          Uvanga, your analysis of the issues is consistently the least informative and useful of nearly any I read here. In this case your mimicry of talking points around “privilege” offers no useful explanation of the developmental disparities between Inuit and non-Inuit. Instead, it sets up a fantasy world where these are attributed to abstract and nebulous “systems” which you can almost certainly not explain, and which you have no expectation of ever being asked to explain.

          So here it goes, give us a tangible example of a system that unfairly excludes Inuit?

          The reality is that the developmental trajectory of Inuit society has, historically, been completely different than Europeans and today Inuit are in the process of massive cultural change that is meant to integrate and enculturate into the western economic system. That’s the reality that underlies this entire discussion.

          There is no active process of exclusion going on that does not already exist within the system itself, and this is the sorting process based on education and experience; in other words, if you are ‘southern’ and you are not educated, you will experience the same barriers. I will grant you, there are going to be cases where bias might take precedence, yet if anything in Nunavut today the “system” works hard to prevent this. We should also acknowledge that the granting of unearned advantage runs in multiple directions. We all know of Inuit who have been given positions within the government well beyond that warranted by their levels of education or experience. Are they “privileged”? Is the “system” rigged in their favour?

    • Posted by No they’re not on

      The people from the south are “trained” by doing 2 to 8 years of College paid out of their own pockets in order to be qualified for these jobs. There is tons of training available, stop using this “we need training” fallacy. If Inuit want managerial jobs they are there for the taking. And trust me, a well-qualified Inuk will get that job 10 times out of 10 over the same southerner.

      • Posted by Uvanga on

        Some are “deemed” too Inuk and not colonized enough to be trained.

  10. Posted by To Note on

    It is noteworthy that a significant number of Inuit workers are choosing to live in the south (Ontario or Quebec or Alberta) and commute to their jobs in the mining industry on regulator rotational flights. So there are Inuit in these numbers of out of territory workers, though they may be paying taxes to their provincial governments.

    • Posted by Been there done that on

      Hey, I am working full time at AEM, have been for 6 years, I have grade 8,and like my job, driving rock truck 120k year.and my friend are too lazy to come out here to work,the mine needs hundreds of workers,and they train us, get out of bed and work like me

      • Posted by Knight in shining armor on

        Thank you good sir for this comment! It is people like you who give me hope that one-day Nunavut will have the future it very well deserves. Keep up the great work and keep pushing your lazy friends to get off their butts and get to work!

      • Posted by Lois Kroeger on

        Sincerely……HOORAY FOR YOU !!!
        Love it, love it love it !! You will be the start of something big in your family.

  11. Posted by pissed off on

    I agree with most of the positive comments regarding commitment and education. It is the key.
    However I think that the article focuses too much on the mining industry.
    This issue is prevalent in all aspects of economic life in the North. Construction, airlines, health, retail, etc…

    No amount of NLCA will make a dent in all that. You can`t force and regulate the world !!! It has to come naturally and until it is natural to study hard, perfect your skills and stick to the job for years to come it will remain the same.

  12. Posted by Aputi on

    They only take care of their own race, French first, whites second, and we inuit last….. can’t even speak our language, and yet they do all the time on the workplace cb

    • Posted by Racist comment on

      And the racist comment of the year goes to… (drumroll please)…

      • Posted by Doesn’t even make sense on

        “french first, whites second” LOL

  13. Posted by Need new education Bill…. on

    This lack of education fiasco started shortly after NU became it’s own. Instead of trying to bring the “graduation” #’s up by keeping the same age kids with 5-10 different grade levels in one class, they should have strengthened the education bill. So once a student graduates from HS, they would be ready and their certificate would be qualified to enter into a university or college. Not have students graduate right now with some maybe at a grade 6-8 level.
    A teacher that has to focus teaching one grade level regardless of students age will have a success of 70% or more of his students moving up a grade.
    Whereas right now. A teacher that has to focus on teaching 3-6 different grade levels to one class all the same age, will be lucky to have a record of >50% moving on to the next grade level.

  14. Posted by Markinnukshuk on

    So of I go home this coming Friday when do I go back to work cuz I go home on September 10.and back to work on September 24 that’s my question? I work here at mining camp near Rankin.

    • Posted by Ummm… ? on

      Dude, why are you asking this here?

  15. Posted by Theoretically… on

    Generally, only worker’s that should be counted to the Territorial workforce earnings should be the ones…
    A-Live and work in the territory
    B-Pay their own transportation and accommodations to (and while working in the territory)
    C-Own their own business in/outside of the territory.
    That way we would have a better general idea of wages earned by population. Percentage of income support vs. wage earners.

  16. Posted by frustrated on

    The Nunavut government places too much emphasis on keeping wages within the Territory. There’s a huge shortage of workers across all government departments. The government could hire remote workers for many of these positions, but chooses to leave them empty because of the requirement to relocate to Nunavut.

    I am a Southerner who has lived and worked in Nunavut for years. My job could be done from a computer anywhere. Many consultants for the GN work from home, but GN employees don’t have this option. Time to get with the times and upgrade hiring policies!!! The GN will keep seeing high rates of turnover if they keep insisting on people relocating to Nunavut when it’s not necessary


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