Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik August 10, 2017 - 1:10 pm

Nunavik gains regional status under Quebec’s labour board

Designation gives Nunavimmiut priority hiring on region's construction sites

SARAH ROGERS
The KRG’s Sanajiit Project ran a Carpentry Skills Level 2 course in Kuujjuaq last May. The vast majority of Nunavik’s construction workers are carpenters in training. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRG)
The KRG’s Sanajiit Project ran a Carpentry Skills Level 2 course in Kuujjuaq last May. The vast majority of Nunavik’s construction workers are carpenters in training. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRG)
The Kativik Regional Government’s Sanajiit Project offered interior finishing training in Kuujjuaq last May for Nunavimmiut who have worked at least 1,000 hours in the construction industry.  (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRG)
The Kativik Regional Government’s Sanajiit Project offered interior finishing training in Kuujjuaq last May for Nunavimmiut who have worked at least 1,000 hours in the construction industry. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRG)

It’s taken years, but Nunavik finally has its own place within Quebec’s powerful construction industry board, which means Nunavimmiut construction workers will now have priority hiring on construction projects in the region.

They’ll also receive social benefits, access to pension and insurance plans and receive vocational training and labour management.

On June 30, Nunavik became a separate region within the Commission de la construction du Québec or the CCQ, which has always grouped Nunavik into two of the board’s other regions: Umiujaq and Kuujjuaraapik into Quebec’s James Bay region, and Nunavik’s other 12 communities under the Côte Nord region.

“Now that we’re there, the CCQ has the mandate to provide the same services to the region that it does everywhere else in Quebec,” said Jessica Bessette, co-ordinator of the Kativik Regional Government’s Sanajiit Project, which aims to increase the number of Inuit who work in construction.

The new designation gives priority hiring to qualified Nunavimmiut on construction projects in Nunavik, which, along with the CCQ’s involvement in the region, will mean more local training opportunities, Bessette said.

Construction projects across the region employ roughly 100 Nunavimmiut workers each year, but they comprise only about five per cent of the overall construction workers employed in Nunavik.

Currently, 60 Inuit construction workers hold certification cards that recognize them as certified members of the region’s construction labour pool, Bessette said.

Many more have what are called “exemption certificates,” which recognize people who work on construction sites who have no professional training, she said.

In Nunavik, the vast majority of those ceritifcate holders work in carpentry.

“Right now, the big challenge we face is to offer good career opportunities,” Bessette said.

To fully take advantage of what priority hiring offers however, Sanajiit will work to have those exemption certificates converted to full certification cards, she said.

That requires construction workers to complete certain prerequisites; in the case of carpentry, that means achieving Secondary 4-level first language, second language and mathematics, and additional vocational training is preferred by many employers, Bessette said.

Some tradespeople, like electricians, can only be certified through professional vocational schools, such as the Kativik School Board’s Nunavimmi Pigiusavik in Inukjuak.

“We need people to understand that they have to get involved—they have to go back to school,” Bessette said.

With the CCQ’s designation for Nunavik, Bessette said there will be more emphasis on developing training. Already, the KRG, the KSB, the CCQ and Makivik Construction—the region’s largest employer of Nunavimmiut construction workers—sit on an implementation committee.

The role of this committee is to encourage workers to seek out construction-related trades in the region. There are no Inuit journeymen based in Nunavik’s construction sector, Bessette offered as an example of one area that the committee will look at.

Bessette said Sanajiit works to encourage women to take on construction work, which has traditionally been a male-dominated field.

Nunavik is already ahead of the game: the CCQ said that women make up just 1.6 per cent of Quebec’s construction work force compared to Nunavik, where women workers make up 10 per cent.

Bessette said Nunavimmiut women who work in construction have a strong reputation on work sites as hard-working and reliable.

For its part, the CCQ said its presence in Nunavik should have an impact on the retention of Inuit construction workers in the years to come.

“They know that they can make a difference in their communities, building their own homes and participating to the local and regional development,” said the CCQ’s spokesperson Mélanie Malenfant.

“We actively support their participation and encourage their professional development.”

Nunavimmiut can watch for upcoming training opportunities on Sanajiit’s Facebook page.

Nunavimmiut can also contact Sanajiit at 1-877-964-2961 with questions about how to get involved or go to the CCQ website here.

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