New numbers show only about 18 per cent of federal government employees have taken any Indigenous sensitivity training.
The numbers were provided recently by the government in response to a written question by the NDP.
They show roughly 56,000 of 320,000 civil servants have taken any one of three Indigenous training courses offered by the public service.
NDP MP Lori Idlout said the numbers are disappointing but not surprising since the training is not a job requirement.
“One of the things that I’ve unfortunately had to say when it comes to Indigenous issues is that we’re forced to experience incremental justice and this is just one of those areas where the federal government is just making changes incrementally,” she said.
Educating public servants on Indigenous history and colonialism is one of the calls to action in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Public Service Alliance Canada President Chris Aylward said the union wanted to make such training a mandatory part of the collective agreement but was told no by the federal government.
“We were just outright refused by Treasury Board,” he said. “They said no and their reason for saying no was that this is already happening. Yes, it’s happening, it’s happening off the side of somebody’s desk and we’ve got what – 16 per cent of the entire federal public sector workforce attending these sessions? That’s simply not good enough.”
Brenda Gunn is the academic and research director for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
She said the government needs to look beyond just making Indigenous sensitivity training mandatory.
“It can also be included, though, especially in senior levels in performance evaluations,” Gunn said. “So, as part of people’s jobs, are they recognizing that they need to have this basic competency as part of delivering Canada’s broader services and policy objectives toward reconciliation?”
In an emailed statement, Treasury Board told APTN News it’s the decision of each individual department whether or not to make Indigenous training a job requirement.
Also, in an emailed statement, Indigenous Services Canada said employees of this department and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs are required to complete a minimum of 15 hours annually as part of Indigenous culturally competent learning.