GNWT reveals proposal to replace Affirmative Action

Last modified: February 9, 2023 at 6:29am

Who gets preferred hiring status at the GNWT? Who counts as a long-term northerner? And in what order should different people get priority for government jobs?

Those are topics the territorial government wants residents to consider in a new survey designed to help the territory finalize its successor to Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action is a policy designed to help people belonging to under-represented groups find work at the GNWT, but the territory – and others – are not convinced it’s working.


Summarizing the situation last fall, human resources minister Caroline Wawzonek said Affirmative Action “is not achieving greater representation and it has not for some 30 years.”

Frieda Martselos, the Thebacha MLA, said a year ago that Affirmative Action “simply is not working for many Indigenous people.”

The territorial government now says a “thorough review” is under way, including a survey that launched this week. There are also in-person sessions across the territory.

The survey introduces a GNWT plan to replace Affirmative Action with an Indigenous Employment policy and an Employment Equity policy.

Under an Indigenous Employment policy, the GNWT would “prioritize hiring persons who are descendants of the Dene, Inuit or Métis people, indigenous to the present boundaries of the NWT.”


Under an Employment Equity policy, the GNWT would afford preferred hiring status to “Indigenous Canadians, racialized persons, persons living with disabilities, members of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community and long-term northerners.”

The GNWT says the Indigenous Employment criteria “would be applied ahead of” the Employment Equity criteria.

The survey asks: is that the right approach?

Residents are asked if the definitions above are correct, if groups should be added or removed, and whether there are any other concerns.


Anyone taking the survey is also asked about the term “long-term northerner” – which the survey states means someone who has lived half of their life in the NWT – and whether that definition should remain.

On Twitter, Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson sought to summarize the survey as follows: “If you’re questioning your sexuality, should you have the same affirmative action as an Indigenous person born outside the NWT? What about an Indigenous person born here?”

Johnson said the various available approaches posed a “quagmire of questions.”

The survey will be open until the end of March. The GNWT says input will be “used to inform the finalization of the Indigenous Employment policy and Employment Equity policy.”

Whether enough time will remain to introduce the new policies ahead of the fall’s territorial election is not clear.