Indigenous Women in the Canadian Minerals and Metals Sector

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Executive summary

The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP) is a generational initiative to drive industry competitiveness and long-term success in response to ongoing and emerging challenges, an evolving economy and a globally competitive environment. One of the Plan’s six strategic directions is to advance the participation of Indigenous peoples through economic opportunities and by supporting reconciliation. The CMMP specifies that this will be achieved by supporting Indigenous women to participate throughout the mineral sector and diversifying the mining labour force to include more Indigenous peoples and women.

With respect to Indigenous women, other identified areas for action include:


  • supporting participation in engagement processes,
  • eliminating barriers to employment,
  • supporting sensitivity and inclusion training for front line workers, and
  • increasing the number of women in leadership roles.

As part of a strategy for implementation of the CMMP, Natural Resources Canada identified the need to better understand the current state of Indigenous women’s participation in the minerals and metals sector in Canada. This research report aims to add to the existing knowledge base with a focus on selected dimensions including the state of data and research on Indigenous women in mining, the continuing impacts and barriers Indigenous women face, and the benefits that both the industry and Indigenous women, their families and communities can derive from greater participation and inclusion in the sector.

The research approach employed comprehensive methods including collection and assessment of currently available data, statistics and reports, as well as original research carried out through interviews (30) and an on-line survey (n=49) that involved the participation of a wide range of stakeholders including Indigenous women involved at all levels of the mining industry, government and industry stakeholders, and Indigenous representative organizations.

Research outcomes are intended to support further planning for implementation of the CMMP, as well as legislative, policy and program initiatives. The report includes eighteen (18) recommendations directed at government and industry stakeholders.

Setting the stage

It is important to set the stage for a better understanding of the current state of Indigenous women’s participation in the mining sector in Canada by grounding this within the evolving political, legal, policy and socio-economic landscape. A number of dynamic and intersecting influences are shaping and shifting the setting for Indigenous women’s participation in mining. A few of the most important and obvious landscape features are highlighted in this report, with reference to how they are now, or may in the future, influence discussions around Indigenous women’s participation and experiences in the metals and minerals sector.

This includes:


  • a review of the influence of reconciliation and calls for action emanating from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls;
  • the evolving legal and policy environment including the implications of adoption of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the federal jurisdiction and in British Columbia, with associated action plans; and
  • an assessment of current government strategies and plans (including the CMMP, the Critical Minerals Strategy, and provincial and territorial government strategies) and the extent to which they address (or do not address, as the case may be) Indigenous women’s participation in the sector through specific strategies, policies and commitments or initiatives.

The report explores how, through corporate initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility, Indigenous community relations and other avenues, the mining industry is situating itself to respond to issues related to Indigenous women in mining and to commit to action to engage women more effectively at all levels of mining operations and within the sector.

In parallel, this part of the report considers the Indigenous context and specifically how Indigenous women’s and other representative organizations have positioned this issue generally and as part of responses to the TRC and MMIWG calls for action, as well as through initiatives such as the National Indigenous Economic Strategy.

Impact and barriers to Indigenous Women’s participation

Two parts of this report contribute to increased understanding of the current experiences, impacts, barriers and challenges faced by Indigenous women in the minerals and metals sector. In this regard the many government, industry and academic reports that speak to these issues and are publicly available are presented and discussed. Added to this are the results from original research conducted for this study.


These sources all confirm that Indigenous women continue to face significant barriers to participation as a consequence of multiple factors including but not limited to ongoing Indigenous-specific racism, gender discrimination and violence, oppressive workplace cultures, lack of opportunity and access to needed and adequate services and supports. The report highlights the intersectional dimensions of these experiences within the minerals and metals sector in Canada.

To add to the existing knowledge base of impacts and barriers, this report also investigates more closely the immediate and lingering impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic (2020 to 2022) on Indigenous women in mining. Although it will take many years before the impacts of the pandemic on the mining sector will be fully known and understood, this study confirms that the characteristics of Indigenous workers generally, and Indigenous women specifically are strongly aligned with indicators for other groups of employees in the mining industry who fared worse as a whole through the COVID pandemic (e.g., indicators such as low educational attainment levels, employment in mining support services). By extrapolating the limited data available, it is not unreasonable to conclude, at this point, that Indigenous women experienced significant disruptions in their employment in the mining sector, especially in the first year of the COVID pandemic.

Benefits to the industry and to Indigenous Women of participation in the mining sector

The report concludes that there is a strong business case for the inclusion of women generally and Indigenous women in particular in mining. Better business outcomes have been linked to gender diversity in all business organizations and mining operations are no exception.

Research conducted for this report suggests there are many perspectives regarding how the mining industry in Canada benefits from Indigenous women’s participation in the sector generally and in mine-specific operations. It is noted that there is a high degree of interest amongst stakeholders in profiling and further exploring this dimension of women’s participation in the industry.


The report shares findings from interviews and survey responses including insights on the unique values and worldviews Indigenous women bring to mining activities, the potential influence they have on strengthened and enriched decision-making processes that benefit all interests, including of future generations, and the impact their participation has on the overall safety and culture of the mining industry, to name a few. A range of benefits more directly experienced by Indigenous women, their families and communities as a result of participation in the mining sector are also noted.

State of knowledge, data and research

A key area of inquiry for the research was the current state of data and research on Indigenous women in mining in Canada. The report draws significantly upon current and more recent literature including studies, reports and academic research related to this topic, but it concludes that the state of knowledge is severely limited. This observation was reinforced and confirmed by various industry representatives as well as stakeholders (governments, mining companies and industry and Indigenous associations and organizations) who participated in interviews and/or the survey.

A major finding of research conducted for this report is that, while data on labour force participation in the metals and minerals sector is normally collected and reported widely within Canada’s statistical data reporting systems, the extent to which this data is available in disaggregated forms is limited. In general, it is only disaggregated at the level of gender (i.e., male/female) and race (i.e., to distinguish the Indigenous identity population, occasionally in concert with visible minorities). In selected cases Indigenous population data is further disaggregated by Indigenous group including First Nation, Inuit and Métis. However, it is rarely if ever further disaggregated including at the level of Indigenous women (i.e., within data reported within the women/female population or data reported on the Indigenous population). As a result, there simply is no publicly available data reporting on Indigenous women’s participation in the Canadian mining industry or on other intersectionality.

Nonetheless, the report notes that while the public state of data appears to be “non-existent”, a more accurate characterization may be that data is “hidden”, as data sets do exist that have significant potential for disaggregation based on identities (gender, race and ethnicity), and therefore enriching our understanding of the current context.


Suggestions provided by research participants as well as in recommendations of this report address the issue of how data collection and research can be improved or supported including by harnessing current federal data initiatives to improve data availability, and therefore achieve a clearer picture of the state of Indigenous women’s participation in the minerals and metals sector in Canada.

Good practices, strategies and solutions

While there are many initiatives that focus on improving conditions for participation in the mining sector for Indigenous people and for women, there are few examples of measures being taken that address the specific needs and circumstances of Indigenous women or that target initiatives specifically to this group of Indigenous people.


This section of the report provides a brief overview of good practices, strategies and solutions aimed at increasing Indigenous women’s participation in the mining sector and improving Indigenous women’s experiences. The focus is both on actions that have been taken and actions that should be taken by governments in Canada, by mining companies/the mining industry, and by industry and Indigenous organizations and associations.


In the final section of this report eighteen (18) recommendations are provided that pertain to and are directed at the following:

  • Recommendations 1-4: Identifying ways to increase and improve the available data and research on Indigenous women in mining.
  • Recommendations 5-7: Identifying ways that government and mining industry strategies and plans can be improved or enhanced through a greater recognition of the significant and multi-dimensional benefits associated with increased inclusion of Indigenous women in the minerals and metals sector.
  • Recommendations 8-13: Government actions including of a legislative, regulatory, policy and program nature, to increase Indigenous women’s participation in the minerals and metals sector, including measures to make the sector safer for women and measures to improve collection and reporting of data.
  • Recommendations 14-15: Mining industry actions to increase Indigenous women’s participation in the minerals and metals sector, address barriers and harness potential.
  • Recommendations 16-18: Strengthening networking, partnership and collaboration among Indigenous women in the mining sector, industry stakeholders, education institutions and training providers and Indigenous representative organizations.

Explore the other strategic directions