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Hope For Aboriginal People in Canada’s Prison System

By Admin
Heavy Equipment Jobs


After years of status quo, things are about to change as new vocational training  programs such as heavy equipment operator training are made available to corrections.

While Aboriginal peoples comprise just 4% of Canada’s population, they make up 23% of the nation’s federal prison inmate population, according to a report released by Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator for Canada. Rock truck at pit

The report states that  the number of aboriginal people behind bars has increased 43% in the last five years. In other words, the report found nearly one in four prison inmates is of Métis, Inuit or First Nations decent. The number of federally incarcerated aboriginal women rose 85% in the last decade.  “One of the reasons why we brought it to the attention of Parliament in a special report is because there is an urgent need for change,” Sapers said. “The status quo is failing us.”

The status quo can be changed according to Shayne Bonnough; CEO of High Velocity Equipment Training (HVET) in Camrose AB. HVET is the largest heavy equipment training college in western Canada with a focus on training Aboriginal equipment operators onsite in a community setting. Bonnough goes on to say, “We have been training people in remote  communities across western Canada for years and we always begin with the ‘end-in-mind’ and partner with employers who employ our students after graduation. We are government licenced to certify operators but we focus on developing a great employee for industry employers, not selling certificates.”

Bonnough adds, “We can offer the employment training and classroom portion of our heavy equipment training to inmates inside the correctional system and give them promise of meaningful high paid work and a bright future, once they are released and finish their hands-on heavy equipment training. Since four out of five (of our aboriginal graduates) earn $70 thousand dollars per year operating heavy equipment, that’s worth an inmate investing in some good behaviour. The reality in the labour market is that the demand for skilled operators (with real seat-time and job-skills that we offer) is higher than it has ever been. In fact, employees are being poached by competing businesses in competing industries and now lured by competing provinces to northern BC for major projects starting out there.”

As a supporter of the HVET college heavy machinery programs, Camrose AB Mayor, Marshal Chalmers says, “I have seen this amazing program change people’s lives. For example, in the HVET boardroom is a large framed photograph of a graduate named Travis, who was released from Alberta corrections and then completed and passed the HVET training program and was immediately hired before graduation day, I am told he showed up on campus a few months after graduation driving a new car explaining he had been made supervisor on the jobsite after only a week on the job and he got his kids back and turned his life around. This college gets real training-to-employment results for its graduates.”

Mayor Chalmers adds, “With a law enforcement background I have seen a lot of folks that just need something more inspiring (than an entry-level, minimum-wage job) to look forward to after they are released from prison. As a Director for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and serving on the National Committee of Health and Safety I see a huge need for this and think we need to incorporate a training program like this into our corrections programs as soon as possible”, concludes Mayor Chalmers.

High Velocity Equipment Training is in discussions with Osoyoos Indian Band, Chief Clarence Louie about heavy equipment training in the community and the possibility of corrections training opportunities around the new corrections facility. Shawn Bonnough, Business Development Manager for HVET says, “The Osoyoos Indian Band made the historic announcement last year that the town of Oliver BC had been selected by the provincial government as the site for a new $200-million correctional facility. The facility is expected to create 1,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 250 full-time positions once open. With a new approach to training we can create employment opportunities for high value, skilled labour both inside and outside the facility.”

Bonnough goes on to say, “BC Premier, Christy Clark’s, Jobs Plan estimates a million worker shortfall over the next ten years, we have existing operators (boomers) retiring faster than they can be replaced and a new aboriginal baby-boom of 24% growth in some regions….many people from rural communities want to work, but are facing unacceptably high unemployment and incarceration rates and lack on-site training opportunities such as high demand heavy equipment training. This combination makes a perfect-storm that will threaten the $113 billion in capital projects proposed across BC for the next five years. BC and Alberta are going to miss out on the biggest opportunity for provincial prosperity that either Province has seen in Canadian history, if we don’t organize a scalable heavy equipment training solution and engage aboriginal people on a community level, fast.”


Read CSC’s Response to the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s Report here:

Photos on request:

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