Mémoire présenté au Comité permanent des ressources humaines, du développement des compétences, du développement social et de la condition des personnes handicapées

February 29, 2012

Mémoire présenté par John Stewart, directeur des politiques et de la recherche, Association nucléaire canadienne
au Comité permanent des ressources humaines, du développement des compétences, du développement social et de la condition des personnes handicapées
le 29 février 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  It is an honour to be here before your Committee.

My name is John Stewart and I am here today representing the Canadian Nuclear Association. We are a national association of well over 100 organizations involved in bringing the benefits of nuclear technology to Canadians.

L’industrie nucléaire canadienne offre l’emploi à soixante-et-onze mille personnes dans des secteurs reliés directement ou indirectement à tous les aspects de la technologie nucléaire à savoir :  l’exploration et l’extraction d’uranium, la production d’électricité, les avancées de la médecine nucléaire, l’exécution du développement technologique et de la recherche avancée, et la création des emplois hautement qualifiés en exportant des produits et des services à l’échelle internationale.

Nos membres sont tous des partenaires très proches de nos communautés d’accueil. Nous avons besoin d’eux et ils ont besoin de nous.

L’industrie de l’extraction d’uranium constitue un employeur important pour les peuples autochtones dans les collectivités nordiques. Nous fournissons des emplois bien rémunérés, en particulier dans le secteur industriels, dont la plupart exigent de haute compétences et qualification, à environ 2,000 personnes dans les collectivités éloignées, et près de la moitié d’entre eux sont des Autochtones, (c-a-d  900 d’entre eux aujourd’hui).

Mr. Chairman, just one of our members, Areva Canada, anticipates growing its workforce by over 60% over the next three years, and half of those new hires will be aboriginal.

Another of our members, Aurora Energy Limited, is working on a large scale uranium project in Labrador.  If the regulatory hurdles are cleared, Aurora anticipates needing up to 700 construction workers to build the facilities for the mine mill complex.  After that, it should employ about 400 on an ongoing basis.

Many of these jobs could be filled by employees from the surrounding communities, which are small, widely separated, and primarily Inuit, with low rates of other employment.  Aurora’s project will be a tremendous opportunity for people of the Labrador Coast to find long term meaningful employment near home.  Government training funds and assistance will enhance this opportunity.

The several years before the Michelin Project starts in earnest should be used to provide secondary school upgrading, making it easier for potential workers to be involved in higher level operator training opportunities that the project will bring.

The Michelin Project is only an example.  The quality of the uranium resource in Canada is excellent, and the government has been working with us and made real progress in opening major new markets in China and elsewhere.  Many more jobs are expected if the regulatory environment permits them to be realized.

Companies like Cameco Inc., Areva Canada, Aurora Resources and Denison Mines also buy products and services from aboriginal-owned businesses to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.  This amplifies the economic benefits in these towns, and helps aboriginal people make the move from employee to owner, which is a crucial step in sustained economic development.

If you look at Cameco’s website, on the Community Investment page, you’ll see details of eleven scholarship programs that Cameco supports.  One of them is the Northern Scholarship Program, which is open to young people who have lived in Saskatchewan’s north for ten years or at least half their life if they’re under twenty.  There are also scholarships in business, geological sciences and engineering.

In addition to scholarships, our member companies like Cameco offer direct training to employees and even to suppliers.  But the starting point has to be sound primary and secondary education.  While obviously it’s not our companies’ mandate to provide that, we certainly want to align and partner with the people who do provide it, so that these young people face as few barriers as possible.

Mr. Chairman, we strongly urge governments to collaborate with communities and businesses in order to pull down those barriers and make optimum use of available investment dollars for education.

In such small communities, there is very limited infrastructure and local capacity.  Projects face a lot of challenges.  We all need to wear several hats and we all need to be both students and teachers.  We need to share our skills, volunteer on each other’s committees, sponsor each other’s events.  So the partnership I’m talking about is really on a person-to-person level.

My final point, Mr. Chairman, is that motivation matters.  Allowing young people to see the link from school to work, and letting them taste the rewards of working, can be very influential.  They can see the employer not so much as a corporate entity, but as a group of people.

Internships and similar programs let young people get a first-hand look at the career opportunities and the benefits of education, and perhaps let them earn a little money while they’re in school.  This can inspire them to work and succeed.

That’s it for my comments today, Mr. Chairman.  I’d be pleased to answer questions.

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