Digging Beneath the Surface of Aboriginal Labour Market Development: Analyzing Policy Discourse in the Context of Northern Alberta’s Oil Sands


  • Tracy L Friedel University of British Columbia
  • Alison Taylor University of Alberta




This paper provides an analysis of policy discourse as it concerns Indigenous labour market development in Northern Alberta. In the process, the authors unearth the manner in which current federal and provincial government policy obscures a long history of attempted colonial domination with respect to Indigenous peoples in Canada more generally. Typically, economic booms are spoken of as an opportunity to democratize labour opportunities, through the discourse of “partnership” and “social inclusion” in particular. Ignored in this discourse is the reality that the exploitation of natural resources always takes place in particular political, social, cultural and historical contexts. Critical discourse analysis serves to expose these contexts and, in so doing, uncovers the critical role played by institutions, ideologies, and processes in constructing and maintaining existing inequalities. In the process of digging up the roots of current Aboriginal labour market development policy discourse, unveiled are the concealed power structures, misrepresented inequities, historical injustices, and biases of development.