A joint project being launched this month by the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre (FENFC) and Brock University’s Social Justice Research Institute (SJRI) will examine the experiences of people in Niagara’s Indigenous community who provide care to elderly or disabled adults while being employed full time.
Often called “worker-carers,” these individuals who provide support for family members or friends routinely experience challenges that are linked to broader systemic issues impacting Indigenous peoples in Canada: increased rates of chronic illness, reduced access to health-care systems, housing challenges (even in urban areas) and systemic discrimination — all of which have an impact on caregiving.
The researchers hope to shed light on the unique challenges and perspectives that Indigenous worker-carers face in order to better inform policy and new workplace standards that accommodate worker-carers.
Findings from the project, which has received funding from the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), will be compiled with the results of related initiatives taking place at other universities.
Researchers from Brock include Andrea Doucet, Canada Research Chair in Gender Work and Care; Eva Jewell, an Anishinaabe SJRI postdoctoral fellow cross-appointed in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST); and undergraduate student Jessica Falk, a research fellow in Sociology and WGST. FENFC team members include Executive Director Jennifer Docktstader; Life Long Care specialist Karen Hilston; and Kitten Moses of Human Resources.
This is the second collaboration between the partners. In 2018, the FENFC/Brock team conducted research into barriers that Indigenous residents face in gaining employment, as well as supports that can help people obtain and remain in jobs. Their research included conducting focus groups/sharing circles (two with youth and two with adults) as well as interviewing area employers.
Last year’s project resulted from meetings between the FENFC, SJRI and Brock’s Tecumseh Centre for Aboriginal Education and Research. The discussion was prompted by concerns raised by Indigenous community members and leaders, regarding un- or under-employed Indigenous residents in Niagara.
That study found that Indigenous people are better able to advocate for employment, well-being and prosperity if they have access to cultural education and support networks, either through family or the broader Indigenous community. The researchers said their work centred on Indigenous community knowing and strength, and factored in the impacts of Canada’s settler colonial policies on Indigenous Nations. That study’s recommendations will be used to help develop policy for the Government of Ontario, as well as to secure funding for FENFC.