Aboriginal and forest-based communities

Importance of the forest sector to these communities

In 2013, Canada’s forest industry directly and indirectly employed 321,300 people. Jobs in the sector range from forest management, silviculture and harvesting to mill operations, manufacturing and marketing.

Canada’s Aboriginal people have an age-old cultural and spiritual relationship with the forest. And, with 80% of Aboriginal peoples living in or near forested areas, they have a long history of involvement in the forest industry. In recent times, growing recognition of indigenous rights to land and natural resources has resulted in more Aboriginal involvement in forest management decisions and more partnerships between Aboriginal and forest-based businesses. In fact, the forest industry has become one of the most important commercial sectors for Aboriginal people. In addition, the forest sector is increasingly looking towards Aboriginal communities as an important source of labour and supplier of services.

The forest products industry directly or indirectly employs more than 17,000 Aboriginal people, mostly in silviculture and woodland operations, and does business with more than 1400 Aboriginal firms. These firms (some related to forestry and some not) typically employ 10–30 people, and many earn revenues of more than $1 million a year.

Challenges of a changing forest sector

The forest sector is transforming itself so that it will benefit from new markets, new high-value products and new ways of doing business that address the challenges that the industry faces. Forest-based communities across Canada are taking advantage of the economic and social opportunities resulting from this transformation.

Like the forest sector in general, communities are developing the capacity to understand and respond to events that affect the sector. Knowledge and innovation are key components of that capacity. Communities are involved in the transformation of the forest sector in many ways, whether as sources of labour, as forest resource managers, as partners with industry and government, as landowners and as neighbours. 

Canadian Forest Service support for forest-based communities

With its long history of engagement with forest-based communities, the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) serves as the federal government’s expert on these communities. The CFS works to assess the economic, social and environmental impact of changes in the forest sector. Other departments and agencies—notably, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and regional development agencies—use this forest knowledge and expertise to develop and deliver various policies and programs.

The CFS also assists Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal forest-based communities in adjusting to forest sector transformation. The main way the CFS does this is by building the communities’ capacity to develop and share strategies, knowledge, tools, skills and best practices.

Find out more