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Blue Economy Strategy Engagement Paper
Focusing Canada’s blue economy on growth and prosperity for all

Introduction Focusing on growth and prosperity Positioning Canada Sustainable and Prosperous Ocean Sectors Big questions

Closed engagement: this engagement ran from February 8 to June 15, 2021.


Focusing Canada’s blue economy on growth and prosperity for all

Canada’s blue economy has real potential to generate new opportunities for sustainable growth and prosperity. We also have an opportunity to “build back better” as our ocean industries work to recover from the COVID–19 pandemic. This required a blue economy strategy that supports and advances the economic well-being of as many Canadians as possible; especially, Indigenous peoples and other underrepresented groups.

This part of the engagement paper focuses on three key ways that our blue economy strategy can foster more prosperity and inclusion in Canada's ocean sectors:

Each section highlights major challenges, suggests ways that a blue economy strategy could help address these challenges, and poses questions. Your feedback and ideas will help guide the development of this Strategy.

Advancing the participation of Indigenous peoples

In recent years, the Government of Canada has worked to renew and rebuild its relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. It has also undertaken work to advance reconciliation and make much-needed investments to close the socio-economic gaps that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples face. Indigenous peoples understand the needs of their communities best and, therefore, Government has been working closely with Indigenous communities to advance their self-government , their self-determination, and their ongoing work of nation rebuilding. To that end, the Government recently proposed new legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The legislation is a road map to advance lasting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and the steps that must be taken to respect, recognize, and protect their human rights and to address the wrongs of the past.

Oceans, fisheries, aquatic ecosystems, and marine waterways are integral to Indigenous rights, cultures, ways of life, and heritages. Marine resources and ecosystems also hold significant social, ceremonial, and economic importance to Indigenous peoples across Canada.

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The Government is working to increase the participation of Indigenous peoples in the blue economy through non-treaty agreements and other program agreements. We are also providing direct support through dedicated commercial fisheries programs that have enabled Indigenous communities to increase the potential of their commercial fishing enterprises and strengthen community economic self-sufficiency. At the same time, the Government and Indigenous communities are collaborating to help restore coastal habitats, protect marine environments, and improve marine safety. This includes through scientific and technical watershed-based aquatic resource and oceans management departments that receive direct support from the Government.

Indigenous communities are valued partners in the growth of Canada’s blue economy and our efforts to protect and conserve ocean spaces. Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy has the potential to increase and diversify ocean-related economic opportunities for coastal Indigenous communities that are aligned with their values, priorities and aspirations. The co-development of a blue economy strategy is therefore an important opportunity to further reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

As the economy reopens from the global pandemic, a blue economy strategy could further initiatives that are fostering job creation and sustainable economic opportunities along with a new conservation economy in Indigenous communities. This includes initiatives to build capacity and to facilitate ownership and market entry to help increase the participation of Indigenous peoples and communities in ocean sectors.


  1. Access to training programs and capacity development to acquire knowledge and develop skills to expand on existing, and to leverage new, opportunities in ocean sectors can be limited in Indigenous communities.
  2. Limited private sector investments in Indigenous communities.
  3. Limited understanding by non-Indigenous investors, lenders, and potential project partners of Indigenous economies, business opportunities, culture, and political structures.

A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

How can Indigenous peoples best be supported to increase their participation in the ocean economy?

How can the Government collaborate with Indigenous communities to enable them to achieve their ocean-related economic development plans?

What are the main barriers and challenges to increasing private sector ocean-related investments in Indigenous communities and for Indigenous communities and businesses to invest in ocean sectors?

Do initiatives, such as the Indigenous Career Pivot Project organized by the Ocean Supercluster, help meet the needs of Indigenous communities to increase their participation in the blue economy?

Are there best practices, pilot studies or programs related to Indigenous training and roles in the marine sector that could help facilitate the concept of an Indigenous conservation economy and inform future actions in this area?

Developing the necessary labour force and skills

The blue economy provides rewarding jobs and career opportunities for many Canadians. In 2016, employment in Canada’s ocean sectors accounted for just under 300,000 jobs (1.6% of our national employment total) and that number is poised to grow.

Diversity in Canada’s blue economy depends on a range of skills and labour force talent. Traditional sectors, such as fishing and seafood processing, may rely more on skills such as machine operation and physical abilities, while knowledge-intensive sectors may require more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related competencies. As ocean sectors evolve, the type and mix of skills will change to match trends, such as increased digitalization and automation, the emergence of newer and more knowledge-intensive sectors (e.g. marine renewables), and a growing focus on sustainability.

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The Government is already working with the private sector to ensure that our blue economy sectors have access to a well-educated and skilled labour force. The National Shipbuilding Strategy Value Proposition, for example, requires Canada’s shipyards to invest in the domestic marine industry, which may be directed to human resource development. This could enable the sector to have access to a pool of qualified personnel.

Canada’s blue economy will continue to need skilled and talented workers to grow and realize its full potential. Many ocean sector companies already struggle to recruit and retain skilled employees. The approach to supply labour and provide skills development to Canadians and underrepresented people in the blue economy will be an essential component to grow a prosperous and competitive blue economy in Canada.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

What actions could be taken to grow talent and develop the skills needed for ocean sectors?

How can good quality employment opportunities in our blue economy be better promoted?

How can underrepresented groups (e.g. women, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, youth, and persons with disabilities) be encouraged and helped to develop ocean-related skills?

How can the Government and private industry work and support traditionally underrepresented groups to eliminate barriers to effective recruitment and retention in ocean sectors?

If you work in an ocean sector, what do you see as the current and pending skills and labour gaps?

Identifying barriers to inclusive growth

Ocean resources have vast potential to unlock economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve lives and livelihoods; particularly, for women, youth, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities. However, access to ocean resources and the distribution of its benefits are often inequitable. The COVID–19 pandemic has magnified inequities among gender, race, Indigeneity, physical ability, geographic location, rurality, ability, age, and socio-economic status. Any focus on economic growth must include a conscious effort to make our growing sectors more accessible to vulnerable groups.

Addressing inequities in ocean industries is an essential part of building a resilient and sustainable blue economy. An intersectional Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) lens will be applied to the development of initiatives that fall under the blue economy strategy in order to anticipate potential impacts on diverse groups of Canadians. By identifying issues early, the blue economy strategy will be positioned to help mitigate inequalities and promote equity in the ocean sector based on the issues brought forward.

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There are many examples of Government and industry action on inclusive growth. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for instance, has partnered with UGent and the Flanders Blue Ocean Cluster to immerse selected female graduate students in Atlantic Canada in leading edge ocean economy innovations. Oceans Network Canada has partnered with many coastal Indigenous communities in British Columbia to initiate community-based monitoring, school programs, youth training, and engagement so that each community can advance its ocean and marine environment programs. More recently, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster supported the launch of the Blue Future Pathways project to connect youth across Canada with education and employment opportunities, and to support participants in developing a successful career in the blue economy.

Furthering the work of existing blue economy initiatives could help improve livelihood of people in underrepresented groups and enable ocean sectors to grow. Over the longer term, Canada’s blue economy must be more resilient and responsive to future economic uncertainties and impacts; especially, those that affect the most vulnerable groups who rely on Canada’s oceans and their benefits.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

What barriers prevent some groups from fully participating in ocean sectors?

In which areas can strategic action be taken to support and improve equity, inclusiveness, and diversity in the blue economy?

What steps can the Government take to ensure that benefits from the blue economy strategy are equitably distributed?

How can the proportion of underrepresented groups in managerial and decision-making roles in ocean sectors be increased?

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