Study: 60 per cent of indigenous children on reserve live in poverty
Dario Balca, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, May 17, 2016 12:16AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 17, 2016 10:20PM EDT
A new study has found that indigenous children are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as non-aboriginal kids across Canada.
The report, released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, found that nationwide, 60 per cent of the country’s 122,000 aboriginal children living on reserves are facing dire economic circumstances.
“Too many First Nations children live in abject poverty, in many cases without hope of improved prospects in the future. As reported prominently in the news this spring in the case of Attawapiskat, these factors have culminated in the deplorable and ongoing youth suicide crisis on reserves,” the authors of the report said.
In Saskatchewan, that rate climbs to 69 per cent. The problem is worst in Manitoba, where the aboriginal child poverty rate is at 76 per cent.
The poverty rate for non-indigenous children is 17 per cent.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said the statistics are “clear evidence” of the “broken” relationship between First Nations and government.
“It’s the lack of will…by industry, by governments…to share the resources that benefit so many other Manitobans and Canadians,” North Wilson told CTV’s News Channel on Tuesday.
The solution, she said, is for government officials and industry leaders to listen to First Nations’ concerns and invest in northern communities in a way that will benefit everyone.
“MKO and the chiefs of northern Manitoba and even the people…have the solutions. They know what’s working and where they need resources,” she said. “We just need to sit down and work on a nation-to nation basis that will start to meet the goals and the demands of everyone.
“There are so many challenges, but there are also opportunities in the north.”
The study offered some of its own solutions, including adequate documentation of poverty on reserves and in the territories and direct income support for struggling families.
In the longer term, the researchers suggested greater job creation in northern communities and investment in education.
But researchers found that the problem has only been getting worse.
Despite strong economic growth across the Prairies, the study found child poverty rates worsened by four per cent between 2005 and 2010. The researchers cited barriers such as continued underfunding for child welfare programs and education as causes for the negative trend.
"One of the interesting things is that despite the fact that we have seen strong economic growth in the 2000s in Alberta in particular, as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba, we are just not seeing that filter down to the on-reserve level," senior economist David Macdonald told the Canadian Press.
Macdonald co-authored the report, titled “Shameful Neglect: Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada.”
The study is an update to the institute’s previous findings on child poverty in Canada, using data from the 2011 National Household Survey and the 2006 census.
Macdonald said the problem is made worse because is it under-recognized by Statistics Canada, whose calculation of poverty rates does not include people who live on reserves or those living in Canada’s territories.
"Because this data is excluded, official poverty rates in Canada are lower than they would be if these populations were counted,” he said.
A three-tiered problem
While comparing indigenous and non-indigenous populations revealed the greatest discrepancy in child poverty rates, the researchers said Canada’s child poverty problem can be broken down into three tiers, based on identity.
Non-indigenous children who are not immigrants and not part of a visible minority only experience a poverty rate of 13 per cent, one per cent below the OECD average.
Non-indigenous children who are immigrants or belong to a visible minority experience poverty rates of 32 and 22 per cent, respectively.
On-reserve First Nation children experience the worst child poverty rates at 60 per cent.
Canada’s overall child poverty rate is at 18 per cent, ranking Canada 27th on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s child poverty list.
With files from The Canadian Press