Half of Indigenous children live in poverty, study says 

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA- About one in every two Indigenous children in Canada lives in poverty, says a study released Tuesday that also finds little evidence that the situation has improved over the last decade.

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a statement that the findings in the study underscore the need to invest in First Nations children, families and communities.

Bellegarde planned to drop the report in the laps of the country’s premiers, who gathered in Saskatchewan for an annual meeting.

“Canada is not tracking First Nations poverty on-reserve so we did,” Bellegarde said. “Our children face the worst social and economic conditions in the country. They deserve an opportunity to succeed.”

Published by the Upstream Institute, and written by researchers at the AFN and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the study found that 47 per cent of First Nations children on and off reserve live in poverty.

That figure rises to 53 per cent when looking at First Nations children living on reserves, or roughly three times the national rate of 17.6 per cent reported in the 2016 census.

Official poverty statistics don’t examine the situations on reserves except during census counts. Not tracking these figures, the study says, may muddle the statistics nationwide _ particularly when the Liberals have linked historic reductions in child poverty to their policies since coming to office in 2015.

Compounding the issue is that the Liberals’ newly adopted national poverty line, which is used to track the effectiveness of the government’s poverty-reduction plan, isn’t calculated on reserves _ an issue the **>AFN<** has raised with the government.

So the researchers did the calculations themselves with help from the statistics office.

Poring over data from the 2006 and 2016 census counts, the researchers found that poverty rates barely budged downward for  most Indigenous communities. At the same time, the number of children on reserves stayed stagnant over that time at about 120,000, so it’s not a matter of growing populations outstripping social programs and economic growth.

The 2016 census reported 1.67 million Indigenous people in Canada, who had an average age nearly a decade younger and a higher fertility rate than the non-Indigenous population. Daniel Wilson, one of the authors of the report, said that young, growing cohort will face new challenges as they age unless the poverty situation changes now.

“What we’re looking at is 10 to 15 years from now, people entering the workforce with all of the disadvantages that poverty brings  in terms of health, in terms of mental clarity and acuity, in terms of opportunity, especially,” said Wilson, a non-status Mi’kmaq and special adviser to the AFN.

“They’ll be carrying all of those disadvantages … and will have that much more to overcome as a significant part of the emerging labour force.”

There were, however, some exceptions. On-reserve child-poverty rates in Quebec, for instance, were the lowest in the country in 2016, largely as a result of agreements with First Nations governments to share revenues from natural resources. Several cities have also seen drops in Indigenous child-poverty rates, including Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

Affordable-housing advocates said Tuesday morning that they wanted federal parties to commit to closing gaps in the Liberals’

decade-long national housing strategy, specifically for urban and rural Indigenous people, for whom the child-poverty rate is 41 per cent, according to the study.

In a report last month, the parliamentary budget office said that federal funding for off-reserve Indigenous households over the next 10 years amounted to half of what had been provided in the previous decade.

“Clearly this is a gap that needs to be filled by the parties in their election platforms and whomever forms the next government,”

said Jeff Morrison, executive director of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association.

A by the numbers look at Indigenous child poverty

OTTAWA- A study released Tuesday by the Upstream Institute, and written by researchers at the Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, gives new details on poverty among Indigenous children in Canada. Here are a few numbers from the study:

53: Percentage of First Nations children on reserves who live in poverty

41: Percentage of First Nations children off reserves who live in poverty

22: Percentage of Metis children living in poverty in 2016, down from 27 per cent in 2006 (which the study says might be because of more better-off people describing themselves as Metis on census forms)

25: Percentage of Inuit children living in poverty in 2016

15: In per cent, the status First Nations child-poverty rate among the reserves of the James Bay Cree of northern Quebec in 2016

35: Percentage of recent-immigrant children living in poverty in 2016

12: Percentage of non-racialized, non-recent immigrant, non-Indigenous children living in poverty in 2016

 

 

 

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