Children from Neskantaga First Nation greet Carolyn Bennett, minister of indigenous affairs, at the airport in the northern Ontario community on Friday, April 15, 2016. (Jody Porter/CBC)
Indigenous children in Canada more than twice as likely to live in poverty than non-Indigenous kids
By Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press, May 17, 2016
Indigenous children in Canada are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than non-Aboriginal kids, according to new findings released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The study, which delves into poverty rates on reserves and in the territories as measured by income, documents the dire conditions being experienced by status First Nations children, including 60 per cent of those who live on reserves.
Poverty rates are highest for First Nations kids on reserves in Manitoba at 76 per cent and Saskatchewan at 69 per cent, the study found.
The rates of poverty on-reserve worsened between 2005 and 2010, the researchers found, citing long-standing barriers such as underfunded schools and child welfare services that stand in the way of kids achieving their full potential.
Senior economist David Macdonald, who co-authored the report, said the figures clearly show deplorable rates of child poverty on reserves in Canada.
“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,” he said.
“We are to some degree seeing it trickle down to the off-reserve population … but we are just not seeing the benefits on reserve.”
In order to come up with its figures, the institute updated its findings from a previous report examining child poverty rates based on the 2006 census, using data collected during the 2011 National Household Survey.
“It is important to point out that Statistics Canada reports on poverty rates do not include people who live on a reserve or people living in the territories where roughly half of all Inuit people are located,” the report said.
“Because this data is excluded, official poverty rates in Canada are lower than they would be if these populations were counted. Poverty rates for Indigenous people, especially status First Nations and Inuit, are reported to be much lower than a full count would indicate is truly the case.”
Study co-author Daniel Wilson said he is hopeful measuring and reporting on the problem will help to end “policy-making in a void of information.”
The study also contains immediate suggestions for a poverty reduction plan for reserves including calls to improve direct income support and bolster employment prospects.
“These first steps will not eliminate the enormous gap in circumstance between children in Canada but they may slow or reserve a worsening trend of increasing poverty among First Nations children on reserve,” the report said.
“If we are to restore some hope to communities suffering from a pandemic of adolescent suicide, it is one place to start.”
The Liberal budget tabled in March made substantial investments on housing, clean water and education for First Nations, the study noted, but the bulk of that money is not scheduled to be spent for a few years yet.
“It will take some time to tell whether these initiatives sufficiently combat chronic overcrowding in houses, boil water advisories and substandard schooling,” the report said.
“However, the investment signals a welcome change in approach to Indigenous issues.”
Study reveals Canada’s shameful Indigenous child poverty rates
60% of First Nation children on reserve live in poverty
OTTAWA—Indigenous children in Canada are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than non-Indigenous children, says a study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
The study calculates poverty rates on reserves and in the territories—something never before examined. It disaggregates child poverty statistics and identifies three tiers of poverty for children in Canada:
- The worst poverty is experienced by status First Nation children, 51% of whom live in poverty, rising to 60% for children on reserve. Child poverty rates on-reserve worsened between 2005 and 2010.
- The second tier encompasses other Indigenous children and disadvantaged groups. The children of immigrants suffer a child poverty rate of 32%, while racialized (visible minority) children have a poverty rate of 22%. Between these are found non-status First Nations children (30%), Inuit children (25%) and Métis children (23%).
- The third tier consists of children who are non-Indigenous, non-racialized and non-immigrant, where the rate of 13% is similar to the OECD average.
“The shameful reality in Canada is that devastatingly high child poverty on reserves is getting worse, not better,” says David Macdonald Senior Economist with the CCPA. “Despite recent attempts at reconciliation concerning abuse in residential schools, we are risking a new lost generation of Indigenous youth who are growing up in unconscionable poverty.”
Among the study’s findings:
- The poverty rate for First Nation children living on reserve is highest in Manitoba (76%) and Saskatchewan (69%) and lowest in Quebec (37%).
- When examined by city, Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon have the highest Indigenous child poverty rates of 42%, 41%, and 39%, respectively. At 19%, Toronto has the lowest Indigenous child poverty rate.
- Ontario, where Attawapiskat is located, has an on-reserve child poverty rate of 48%, while across Hudson Bay in Quebec, the James Bay Cree have a rate of 23%.
“There has historically been a frustrating lack of data when it comes to Indigenous poverty in Canada,” says Daniel Wilson, co-author of the report. “The Conservative government’s decision to deprive reserves of adequate funding is clearly related to the increase in child poverty we have observed. It is our hope that measuring and reporting on these shameful levels of child poverty can help bring an end to policymaking in a void of information.”
The study calls for immediate action on a poverty reduction plan for reserves that would: 1. report poverty rates on reserves and in the territories; 2. improve direct income support; 3. improve employment prospects; and 4. begin to implement longer-term solutions.
“For Canada’s youngest and fastest-growing population, it is critical that we come to terms with the ongoing crisis affecting Indigenous people and act immediately to help resolve it. The growth of Indigenous child poverty cannot be allowed to deprive another generation of opportunity,” says Wilson.
Shameful Neglect: Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada is available on the CCPA website.
For more information, contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Director of Communications, at 613-563-1341 x306.