Perry Bellegarde is sworn in after being re-elected as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday July 25, 2018. He won 328 of the 522 votes in a second ballot, giving him just over the 60 per cent needed to be elected as leader for a second term. (Ben Nelms/The Canadian Press)

Half of Indigenous children live in poverty, Canadian study says

That figure rises to 53 per cent when looking at First Nations children living on reserves

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.

READ MORE: Canada not so great for kids compared with other rich countries: UNICEF

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.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pacific Coastal won’t open until community is ready

The company has suspended operations until further notice

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Celebrations continue for Tsilhqot’in Nation after court victory against Taskeo Mines Ltd.

Supreme Court of Canada upholds 2014 decision rejecting New Prosperity mine on May 14, 2020

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

B.C. drive-in theatre shuts down to await appeal of car limits, concession rules

Business owner Jay Daulat voluntarily closed down the theatre awaiting a health ministry decision

Most Read