Poverty is a fact of life facing many Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
The UN recently ranked Canada fourth on its quality of life ranking and paints a rosy picture. Officially called the Human Development Index, it measures criteria such as life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment, gender parity and the economy to get a snapshot of a country’s quality of life.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of the Aboriginal community in Canada. Statistics show the Aboriginal infant mortality rate is 11/2 times higher than the Canadian infant mortality rate. An Aboriginal man will die 7.4 years earlier than a non-Aboriginal Canadian. An Aboriginal woman will die 5.2 years earlier than her non-Aboriginal counterpart.
Unbelievably, 70 per cent of Aboriginal students on-reserve will never complete high school.
Graduation rates for the on-reserve population range from 28.9 to 32.1 per cent annually. About 27 per cent of the Aboriginal population between 15 and 44 years of age hold a post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree, compared with 46 per cent of the Canadian population within the same age group.
As for gender parity to date, S.67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act does not apply to First Nations, thereby greatly hindering any advancement toward gender parity.
On economic terms, unemployment rates for all Aboriginal groups continue to be at least double the rate of the non-Aboriginal population.
Aboriginal persons living in a family setting are about three times more likely to have incomes below the poverty level than is the case for other Canadians. An Aboriginal person earns, on average, an income of $20,940 versus that of a non-Aboriginal of $35,872 — the median income is $14,477 versus $25, 955 respectively. Or in other words, 80 per cent have incomes below $30,000 per year.
Statistics on the health of Aboriginal Peoples is grim. The suicide rate is more than twice the Canadian rate. Suicide is now among the leading causes of death among Aboriginal youth between the ages of 10 and 24, with the rate estimated to be five to six times higher than that of non-Aboriginal youth. Diabetes is at least three times the national average. Tuberculosis rates are eight to 10 times higher than those for the Canadian population.
It is wonderful that Canada is held in such high regard by others, but once you start to peel back the layers, an uglier picture emerges … Aboriginal Peoples’ poverty.