Half of First Nations children in Canada live below the poverty line, according to a report issued today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Save the Children Canada.
According to the report, titled “Poverty or Prosperity: Indigenous Children in Canada,” Métis, Inuit and non-status First Nations children also suffer a disproportionate amount of poverty, at 27 percent, compared to a rate of 15 percent for non-indigenous children.
“The report’s findings that half of status First Nation children live in poverty should shock all Canadians,” Patricia Erb, President and CEO of Save the Children, said in a news release.
The highest levels of poverty among First Nations children are in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, with nearly two-thirds living under the poverty line, according to the report. In B.C., the rate of status First Nations children living in poverty is close to 50 percent.
Low-income First Nations children are also more than five times more likely to live in a house with multiple families, and almost 40 percent live in houses in need of major repairs. In B.C., the number of low-income First Nations children living in houses in need of major repairs is 32 percent, compared to 11 percent for non-indigenous children.
“Indigenous children trail the rest of Canada’s children on practically every measure of wellbeing: family income, educational attainment, poor water quality, infant mortality, health, suicide, crowding and homelessness,” the report states.
Authors David Macdonald and Daniel Wilson state that many of the measures that could help other Canadian children living in poverty will not help status First Nations children, particularly those who are living on reserve. They call for “immediate focus” on social transfers to First Nations.
“Since 1996, transfers for core services to reserves have been capped at 2 percent,” they write. “While this matches inflation, it does nothing to keep up with population growth and is unadjusted for need. Under such constraints, there is little that First Nations can do to ameliorate conditions, outside of limited opportunities for own-source income.”
Other measures they recommend to address Indigenous child poverty include “improved, accessible, culturally relevant education,” more local employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, resource revenue sharing, and better infrastructure for families living on reserve.
The authors put the cost of bringing all indigenous children in Canada out of poverty at $1 billion, including $580 million for status First Nations children.
“To raise status First Nations children above the poverty line will require that federal, provincial, territorial and First Nation governments work together,” they state.
The report’s findings also indicate that the poverty rate for immigrant and refugee children is 33 percent, and 22 percent for visible minority children.