The Reality for First Nations in Canada
First Nations people in Canada…
Live in Third World conditions:
· First Nations living conditions or quality of life ranks 63rd, or amongst Third World conditions, according to an Indian and Northern Affairs Canada study that applied First Nations-specific statistics to the Human Development Index created by the United Nations.
· Canada dropped from first to eighth as the best country in the world to live primarily due to housing and health conditions in First Nations communities.
· The First Nations’ infant mortality rate is 1.5 times higher than the Canadian infant mortality rate.
· A study by Indian Affairs (the “Community Well-being Index”) assessed quality of life in 4,685 Canadian communities based on education, labour force activity, income and housing. There was only one First Nation community in the Top 100. There were 92 First Nations in the Bottom 100. Half of all First Nations communities score in the lower range of the index compared with 3% of other Canadian communities.
Die earlier than other Canadians:
· A First Nations man will die 7.4 years earlier than a non-Aboriginal Canadian. A First Nations woman will die 5.2 years earlier than her non-Aboriginal counterpart (life expectancy for First Nations citizens is estimated at 68.9 years for males and 76.6 years for females).
Face increased rates of suicide, diabetes, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS:
· The First Nations suicide rate is more than twice the Canadian rate. Suicide is now among the leading causes of death among First Nations between the ages of 10 and 24, with the rate estimated to be five to six times higher than that of non-Aboriginal youth.
· The prevalence of diabetes among First Nations is at least three times the national average, with high rates across all age groups.
· Tuberculosis rates for First Nations populations on-reserve are 8 to 10 times higher than those for the Canadian population.
· Aboriginal peoples make up only 5% of the total population in Canada but represent 16% of new HIV infections. Of these, 45% are women and 40% are under 30 years old. HIV/AIDS cases among Aboriginal peoples have increased steadily over the past decade.
Face a crisis in housing and living conditions:
· Health Canada states that as of May 2003, 12% of First Nations communities had to boil their drinking water and approximately ¼ of water treatment systems on-reserve pose a high risk to human health.
· Almost 25% of First Nations water infrastructures are at high risk of contamination.
· Housing density is twice that of the general population. Nearly 1 in 4 First Nations adults live in crowded homes. 423,000 people live in 89,000 overcrowded, substandard and rapidly deteriorating housing units.
· Almost half of the existing housing stock requires renovations.
· 5,486 of the 88,485 houses on-reserve are without sewage service.
· Mold contaminates almost half of First Nations households.
· More than 100 First Nations communities are under a Boil Water Advisory for drinking water.
· Core funding to support on-reserve housing has remained unchanged for 20 years.
· Almost half of First Nations people residing off-reserve live in poor quality housing that is below standard. Most First Nations homes off-reserve are crowded.
· First Nations have limited access to affordable housing: 73% are in core need, most are spending more than the standard of 30% of their income on rent.
Are not attaining education levels equal to other Canadians, even though most First Nations are under the age of 25 and represent the workforce of tomorrow:
· There has been literally no progress over the last four years in closing the gap in high school graduation rates between First Nations and other Canadians. At the current rate, it will take 28 years for First Nations to catch-up to the non-Aboriginal population.
· About 70% of First Nations students on-reserve will never complete high school. Graduation rates for the on-reserve population range from 28.9%-32.1% annually.
· 10,000 First Nations students who are eligible and looking to attend post-secondary education are on waiting lists because of under-funding.
· The number of post-secondary students has been declining in recent years. In 1998-99, participation rates of Registered Indians was at a high of 27,157 but dropped to 25,075 in 2002-03.
· About 27% of the First Nations population between 15 and 44 years of age hold a post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree, compared with 46% of the Canadian population within the same age group.
Lack jobs and economic opportunities:
· Unemployment rates for all Aboriginal groups continue to be at least double the rate of the non-Aboriginal population. Registered Indians have the highest unemployment rate of any Aboriginal group, at 27%.
· Registered Indians have the lowest labour force participation rate of any Aboriginal group, with a rate of 54%.
Yet First Nations receive less from all levels of government than non-Aboriginal Canadians:
· The average Canadian gets services from the federal, provincial and municipal governments at an amount that is almost two-and-a-half times greater than that received by First Nations citizens.
· In 1996, the federal government capped funding increases for Indian Affairs’ core programs at 2% a year, which does not keep pace with inflation or the growing First Nations population. A recent Indian Affairs study found that the gap in “quality of life” between First Nations and Canadians stopped narrowing in 1996.