Gap report: Comparison between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Canada

In 2004, the Secretary General Kofi Annan opened the third session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues stating, “For too long the hopes and aspirations of indigenous peoples have been ignored; their lands were seized; scorned or attacked their crops directly; their languages ​​and customs suppressed; their wisdom and traditional knowledge apart; and sustainable development approach rejected natural resources. Some have even been threatened with extinction … It must address these threats by attacking them without delay.

This call to action, 28 independent experts of the Human Rights Commission are echoed in a statement issued on the occasion of the Day of Human Rights later that year. The experts stressed that the violation of human rights remains the primary concern of millions of indigenous people and thousands of indigenous communities around the world. They urged civil society, the private sector, the international community and all citizens to increase their efforts to promote and protect the human rights of indigenous peoples.

In 2005, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special UN Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, submitted a report to the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations who urged governments to Canada to do more to bridge the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous populations in the country. Its report, published in 2004 following his official visit to Canada, listed several cases in which the failure of federal, provincial and territorial governments to fulfill their obligations to indigenous peoples had helped cause their impoverishment, poor condition Health and social conflicts.

In 2006, to mark the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has compiled a newsletter to evaluate the work done by the Federal Government to implement the recommendations of the RCAP. The analysis of the NPC concluded that the Canadian government has “failed on the measures taken to date.” According to the NPC, the major restructuring initiatives recommended by RCAP have not been implemented by the federal government and, therefore, “the reality of First Nations communities today is that of poverty permanent “and shows a widening gap between their standard of living to that of non-Aboriginal Canadians during the hearings RCAP.

Last February (2009), in their first study as part of the Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, the United Nations has expressed concern about Canada’s performance in a number of cases human rights, particularly about the well-being of indigenous peoples.

These concerns are detailed in the most recent United Nations publication, State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (The status of indigenous peoples of the world), published in January. With 238 pages, this publication is the most important UN has ever published on the plight of indigenous peoples.

The document notes that “Canada recognizes that decisive socio-economic indicators are lower, to an unacceptable degree, the Aboriginal population than for non-Aboriginal Canadians” and that if the standard of living of indigenous peoples has improved during the last fifty years, it is still “out of the living standards of the non-Aboriginal population.”

Following statistics to support this statement.

Life expectancy is lower and most widespread disease among Aboriginal peoples in Canada. In 2000, “an estimated life expectancy at birth for the population registered as an Indian to 68.9 years for men and 76.6 years for women. Representing differences of 8.1 years and 5.5 years, respectively, from the life expectancy of Canadians in 2001. In addition, early mortality (when a person dies before the age of 75 years due to suicide or unintentional injury) is almost four and a half times higher. “(Health Canada, 2007.. Comparable health indicators of First Nations , available at: ) . Finally, the infant mortality rate among First Nations was 1.5 times the Canadian rate of infant mortality (Statistics Canada, Health Canada, Canadians and Healthy Canadians, A Federal Report on Comparable Health Indicators , 2002).

There was literally no progress over the past four years as to the difference between the rates of obtaining a high school diploma in First Nations and other Canadians. Fewer Aboriginal youth complete high school and much less go to college or university. At the current rate it will take 28 years for First Nations to catch the non-Aboriginal population. (Report of the Auditor General of Canada, 2004).

Many Aboriginal communities have difficult access to school . About 70% of First Nations youth studying in reserve will never complete high school. The probability of obtaining a high school diploma for the reserve population varies between 28.9% and 32.1% per year. About 27% of the First Nations population aged 15 to 44 hold a certificate or a post-secondary degree, against 46% of the Canadian population in the same age group. (Assembly of First Nations, Canada, 2009, The reality of First Nations in Canada , available at: (status: 03/10/09).

Indigenous peoples have less access to employment . Unemployment rates for all Aboriginal groups continue to be at least twice that of the non-Aboriginal population. In 2005, for example, the unemployment rate in the four provinces of Manitoba Western Canada, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan was up to 13.6 per cent in the Aboriginal population while it was only 5.3 percent in the non-Aboriginal population. (Statistics Canada, 2005 Survey of the Workforce: Aboriginal people living off-reserve in Western Canada , available online at: .htm ). Status Indians have the lowest participation rate for all Aboriginal groups, 54 percent (Statistics Canada, census tabulations INAC 1996, T-11).

Aboriginal people are over-represented in prisons : they are 19 percent of federal inmates while they make up only 4.4 percent of the population. Between 1997 and 2004, they ran 10 times the risk of being accused of homicide than non-Aboriginal people. The proportion of Aboriginal people in Canadian prisons has increased between 1996 and 2004 while the total prison population fell by 12 percent.

State of the World Canada concludes the section devoted noting that the restrictions on “the ability of indigenous peoples to protect, and benefit substantially freely dispose of their land and resources is the main obstacle to real economic development in First Nations , Métis and Inuit. Following the loss of their land and severe limitations imposed by various levels of government to free use and the continued exploitation of their natural resources, indigenous peoples have become increasingly dependent on welfare policies adopted by the federal and provincial governments. This explains in large measure the disparity between Aboriginal people and other Canadians. “(Pages 24-25)

In its Fact Sheet 2009. The reality of First Nations in Canada , the Assembly of First Nations notes that the living conditions of indigenous peoples in Canada are the ‘in 63 th among the nations of the world for quality of life, c that is to say from the third world, “according to a study of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s own statistics comparing the First Nations to the Human Development Index established by the United Nations. (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), 1998. The Human Development Index examines per capita income, education and life expectancy levels to compare countries of the world.)

Another study of Indian Affairs ( The Community Well-Being ) evaluated the quality of life in Canadian communities by 4685 taking account of the investigation of the activity of the active population, per capita income and of housing. One First Nation has ranked among the top 100 communities, while 92 First Nations have found themselves among the last 100 communities. Half of all First Nations communities had a lower average score compared to only 3% of other Canadian communities.

Health Canada reports that in May 2003, 12% of First Nations communities had to boil their water before drinking, and about a quarter of the water systems on reserves represent a high risk to human health. Almost 25% of First Nations water infrastructures are at high risk of contamination. (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada)

The density of housing is twice as high as in the general population. Nearly one in four adults living in an overcrowded house (First Nations Centre, National Aboriginal Health Organization, Preliminary Results Regional Longitudinal Health Survey 2002-2003 First Nations , November 2004). Approximately 423,000 people live in 89,000 overcrowded housing, substandard and rapidly deteriorating.

The prevalence of diabetes among First Nations is at least three times the national average, the highest rates being recorded in all age groups (Health Canada Diabetes in Canada’s Aboriginal populations: Facts , March 2000). The rate of tuberculosis among First Nations people living on reserves is 8 to 10 times higher than that which was recorded for the entire Canadian population (Health Canada, Statistical Profile on the Health of First Nations in Canada , March 2003).

The suicide rate among First Nations is more than two times higher than among other Canadians. Suicide is now among the leading causes of death for First Nations aged 10 to 24 years, and it is estimated that this rate is five to six times higher than that recorded for non-Aboriginal youth (Health Canada , Backgrounder sectoral session on Health , October 2004).

The violence against Aboriginal women experiencing alarming rates, with serious health consequences up to death. Health Canada indicates that at least three out of four indigenous women were victims of domestic violence and the death rate related to violence is three times higher among Aboriginal women than for non-Aboriginal. This rate is even five times higher for Aboriginal women aged 25 to 44 than for non-Aboriginal women of the same age. (Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2003, Protecting Their Rights: A Systemic Review of Human Rights in Correctional Services for women serving federal sentences ., p.8 See also Filmore et al. Prairie Women, Violence and Self-Harm , The Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba, 2000).

The chronic shortage of housing on reserves and the lack of affordable housing off-reserve Aboriginal women exposed to a high risk of violence due to lack of practical options. The lack of access to available resources further complicates the problem in northern and remote communities. The rate of suicide among Aboriginal women is three times higher than the national rate for women. (Wendy Cornet and Allison Lender , Discussion Paper: Matrimonial Real Property On Reserve (Ottawa, Cornet Consulting and Mediation, 2002), which refers to Mavis A. Erickson, Where are the women Report of the Special Representative for? rights protection First Nations women , 12 January 2001, p. 65 . )

KAIROS – January 2010

Filed in: Indigenous Rights


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