WEST VANCOUVER, BC – COAST SALISH TERRITORY –
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released a report on Indigenous child poverty rates made possible by the availability of the 2011 National Household Survey data. The report affords a fuller picture of the hardship confronted by Indigenous children unavailable to us in the past. This picture the CCPA report calls “obscene,” “unconscionable.”
The report details three tiers of poverty for children in Canada:
The worst poverty is experienced by status First Nation children, 51% of whom live in poverty, rising to 60% for children on reserve. Child poverty rates on-reserve worsened between 2005 and 2010.
The second tier encompasses other Indigenous children and disadvantaged groups. The children of immigrants suffer a child poverty rate of 32%, while racialized (visible minority) children have a poverty rate of 22%. Between these are found non-status First Nations children (30%), Inuit children (25%) and Métis children (23%).
The third tier consists of children who are non-Indigenous, non-racialized and non-immigrant, where the rate of 13% is similar to the OECD average.
The authors of the CCPA report detail three policy areas “likely to provide the greatest impact on Indigenous child poverty”: sustainable funding for reserves, resource revenue sharing, and self-government. Among these, the report advises that “self-government is the key to unlocking the potential of First Nations to improve the lives of their own citizens, including their children.” It cites studies that show a correlation between “lower suicide rates and greater self-governing institutions that provide cultural continuity to young people.”
Mary Teegee, Board President of the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society (BCACCS), adds that “cultural continuity is most strongly and deeply affirmed in the important work of Indigenous early childhood care and development which is why a national framework is needed without delay.” The Federal Liberal government has committed to, and budgeted for creating and implementing such a framework, the details of which Teegee hopes will be forthcoming.
The hope for a “reconciliation framework” responsive to the truth of Indigenous hardship and oppression cannot fail to put First Nations children at its centre. Along with their neglect on-reserve, Indigenous children are overrepresented in state care by a factor of ten. Teegee asks, “If we won’t admit the symptoms of colonialism, how can we confront and reverse its causes?”