Almost half of the Indigenous children in Canada live in low-income households, according to a study published Monday.
The study, “Towards Justice: Tackling Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada,” was written by researchers at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and published by communications thinktank Upstream.
“Canada is not tracking First Nations poverty on-reserve, so we did,” AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in an earlier statement. “The findings of this report are shameful and underscore the urgent need to invest in First Nations children, families, and communities.”
The research found that 47% of all First Nations children live in poverty, and 53% of First Nations children living on reserves live in poverty — which is about three times higher than the national poverty rate reported in 2016.
The report’s authors tracked child poverty rates thanks to data from the 2006 Census, the 2011 National Household Survey, and the 2016 Census.
They revealed that poverty rates barely decreased for the majority of Indigenous communities, according to the census details in 2006 and 2016.
The researchers also noted that the number of children living on reserves stayed about the same during this time, so these details do not indicate that a growing population is exceeding what’s available for social programs or negatively impacting economic growth.
“The lack of change over the 10-year period points to a failure to undertake effective solutions,” the report states.
The report notes that Inuit child poverty rates went from 27% to 25% between 2006 and 2016, but this data is skewed, as approximately half of the Inuit population lives in Canada’s territories. Territories are excluded from poverty data collection, as Statistics Canada does not think its low-income measures can be applied properly there, the Canadian Press reported.
On-reserve child poverty rates were lowest in Quebec, according to data from 2016. This is due to agreements with First Nations governments to share profits from natural resources.
The report also found that Métis child poverty rates decreased to 22% in 2016 from 27% in 2006, but notes that the population of people self-identifying as Métis also increased by 30% during that time.
“Given the population growth, it is unclear whether declining poverty rates are due to improved economic circumstances or higher incomes of those newly identifying as Métis,” the report reads.
Among their suggestions, the authors pointed out that poverty statistics in Canada do not include stats around rates on reserve, except during census counts, which needs to change if Canada is to successfully track anti-poverty efforts.
“We need a combination of political will, action, cooperation among governments and sustainable investments in water, infrastructure, housing and education to help First Nations children succeed and get a fair start in life,” Bellegarde said. “It’s beneficial to all Canadians to close the gap in quality of life between First Nations and Canada.”