The aboriginal census
TheStar.com – comment/editorial – The aboriginal census
January 17, 2008
Many aboriginals in Canada live in dire poverty, with little access to the education, health care, housing and jobs that non-aboriginals take for granted. Only when these problems boil over, as they sometimes do in land-claim disputes (Caledonia) or public-health crises (Kashechewan), does the country sit up and take notice, if only fleetingly.
But the latest census data from Statistics Canada show this country ignores endemic problems among aboriginals at its peril.
Canada’s aboriginal population is closing in on 1.2 million people, and growing quickly. Between 1996 and 2006, the number of people in Canada who identified themselves as aboriginal jumped by 45 per cent. By contrast, Canada’s non-aboriginal population grew by only 8 per cent during the same period.
Furthermore, the census data show that aboriginal peoples are far more likely than non-aboriginals to live in crowded or substandard housing and that aboriginal children live in single-parent families in disproportionate numbers.
Yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper killed the 2005 Kelowna Accord, which was negotiated by the previous Liberal government under Paul Martin to address many of these issues.
The anger, frustration and alienation already percolating among aboriginals across the country will only grow with their numbers. The fact that Canada’s aboriginal population is far younger than the country’s non-aboriginal population, with a median age of just 27, will heighten the risk of militancy.
These census figures are just the latest proof, if any more were needed, that Canada simply cannot afford to turn a blind eye any longer.