Aboriginal people still unequal

Posted on June 21, 2013 in Equality Debates

LeaderPost.com – business
June 20, 2013.   By Kerry Benjoe

A new report compiled by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) paints a dismal picture of the plight of aboriginal Canadians, but there is a glimmer of hope.

The report entitled Equality Rights Data Report on Aboriginal People, outlines the reality aboriginal people face on a daily basis due to persistent conditions of disadvantage It is based on data collected by Statistics Canada that compares aboriginal and non-aboriginal people using indicators, including education, employment, economic well-being, health and housing.

The report shows Canada’s aboriginal people: have lower median after-tax income; are more likely to collect employment insurance and social assistance; are more likely to experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse; are more likely to be victims of violent crimes; and are more likely to be incarcerated and less likely to be granted parole.

Peter Gilmer, with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, said he’s not surprised by the findings because it’s not new information.

“I don’t think too many people would be surprised by the results,” he said. “I think society needs to realize that we are all better off if we start to close the income and economic gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.”

He said about a decade ago a survey was done on urban centres in Canada and that time Regina and Saskatoon had the widest poverty gap between the two groups.

“Although we haven’t seen recent statistics on that, obviously, not enough has been done since,” said Gilmer.

He said when it comes to the current housing crisis First Nation and Metis people are more likely to have a lower income and therefore more likely to be hurt by the province’s housing crisis. Gilmer said the same is true for health. Those unable to afford to eat and live healthy are more likely to face more health problems.

“I think mainstream Saskatchewan is going to have to be more reasonable around issues of a need for a representative workforce and resource revenue sharing,” said Gilmer. “I think both are part of the solution.”

David Langtry, acting chief of the CHRC, believes the key to closing the inequality gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people is resource revenue sharing and economic development opportunities. He also believes there is room for optimism for the future based on the federal government’s commitment to work with First Nations to create the First Nations Education Act.

Earlier this month, Perry Bellegarde, chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, urged the province not to issue any more permits to any companies until First Nations issues were addressed and pushed for revenue sharing.

Premier Brad Wall has been steadfast on his position that, as long as he’s in charge, there will be “no special deals for any group” on revenue sharing.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission expects to repeat this exercise in future years to monitor change in the well-being of Aboriginal people in Canada.

The report is available on the CHRC website www. chrc-ccdp.gc.ca.

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