Almost half of Status First Nations children live in poverty, study finds

Indigenous children face the highest rates of poverty in the country, with almost one in every two living in households with low incomes, says a new study that shows little improvement in the situation over the last decade.

 

47 per cent of Status First Nations children in Canada live in poverty, two-and-a-half times above the national average, says a new study on child poverty.

Some 122,400 — or 53 per cent — of those on reserves live below Statistics Canada’s after-tax low-income measure, compared to 131,660, or 41 per cent, of their off-reserve peers. The low income cutoff for a family of four was $44,266 in 2016.

The study published by the Upstream Institute, written by researchers at the Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, finds that 47 per cent of First Nations children on- and off-reserve live in poverty.

The on-reserve child-poverty rate is roughly three times the national rate of 17.6 per cent reported in the 2016 census.

Taking a deeper dive into a decade of census data, the researchers found that poverty rates barely budged downward for most Indigenous communities between census counts in 2006 and 2016. At the same time, the number of children on reserves stayed stagnant over that time at about 120,000, so it’s not a matter of growing populations outstripping social programs and economic growth. The researchers say that “points to a failure to undertake effective solutions.”

There were, however, some exceptions.

Metis child-poverty rates dropped to 22 per cent from 27 per cent, but did so at the same time that the number of people identifying as Metis rocketed upward. The researchers suggest that the decline in poverty rates might be because of more better-off people describing themselves as Metis on census forms.

Inuit child-poverty rates declined to 25 per cent from 27 per cent between 2006 and 2016, but about half the Inuit population is excluded from poverty figures because they live in the territories and Statistics Canada does not believe its low-income measures work there.

Official poverty statistics don’t examine the situations on reserve except during census counts, which the researchers say must change to better track anti-poverty efforts. Not tracking these figures, the study says, may muddle the statistics nationwide.

Earlier this year, the national statistics office reported that in 2017, the most recent year available, about 622,000 children in all lived below the newly adopted official poverty line, a decline of 278,000 since 2015.

The report calls for increased financial investment to tackle the continued challenges of inadequate and insufficient housing, nonpotable water, inferior education and health services faced by Indigenous children.

 

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