I originally started this project because I was interested to find out more about our Aboriginal population and I'd heard some rumors about unhygienic water supplies. What I found shocked me. Let me show you a piece of it.
In Canada, the population of Aboriginals is estimated at 1.2 million. The total population of Canada itself is about 33.3 million- this makes the Aboriginal population only 3.4% of our total population. For comparison - the Polish population is about 3.2, and the Chinese population is about 4.3%. The "ab" from "Aboriginal" is an abbreviation for "absolute".
And yet, despite this relatively low percent of our population, the statistics regarding Aboriginals are amazingly high in the bad sense, as you will see. Usually we view Canada as an extremely developed nation, but we have a third-world country lurking within our borders and in our past. I see your hand compulsively touching your iPhone. That's right... Feel bad. Just kidding.
So, 4% of all legal adults in Canada are Aboriginal. And yet, 24% of admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody, 18% of admissions to federal prisons, 19% of admissions to remand, 21% of TOTAL male prisoner population and 30% of female TOTAL prisoner population are Aboriginal!
Canada's overall suicide rate is about 14 people per 100,000. The rate among aboriginal youth is 108 per 100,000 (over 6 times higher!) For adult males, about 56.3/100,000, and females 11.8/100,000.
60% of all Aboriginals who commit suicide are acutely intoxicated at the time. This compares to 24% for non-Aboriginal suicides.
Why is this? Why does the Aboriginal population have to turn to such drastic measures such as crime or suicide?
Let me give you some more cold hard facts to help you see what's going on and see how they stack up.
1. The unemployment rate for Native Canadians (as of March 2005) is 13.6 percent compared to the non-Native 5.3 percent. (off Reserve only)
2. 45% of all status Indians living on reserve are illiterate.
3. On the Human Development Index created by the United Nations, the First Nations ranks 63rd. The rest of Canada ranks 8th.
4. Diabetes rates are three times the national average.
5. Aboriginal peoples represent 16% of new HIV
6. 12% of First Nations communities had to boil their
drinking water, and 6% houses on-reserve
are without sewage service.
7. In 2006, the median income for Aboriginal peoples was $18,962 – 30 per cent lower than the $27,097 median income for the rest of Canadians. (2006)
Obviously now you are exposed to some of the issues going on with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Why is this happening? It is not quite clear. The Canadian government only formally apologized for the residential school situation in 2008. These schools made children become ashamed of their Native heritage (away from home for 10 months of the year), and as well they were not raised with the necessary skills and fell behind - they could not assimilate totally, nor could they feel comfortable at the reserve. The negative quality of life in and out of reserves leads to depression, recklessness, etc.
There also seems to be a serious disparity between trying to preserve traditional culture and survive in society. Traditional culture often dictates traveling lifestyles, hunting, fishing, living off the land, etc- when the land has been taken over and is being industrialized this is near impossible. The native community wishes to preserve their traditions and culture but still gain stability (but not assimilation!)
Unfortunately solutions are not that simple in this situation. Higher education would help with the unemployment rates and lower salaries, but choice assimilation is not necessarily the best option. What we can do is offer native-based community services, cultural awareness programs, youth programs, encourage self-confidence. We can support marketable skills that are related to Native tradition. As well, we can improve the living conditions on reserves to supply adequate housing, water, and sewage systems at the least. As well, we can do the basics for individuals - provide good role models, strong support networks, etc. We can find a way to integrate the native community into ours while still preserving and supporting their culture.
Aboriginal Fact Sheet – Just to jog your mind a bit. Collected by Maus C
- Canada's population: 33,739,900
- Canada's Aboriginal Population: 1,172,790 (2006)
- Percent of legal Canadian Aboriginal adults: 4%
- Percent of admission to provincial/territorial sentenced custody that are Aboriginal: 24%
- Percent of total incarcerated population that is Aboriginal and male: 21% and female: 30%
- Canada's suicide rate: 14/100,000
- Canada's Aboriginal suicide rate: 108/100,000(youth), 56.3/100,000(adult males), 11.8/100,000(adult fem ales).
- Percent that are acutely intoxicated at the time: 60% (vs 24% for non Aboriginal)
- Percent of Aboriginal persons unemployed (as of March 2005): 13.6% (vs 5.3 for non Aboriginal)
- Percent of Aboriginals living on reserve that are “illiterate”: 45%
- On the Human Development Index created by the United Nations, the First Nations ranks 63rd. The rest of Canada ranks 8th.
- Diabetes rates are three times the national average.
- Percent of Aboriginal peoples that represent new HIV case: 16%
- Percent of Aboriginals that had to boil their drinking water on reserve:12%
- Percent of Aboriginals without sewage serves on reserve: 6%
- Percent lower and Aboriginal person will make than a non Aboriginal: 30%