Lloydminster Meridian Booster – Half of First Nation youth live in poverty
After receiving a press-release about poverty in First Nations communities across Canada, I contacted the Native Friendship Center and a representative from the nearby First Nations community of Onion Lake. Story is posted after the jump.
First Nation children Canada are living in poverty, which is three times higher than the poverty rate for the rest of the population.
The problem of poverty is at its worst in Saskatchewan and Manitoba where the rate exceeds 55 per cent.
For a family of four in Canada, a yearly income of $38,000 would straddle the poverty line.
“They say when you want to look at government priorities follow the money,” said Crystal Fafard, chief executive adviser to Onion Lake Cree Nation. “This is obviously at the bottom of the priority list.”
Fafard said she felt it was shameful behavior on behalf of the federal and provincial government for skirting the issue.
“[Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall keeps posting all these great stats about how wonderfully Saskatchewan is doing, but these are some stats he doesn’t want to post,” said Fafard. “All of the resources that he’s pulling out of the ground that’s supporting the Saskatchewan economy, they’re largely coming from First Nation’s traditional territory.”
“It’s a policy of government not to take responsibility for First Nations children because it falls under federal jurisdiction, which is so wrong because these are residents of the province of Saskatchewan,” said Fafard “Nobody’s dealing with it.”
Fafard said that there were a few solutions that could bring prosperity over poverty to the First Nations including a tax-sharing program for valuable resources that are primarily harvested from First Nation’s land.
Fafard also said that focusing on education would help to bolster the economy.
“There’s a direct correlation that the higher the education for First Nation’s, the higher the income,” said Fafard. “It’s a demographic that tends to fall through the cracks.”
As Canada’s fastest growing demographic, issues within the indigenous population will soon enter the main-stream.
“When you have the fastest growing demographic in the country being raised in poverty, they’re going to grow up and become un-sustain-ing members of society. They’re going to be angry and lashing out and they’re going to be the majority pretty soon,” said Fafard. “It paints an ugly picture of where we’re going.”