Poverty among Canada’s indigenous peoples should not be accepted as a norm. Self-determination and empowerment is on the rise, and there is hope in economic programs that promote education, in economic gains being made on several fronts, and in the growth in awareness and reconciliation by mainstream culture. But the fact remains that many indigenous peoples live in poverty today and they need your help now.
Children growing up in impoverished conditions are in danger of perpetuating the cycle of poverty. In some provinces, over 60% of indigenous children live in poverty.  The child poverty rate among status First Nations children hovers around 50%, a rate that puts these nations on par with Mexico.
True North Aid and many of our sister charities are on the front line of the fight against poverty. On this page we look at how touchstones in True North Aid’s work fights against and moves towards ending poverty in the north.

First, let’s look at some of the broader issues. Here is a look at some of the effects of poverty, with some statistics.

Poverty and Housing

Overcrowding in houses

Many first nations peoples live in houses that are overcrowded with family members from several different generations. In far northern communities, there is a tendency to neglect housing upkeep during the summer when outdoor life takes over. In winter months, low availability of housing space results in overcrowded conditions

According to statistics from 2016, 28% of on-reserve First Nations people and 30% of Inuit in Canada lived in homes qualified as crowded. The basis for reporting overcrowding is that the number of people living in the home outnumber the number of rooms in the home. Compare this to non-indigenous population, where the same rate is 4%.

Houses in poor or unsafe conditions

Many first nations people live in homes that are in need of major repairs. Major repairs included things like defective plumbing or wiring or walls or roofs that needed structural repairs. Indigenous peoples suffering from low income and poor economic conditions are unable to afford essential repairs to homes that are already under-sized and overcrowded.

In 2016, the figure included more than one quarter of all first nations peoples. 43% of first nations peoples on reserves were living in homes that needed major repairs. Among Inuit people, 30% lived in homes that needed major repairs.

Read more about our work with First Nations’ housing.

Poverty and Hunger Among Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Among many isolated first nations and indigenous communities, food prices are exorbitantly higher than in cities and towns in more established areas. Grocery prices in these communities are inflated four times (or more) what people pay elsewhere. Families living on social assistance can barely afford to pay regular prices, let alone these inflated amounts. Indigenous peoples make up 14% of people using food banks in Canada, despite their low population numbers. Here’s a closer look at First Nations food.

Poverty and Unemployment in Indigenous Population

Education rates vs employment

Among non-indigenous Canadians, the rate of education is always higher than it is for first nations and indigenous peoples. In addition, among educated first nations and indigenous peoples the employment rate is lower than it is for non-indigenous Canadians. For example, first nations people who have higher education are able to achieve a rate of only 71% employment, lower than the 80.9% reported for non-Indigenous peoples. Causes of this may be multifarious including systemic racism and differences in cultural understanding. For more information on barriers to employment for Indigenous peoples, click here.

Read more about our efforts at education.