Supporters gather as a group of Aboriginal youth arrive in Ottawa after walking 1,600 km, March 25, 2013 (Photo: AP)
According to a new report from the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), Aboriginal people in Canada face "persistent conditions of disadvantage" and "barriers to equality of opportunity" compared to non-Aboriginals.
The finding should not be surprising, says David Gollob, Director of Communications at CHRC.
"It's not news to anyone that the dice are loaded against Aboriginal people in Canada," Gollob told Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in an interview.
"If you're born as an Aboriginal person in Canada today, you face conditions of disadvantage that do not reflect a state or a society in which there is equality of opportunity," he continued.
The 'Report on Equality Rights of Aboriginal People' provides some empirical evidence of the impact that a lack of equal opportunity is having on the Aboriginal community.
Here's a run-down of the report's findings about Aboriginal Canadians, as compared to non-Aboriginals:
• They have lower median after-tax income;
• They are more likely to experience unemployment;
• They are more likely to collect social assistance;
• Their homes are more often in need of major repairs;
• They are more likely to experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse;
• They are victims of violent crimes more frequently;
• They are more likely to be incarcerated and less likely to be granted parole.
Back in 2010, the CHRC published the Framework for Documenting Equality Rights, a tool designed to allow governments, communities, and non-governmental organizations to look at and contextualize groups of people from a human rights perspective.
This is the first time the Framework has been systematically applied to Aboriginal Canadians, and it looks at the seven dimensions of well-being that are considered critical to equality: economic well-being, education, employment, health, housing, justice and safety, and political and social inclusion.
The study's authors used data from surveys conducted by Statistics Canada to build the report.
Journalist and author Richard Wagamese of the Ojibway Wabasseemoong First Nation told the Kamloops Daily News the report should be a wake-up call.
"A report like this would seem to indicate that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way that Canadians are educated about the realities about their own country," he said.
Quality of housing is one area where there's a big gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
As you can see in the chart below, which is based on data from the 2006 Census, the percentage of Aboriginal people whose homes are in need of major repair is more than double that of non-Aboriginals, regardless of age or gender:
(Chart: CHRC report)
More Aboriginals are incarcerated when they are convicted of crimes, as well - data from Correctional Services Canada shows that 63 per cent of Aboriginal female offenders and 72.8 per cent of male offenders convicted of crimes wound up incarcerated, compared with 47.9 per cent of non-Aboriginal female offenders and 60.5 per cent of male offenders.
(Chart: CHRC report)
Another area of inequality is emotional and financial abuse - Aboriginal people reported much higher rates of abuse than non-Aboriginals in a 2009 General Social Survey.
The difference is stark. As the report's authors point out, the proportions of both Aboriginal women and men who report emotional or financial abuse by their spouse or partner is nearly double the proportions of non-Aboriginals reporting the same experience.
(Chart: CHRC report)
While the report makes no recommendations, it will be used in a few ways. Langtry writes "it is hoped that this report will serve to inform the work of stakeholders and government departments seeking to address" issues of discrimination and equality rights.
And the report will also be employed to track future progress on Aboriginal rights.
"We're going to go back and do this study again in five years time," Gollob told APTN. "And hopefully by then changes that are underway today will reflect themselves in positive impacts on these same economic and social wellbeing indicators."