Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

In Depth

Aboriginal Canadians

Aboriginal peoples, 10 years after the royal commission

Last Updated Nov. 21, 2006

Ten years ago this week the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples released its mammoth five-volume report on the health, education and political status of Canada's Indians, Inuit and Metis.

After five years of study — the inquiry was created in the aftermath of the Oka Crisis of 1990 — the royal commission concluded that a sweeping change had to be made in the relationship between natives and Canadian governments. It also set out a detailed plan "to close the economic gap between Aboriginal Peoples and non-aboriginal peoples by 50 per cent and improve social conditions in the next 20 years."

Halfway through that 20-year goal, the government has been assigned a failing grade by Canada's Assembly of First Nations.

The AFN report card also coincided with the first anniversary of the Kelowna First Minister's Conference on Aboriginal Affairs. It set five-year, $5-billion goals for native education, economic development, housing, and health and water services.

Seventy-two hours after this deal was struck with native groups and the provinces, Paul Martin's minority government fell to Stephen Harper's Conservatives. In the subsequent May budget, only $450 million was set aside for Kelowna-related development.

Aboriginal leaders said this didn't come close to the funding promised by the Liberals.

"We're talking about quality of life and about the significant gap that exists between our communities and mainstream Canada," Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the assembly, said about Kelowna. "This plan was about closing that gap."

What the AFN report says

"Based on our assessment," the AFN report says, "Canada has failed in terms of its action to date."

Many of the goals set out by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples have not been addressed, the AFN observes. As well, it cites serious funding shortages for the ongoing quality of life gap between the majority of aboriginals and other Canadians.

Among the royal commission recommendations that haven't seen the light of day: The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was to be replaced by a minister of aboriginal relations (responsible for treaty and land claims issues) and a minister of Indian and Inuit services.

Other proposals, like reaffirming aboriginal and treaty rights through a royal proclamation and formally recognizing the jurisdiction of First Nations governments have also been ignored.

Canada's Aboriginal Peoples were intended to be included whenever Canada exercised its international responsibilities on human rights. However, Canada was one of two countries that voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal People in June 2006.

Ottawa gets a passing grade for the investigation into abuse at residential schools and the $350 million investment to provide support for native students. The only A grade was for the designation of National Aboriginal Day on June 21 of each year.

Action plan

Ottawa's Gathering Strength Action Plan, an outgrowth of the royal commission report, includes programs for housing, education, and cultural protection. And, indeed, there has been progress made on a variety of these fronts, according to Ottawa's own recent report cards on the economic status and well-being of Canada's Aboriginal Peoples.

But funding, the AFN says, falls short by approximately $7.9 billion from what had been initially envisioned. In addition, the Conservative government recently withdrew two $100-million programs for learning and child care.

One in four First Nations children live in poverty, compared to 1 in 6 Canadian children and almost 27,000 First Nations children are currently under the care of social services agencies.

Housing and health care

In 2003, Ottawa made a five-year commitment of $1.6 billion to upgrade native housing, primarily on reserves.

Currently, almost 12 per cent of First Nations communities have to boil their drinking water. Six per cent of First Nations homes, over 5,000 homes, are without sewage services. Almost 1,600 homes lack hot water, cold water or flushing toilets.

Life expectancy for First Nations men is 7.4 years less than their Canadian counterpart. For women, the divide is 5.2 years. Also, diabetes is at least three times the national average in native communities.

The AFN says it expects a health-care funding shortage of close to $2 billion over the next five years. It also says Ottawa failed to develop a framework where Aboriginal governments could deliver health and social services under provincial or territorial jurisdiction.

On the economic front, the report card notes, First Nations transfer payments have been capped, financing of aboriginal economic and business development through loans and support programs is limited, and unemployment in many First Nations communities is over 50 per cent.

Kelowna committed governments to a ten-year plan for employment and training but this has not gotten off the ground.

The royal commission also set out a series of political goals for First Nations governments. But the report states that federal inaction has prevented many communities from making progress on these initiatives.

Go to the Top

MENU

Residential schools
Justice Harry LaForme
The man to lead the truth and reconciliation panel
Chemical valley
Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia sounds alarm over toxins
Endangered languages
Facts and figures
A snapshot of Canada's booming aboriginal population
Status report 2006
Kashechewan: Water crisis in Northern Ontario
Voices of action
A sample of opinions on the aboriginal day of action
A timeline of residential schools

Related:

Aboriginal Canadians:
Previous pages on this topic
[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Canada »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Politics »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Health »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Technology & Science »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Money »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Consumer Life »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive] 302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »