Indigenous Peoples from an International Perspective

Aboriginal Futures, Joseph Quesnel, Publications

Executive Summary

• The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) is recognized as a more inclusive measurement of human development and well-being than is the traditional GDP.

• While Canada and other developed countries enjoy high rankings in the HDI, their indigenous peoples do not fare as well. Canada declared in the 1990s that it is the “best country in the world to live in,” based on its HDI ranking.

• Questions about whether the lives of indigenous peoples in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia have improved since the 1990s arose. A recent study that used a modified HDI system looked at the conditions of indigenous peoples.

• The study shows that Canada’s First Nations are doing better in terms of life expectancy, health and educational attainment, although progress in median income is inconsistent.

• New Zealand provides an interesting example because it shows rapid improvement within the indigenous Maori population in both education and median income over the period of 1990-2000, leading one to conclude that there is a correlation.

• Canada should look to New Zealand as a model for improving the lives of its indigenous populations by promoting self-reliance and increasing access to education.

• The relationship between education and socio-economic improvement strongly suggests the need for a concerted education strategy for Canada’s indigenous peoples.

• Data indicates that off-reserve Aboriginals score higher socio-economic outcomes than those living on-reserve. This raises the contentious issue of whether Aboriginal improvement lies outside of the reserves.

• Recent judicial rulings confirm that natural resource companies need to compensate First Nations for development on their traditional territories. Moreover, improvements to the land claims process should expedite access to lands. First Nations should leverage this access to land and resources to improve the conditions in their communities.

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