Report Analysis Suggests Ways to Improve First Nation Outcomes

Media Appearances, Aboriginal Futures, Frontier Centre

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a background paper analysing Indigenous Well-Being in Four Countries: An Application of the UNDP’s Human Development Index to Indigenous Peoples in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, a study prepared by four researchers in Canada and Australia. The study was originally published in the journal BMC International Health and Human Rights in December 2007.

The Centre’s background paper, Indigenous Peoples from an International Perspective: How is Canada Faring? and written by Joseph Quesnel, used the report’s results to determine how First Nations in Canada could do better. “Anecdotal evidence,” Quesnel writes, “as well as recent empirical data, points to the persistence of poverty and dysfunction in many First Nation communities. However, as this study demonstrates, there are indigenous populations outside Canada that are doing better in key areas. What can First Nations learn from these examples?”

“A more meaningful contribution from the report,” he said, “comes from learning what ingredients are working for specific indigenous groups. In other words, what conditions within specific societies are allowing individual prosperity to occur? Since some indigenous populations are succeeding in certain areas, why can’t they all? My background paper attempts to address these important questions. It also looks to future trends in Canada and at how First Nations can improve their standing.”

Key findings:

  • 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 same period, 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 indicate that off-reserve Aboriginals score higher 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.