Aboriginal people face unique problems and challenges and many need financial and social assistance. Key issues of concern include: lower level of education, poor health, low income, and inadequate housing conditions.
Indigenous people earn about 30 percent less on average compared to non-aboriginals. Given the income gap and inequality, many need financial assistance. Income disparities persist despite the increase in educational level over the last decade. To this, there are government income assistance programs to equip indigenous people with skills and knowledge and close the income gap. Such programs are the First Nations Job Fund and Enhanced Service Delivery which offer training and support to Aboriginal people. Income assistance programs are designed to combat high rates of unemployment. Reports indicate that it will take over 60 years for the gap to be closed. There are active income assistance measures to help Aboriginals find jobs and improve employability, including voluntary work, apprenticeship, and skill training, but there is more to be done.
Employers also identify a mixture of problems, including personal capacities and training and skill gaps that help explain why more Aboriginal people need social assistance. Social exclusion and inequality are mainly responsible for income disparities and the current state of affairs.
Housing and Lifestyle
Shelter is a major problem for many because indigenous communities lack resources to improve the standard of living. Some people live in isolated reserves and communities that are far away from urban centers. About 49 percent of Aboriginal people live in reserves while the rest work and live in urban areas. More people need social assistance because of poor health and nutrition. The government offers public health services and promotion programs to indigenous communities in isolated and remote areas and reserves. These include emergency and primary care services.
There are programs and strategies directed at Aboriginal communities and organizations that focus on health, community wellness, family violence, crisis intervention, outpatient services, mental health, and more. At the same time, there are many problems in need of solution, including food insecurity, health behaviors, and community capacities, resources, and infrastructure.
The Way Forward
Labor force characteristics, lack of sufficient community resources, inadequate living conditions, and lower educational attainment help explain why more First Nations people need assistance. The challenges and problems are many and require complex solutions, better knowledge, and understanding of the root causes, problems and unique environments in which solutions would be developed and implemented. Education, health, living conditions, and income are all silver bullets to help overcome poverty and improve the standard of living. Initiatives such as distance education and teleconferencing may play an important role to this end. Economic development policies and programs directed toward Metis, Innuit, and First Nations people must be adapted to current realities and conditions. Pilot case studies and projects also help close the gap between Aboriginals and the rest of Canada.