FILE -- Idle No More protesters hand out information pamphlets during a Jan. 30, 2012 protest that aimed to shed light on the issues and challenges First Nations people face in Canada. On Wednesday, a study released by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives concludes that nearly half of all First Nation youth in Canada live in poverty.
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Despite the alarming findings of a new study that concludes half of Canada’s First Nation youth live in poverty, a spokeswoman for an Aboriginal women’s group says Canadians continue to ignore the issues.
The report, released Wednesday and titled Poverty or Prosperity: Indigenous Children in Canada, was conducted by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The report, compiled from the 2006 census data, shows that First Nation youth living in poverty is triple the rate of non-First Nation children living in Canada.
The situation is the worst in Manitoba and Saskatchewan where two out of three First Nation youth live in poverty.
Ontario had a three-way tie with British Columbia and Alberta where First Nation children living in poverty was three times the national average of Canadian children, which is about 17 per cent.
Maryanne Matthews, spokeswoman for the Ontario Native Women's Association, said that having that high of a number in a rich country like Canada is appalling and unacceptable.
“That should become a priority for all Canadians, not just First Nation organizations,” she said. “We’re all part of Canada. I think there needs to be a change in attitude about the realities of poverty within this country.
“We tend to see a lot of sympathy for poverty in third world countries and for those children. There tends to be a blind eye taken to the poverty that exists in our own country. I think we need to be more aware of that as a country as a whole. We need to be more open to talking about it freely.”
The report shows that it would cost $580 million to bring First Nation children out of poverty. That amount would mean Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada would have to increase its budget by 11 per cent.
The report argues that would be enough to eliminate poverty for First Nation children.
Matthews said it will take all governments working together to deal with this issue.
“We have yet to see a firm commitment from the government to properly address and rectify the situation,” she said.
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“We definitely think there needs to be an increase in funding to fix this gap. It’s not easy to just dish out those dollars but more commitment needs to be made to increase funding to where it is possible rather than continuously cutting funding for First Nation organizations.”