Canada must address the crisis faced by aboriginal children; Much is needed to fix long-standing disparities between them and other children

Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun

Aboriginal children in Canada are in crisis, facing gross inequities and lacking opportunities open to other Canadian children, even though those other children also don’t have the full rights promised to them under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

That’s the message that the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates is sending to the UN committee on children’s rights in a special report called Canada Must Do Better, which was released Tuesday for consideration in the 2012 review of Canada’s compliance with the convention.

The child advocates, who are appointed by nine provincial legislatures (Prince Edward Island doesn’t have one) and Yukon, make the point that conditions for aboriginal children are of vital importance since their numbers are increasing at the fastest rate of any identifiable group in Canada.

The statistics in their report are not new, but bear repeating because they reflect just how badly Canada is doing.

  • 49 per cent of off-reserve first nations children under six live in low-income families compared to 18 per cent of non-aboriginal children.
  • 57 per cent of off-reserve first nations children living in large cities live in low-income families.
  • Aboriginal children in British Columbia are six times more likely to be taken into government care than nonaboriginal children.
  • 54 per cent of the children in care in B.C. are aboriginal.
  • In 2006, 34 per cent of aboriginal people aged 25 to 64 had not completed high school, compared to 15 per cent of non-aboriginal Canadians.
  • A third of aboriginal children live in low-income families where access to food is a concern.
  • Nine in every 1,000 infants are born with fetal alcohol syndrome‚Ķ.

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