Economic outcomes improving for Indigenous people, but not fast enough, report says

Economic outcomes are improving for Indigenous Peoples in Canada, but the changes aren’t happening fast enough, according to a new report.

The National Indigenous Economic Development Board (NIEDB) released its Indigenous Economic Progress report in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Tuesday.

We have to work together to close these gaps.– Melanie Delorme

“Indigenous economic development is a powerful untapped resource to drive Canada’s future economic growth,” the summary of the report reads.

Tuesday’s release is an update to the NIEDB’s initial report in 2012, in which the group set an ambitious goal that would see First Nations, Métis and Inuit reach economic parity with non-Indigenous Canadians by 2022.

Doing so would add $27.7 billion to the Canadian economy annually, the group said.

“We’re not on track to meeting that goal in Canada and what that says is that we have a lot of work to do in this country — Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” board member Marie Delorme said.

“We have to work together to close these gaps.”

While the report’s findings aren’t the same for First Nations, Métis and Inuit, it did find that some outcomes are improving across the board.

Sheshatshiu is one of two Innu First Nation reserves in Labrador. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

“Education rates are improving, high school graduation rates are improving, the rates of graduation from colleges and universities are also improving,” Delorme said.

“But they are not where they need to be for Indigenous people.”

The report suggests the gap in median income levels is narrowing, Delorme said, but the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employment rates hasn’t changed.

Access an issue for Inuit

For people living on reserves, the report said statistics “demonstrate persistent and sometimes worsening outcome deficits in terms of employment rates, income and educational levels.”

“There are some fundamental reasons. There are restrictions in the Indian Act around taxation, for example,” Delorme said.

“There are fundamental issues of connectivity. Infrastructure is an issue.”

The 2019 Indigenous Economic Progress report is an update to a report done in 2015. The goal for economic parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians remains 2022. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

While the outcomes are improving for Inuit, they “continue to face barriers to fully participating in the economy,” the report reads.

Inuit were the only population in the report’s findings to see an increase in those participating in the labour force between 2006 and 2016, but Inuit unemployment increased more than either Métis or First Nations.

The report also said that education outcomes for Inuit are improving, but high school, college and university completion rates aren’t keeping up with other Indigenous groups.

“This could be due to the additional barriers that Inuit face in education attainment in northern and remote communities,” the report reads.

Gender parity gap

An interesting finding in the report for Delorme is that, when it comes to things like pay and employment for Indigenous Peoples, the gaps between women and men are narrower than the gaps between non-Indigenous men and women.

“Our gaps with our people are narrower, but they are still significant when compared to the general population,” Delorme said.

Inuit communities like Nain in Nunatsiavut, a community in a settled land claim area in Northern Labrador, face barriers to fully participating in the Canadian economy. (Submitted by Megan Webb)

She also said that Métis are making greater gains in a more significant way than Inuit and First Nations on almost all indicators.

“You could make some inferences from that — that over 50 percent of Métis people are living in urban centres,” Delorme said.

“And of course you have more access to all of the elements that contribute to economic indicators.”

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