• First Nations poverty a 'state of emergency,' children's advocate says
May 18, 2016

The First Nations advocate for children in care in Manitoba, Cora Morgan, says a poverty report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reveals a "state of emergency" facing Indigenous children in Canada.

The report, written by David Macdonald and Daniel Wilson, found the majority of First Nations children on reserve live in poverty or 61 per cent. The situation for children off reserve is not much better; 51 per cent live in poverty.

Comparatively only a small minority, 13 per cent, of children labeled "non-Indigenous, non-racialized and non-immigrant" live in poverty, a rate similar to the OECD average, said Macdonald and Wilson.

The worst poverty rates facing children were those who live in Manitoba, found Macdonald and Wilson.

In Manitoba, 76 per cent of First Nations kids on reserves live in poverty, a level the report's authors called "obscene."

"Something has to be urgently done. That's an enormous amount of suffering for children," said Morgan.

Poverty is a root cause of many issues facing Indigenous communities in the province — including the high number of children in care and suicide, she said..

"This poverty leads to so many other tragedies and traumas," said Morgan.

"You know there's a direct feed into child welfare."

While Morgan said money isn't enough to eradicate child poverty she is calling the federal government to increase funding to reserves.

"They are chronically underfunded. The school systems are far behind the rest of mainstream society and the rest of Canada," said Morgan.

The Liberals's 2016 budget earmarked $8.4 billion to be spent over five years to improve socio-economic conditions of Indigenous peoples and their communities.

"When we're looking at that level of despair, the amount of money isn't even going to make a dent in that," said Morgan.

Along with an increase in funding, Morgan said she wants to see an attitudinal change in Canada.

"It's changing the way that children are valued in this country," she said.