The gaps in economic outcomes between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal Canadians remains large, said Chief Clarence Louie, chair of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board. The NAEDB released its first Progress Report on the state of Aboriginal economic development June 17 in Osoyoos, B.C.
The report builds on the 2012 Aboriginal Economic Benchmarking Report, which set 10-year targets for the purposes of tracking the economic progress of Aboriginal people in Canada, including closing the gap in economic outcomes by 2022. But three years in, the gap remains significant.
For First Nations on reserve, the employment rate declined from 39 per cent to 35.4 per cent and the unemployment rate increased from 24.9 per cent to 25.2 per cent. Improved
outcomes can be seen, however, in Inuit and Metis populations. Inuit unemployment declined from 20.3 per cent in 2006 to 19.5 per cent in 2011. The average income gap between Métis and the non-Aboriginal population was reduced by 6.7 per cent.
The overall Aboriginal population grew at an average rate of 3.6 per cent per year from 2006 to 2011, four times faster than the non-Aboriginal population.
“The NAEDB is concerned that much of the economic potential of Aboriginal people remains unrealized,” said Dawn Madahbee, vice-chair. “The only way forward is through economic, business, education, employment and community development led by strong governance, political will and sufficient targeted financial investments in these areas.”
The NAEDB has released eight recommendations, including making closing the gaps for First Nations on reserve a government-wide priority. The federal economic agenda needs to concentrate on First Nation treaty rights, obligations and working relationships, a press statement reads.
The NAEDB calls for the establishment of a Aboriginal-led Task Force on Aboriginal Education. It calls for investments in Aboriginal skills development and training aligned with
concrete employment opportunities. It’s recommended that water and waste management systems be a priority for all Aboriginal communities in Canada, that the suite of Aboriginal business programming and Aboriginal Financial Institutions be supported with capital and expertise to build “a vibrant
network of Aboriginal businesses throughout Canada.”
NAEDB calls for an Aboriginal youth strategy, focused on improving education, business and employment outcomes. And the group has turned its attention to data collection, which needs to be continuously improved and expanded, so that
economic and social progress can be tracked and improved.
“The Board firmly believes that economic development is the foundation for real reconciliation and true collaboration between governments, private sector businesses and all Aboriginal
people,” said Chief Louie. “It is clear that there is still much work to be done before Aboriginal people are in the same position as other Canadians to contribute to and benefit from one of the world’s wealthiest economies. It is essential that we continue to enact policies and programs that will drive economic development and contribute to closing the gap.” A second Aboriginal Economic Progress Report is scheduled for 2018 to track and assess advancements made in closing the gaps.