Brantford, ON (April 11, 2011) – First Nations across Canada have united in their call to raise First Nations poverty as a significant issue during the federal election campaign.

“It’s unacceptable that First Nations poverty continues to exist in this day and age,” said Bob Goulais, campaign organizer from Nipissing First Nation. “We are not speaking about poverty as a metaphor.  We’re talking about real child poverty, homelessness and third world conditions right here in Canada. This should be a significant election issue. Resolving First Nations poverty should a priority for each and every party and politician in this country.”

The statistics speak for themselves. Campaign 2000 has found that one in four First Nations children live in poverty as compared to one in six for non-Aboriginal children. According to the Status of Women Canada, rates of poverty for Aboriginal women are double that of non-Aboriginal women. The Government of Canada itself has found that Aboriginal people in Canada were found to be four times more likely to experience hunger as a direct result of poverty.

“There is a significant socio-economic gap between First Nation and all other Canadians,” added Goulais.  “Just take a look at health determinants, incarceration rates, unemployment rates, income levels and education levels. First Nations are at a significant disadvantage.”

Specifically, First Nations are calling for three action items:

  • A First Minister’s Meeting on Aboriginal People with the goal of developing a comprehensive strategy to eliminate child and family poverty and to close the gap between First Nations people and all Canadians.
  • Budget provisions to increase support to First Nations families through investments in child poverty, education, housing and homelessness, employment programs as well as skills and training. For 15 years, the funding formula to support First Nations has been capped at 2% per year –while inflation and the growing Aboriginal population would have required an annual funding increase of 6.2%. New investments are needed in order to lift the 2 per cent gap and close the gap.
  • Resolving long-standing issues with First Nation’s labour force. The Canada Revenue Agency is moving on a widespread plan to enforce crippling back taxes and penalties on thousands of Canadian workers who are among Canada’s working poor. The majority are women and many are single mothers.

Through the Closing the Gap strategy, incumbent Members of Parliament, all candidates and their political parties will be reached through a national letter-writing and postcard campaign. The message of awareness will also be spread through social networking.

The Closing the Gap campaign is supported by the Assembly of First Nations, Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Union of Ontario Indians.

“Closing the gap is an urgent priority that will benefit First Nations and all Canadians. During the federal election campaign, we invite all Canadians to learn more about First Nations and the potential we have to support one another.”

– National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations

“If we look at our traditions, and the way we treated each other within our families and communities, women had an important and equal say. Today, Canada is not treating us in an equal manner and that is what’s keeping Aboriginal women in poverty. We need work close the gap between Aboriginal women and all Canadians. I would hope that all parties would make resolving First Nations poverty a priority.”

– Jeanette Corbiere-Lavell, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

“The major reason for the gap in living conditions between First Nations citizens and others who live in Canada is that they are enjoying their treaty rights to share our lands and resources, while we are still fighting to have our rights recognized. This injustice must be promptly and adequately addressed by whoever forms Canada’s next government following the May 2nd federal election.”

– Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee of the Union of Ontario Indians

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For more information contact:

Bob Goulais
Tel. (905) 581-5594