Aboriginal individuals have a long and rich history that is inclusive of rich cultural and spiritual roots. A large section of the traditions were however changed or forcefully removed when the settlers came into the picture. The forceful introduction of European way of life and morals to Aboriginal societies, the possession of Aboriginal lands, and the introduction of alien forms of administration introduced a chain of societal, physical and spiritual obliteration. The effects of this destruction are still evident today. Some of the effects that are as a result of this destruction include poverty, lack of proper health care, and the use of drugs. Fundamental to these challenges is a loss of identity and an adopted helplessness from having the values of the Aboriginal being oppressed and their rights not being recognized. This paper examines some of the current challenges that Aboriginal people in Canada face today and the root of those issues.
One of the current issues that are faced by Aboriginals is poverty and inequality. The root of the current issue of poverty can be traced back to the colonial time when Aboriginal communities were forced to relocate from their original lands and taken to settle in small tracts of land that were referred to as Reserves. The lack of planning in relocating those people led to impoverishment for those who were living in the reserves. A large section of the Aboriginal people that were taken to live in the reserves died due to hunger and lack of shelter. This was worsened by the decision of the Canadian government to put a restriction on the amount of relief aid that was supposed to be taken to those living in the shelters something that aggravated the poverty levels among this group of people (Reading, & Wien, 2014.
Once the Aboriginal people were allowed to leave the reserves, a large section of them relocated to the big cities in a bid to get rid of poverty. However, instead of finding the employment opportunities that they so much hoped for, a large section of these individuals were met with racist attitudes that were for long embedded in the Canadian society. Despite the passage of time, the legacy of poverty is still prevalent today. Research shows that Aboriginal people are twice as likely to live in poverty as compared to the non-Aboriginal communities. The percentage of Aboriginal people that are poor is estimated to be 55.5% and 52.1% of all Aboriginal children live in poverty. Shelter is a big issue among First Nations communities as only a mere 56% of houses are considered as adequate. This means that 54% of the shelters where Aboriginal people live are in need of major improvements (Lavoie, Forget, & O’Neil, 2015).
One of the current issues that Aboriginal people face is the lack of access to health care. When they came to North America, Europeans brought along numerous diseases that had a major effect on the Aboriginal people since they were not immune to them and did not have the skill on how to treat it. In addition to this, the Aboriginal treatment practices were often seen as inferior and in some cases were even banned. With the passage of time, the racism and discrimination had a negative effect of the Aboriginal people. Even though the Canadian health care system is regarded as one of the best in the entire world, the Aboriginal communities are still without meaningful health care today. This phenomenon has been advanced by the cultural and geographical barriers that most Aboriginal people face today. Today, a large section of First Nations people experience a disproportionate burden of infectious illnesses and the evidence of this can be seen from the fact that Tuberculosis infections are 8 to 10 times higher among First Nations than in the Canadian population in entirety. Aboriginal children have also got a 2 to 5 time’s likelihood of having dental decay than the non-Aboriginal children (King, Smith, & Gracey, 2016).
Another of the challenges that Aboriginal people face today is the lack of employment opportunities. This barrier dates back to the colonial days where most First Nations people were segregated upon in the offering of employment. The Aboriginals were viewed by the White settlers as savages and inferior while the Aboriginal reacted to this with hatred and anger towards the Whites. This prevented the Aboriginal people from seeking employment opportunities from the Whites. The practice is still prevalent today and the phenomenon has created a scenario where Aboriginal Youth 15-24 years are twice as likely to be out of employment as compared to non-Aboriginal youth. In 2012, the employment rate for Aboriginal youth stood at 19% against only 10% for the non-Aboriginal youth. The high employment rate is caused by poor communication as well as the cultural differences between the First Nations youth and the non-Aboriginals (Kirmayer, Simpson, & Cargo, 2012).
Another challenge that most Aboriginal communities face is the lack of education. In 2011, only a mere 8% of the 25-34 age bracket had university education as compared to 28% the Canadian people who had university education. The biggest challenge that has led to most Aboriginal people lacking proper education is because 98% of the schools are run by the Aboriginals themselves. With the lack of experience in school administration, such schools have remained non effective thus leading to lower education standards among the Aboriginals. Even though there have been efforts designed towards increasing the number of Aboriginal schools, enrollment to those schools still remains low (Adelson, 2013).
- Adelson, N. (2013). The embodiment of inequity: Health disparities in Aboriginal Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 96(2): S45-S61.
- King, M., Smith, A., & Gracey, M. (2016). Indigenous health part 2: The underlying causes of the health gap. The Lancet, 374(9683), 76-85.
- Kirmayer, L., Simpson, C., & Cargo, M. (2012). Healing traditions: Culture, community and mental health promotion with Canadian Aboriginal peoples. Australasian Psychiatry, 11(s1), S15-S23.
- Lavoie, J.G., Forget, E., & O’Neil, J.D. (2015). Why equity in financing First Nations on-reserve health services matters: Findings from the 2005 National Evaluation of the Health Transfer Policy. Healthcare Policy, 2(4), 79-96.
- Reading, C., & Wien, F. (2014). Health Inequalities and Social Determinants of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health. Prince George, BC: National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.