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Where are we now? Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Even after moves towards reconciliation, Indigenous Peoples experience high levels of discrimination that impact their sense of belonging in Canada.

Rajvir Gill

The Global Pluralism Monitor: Canada report reiterates one of the most pressing issues Canada faces in terms of Pluralism. Canada’s Indigenous Peoples have historically and continue to experience higher levels of discrimination and systemic abuse, as well as lower economic and political opportunities that limit their trust and feelings of shared belonging in Canada. While there are federal government programs aiming to assist Indigenous Peoples economically, and gains have been made through Supreme Court decisions on land rights and the duty to consult, the ramifications of colonization on Indigenous Peoples continues to negatively impact past, present and future generations.

As evidenced in the Monitor report’s examination of Group-Based Inequalities for Indigenous Peoples, Canada must take action on the persistent inequalities faced by Indigenous Peoples. The Monitor report assesses Group-Based Inequalities by using indicators on political, economic, social and cultural inequalities, and access to justice factors for each diversity group.

For the first indicator of Political representation, Indigenous Peoples are shown to be underrepresented in federal politics with limited to no Cabinet representation. The Economic indicator shows that Indigenous Peoples have higher unemployment rates, lower median incomes, and limited access to land and resources than other Canadians. In terms of where Indigenous Peoples fare on the Social indicator, Canada continues to fail its Indigenous Peoples with significant barriers to quality education, healthcare, and services, especially for those living on reserves. The significant health disparities for Indigenous Peoples and in particular women are alarming, with lower rates of life expectancies for Indigenous women, and the effects of forced sterilization campaigns against the community. Furthermore, the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system also points to a social inequality that affects Indigenous Peoples disproportionately.

When it comes to the Cultural indicator, it can not be ignored that Indigenous Peoples were subject to years of systematic and abusive assimilation practices affecting their ability to practice culture and speak their languages, and continue to be impacted by the legacies of these practices. While the government now supports the recognition of Indigenous languages and cultures, there are limitations to this support present in the Canadian Constitution. Finally, for the Access to Justice indicator, Canada fares poorly in its treatment of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples overall have less access to justice and legal services especially for those living in the northern part of the country. In addition, Indigenous Peoples face systemic discrimination from law enforcement and the court system, while also being overrepresented in the prison system. Efforts have been made to introduce restorative justice principles for Indigenous Peoples, however more resources and implementation are needed to see the benefits of such practices.

To learn more about the status of Indigenous Peoples in Canada using our Global Pluralism Monitor framework, visit the Canada country page.