Aboriginal Economic Progress Report Shows Little Progress

Osoyoos, British Columbia – June 17, 2015 – The National Indigenous Economic Development Board (NIEDB), released its first Progress Report, on the state of Indigenous economic development today at the First Nations Infrastructure, Land Development & Urban Planning Conference (RezLAND) in Osoyoos, British Columbia.

The report builds on the 2012 Aboriginal Economic Benchmarking Report, which was the first national effort to set ten-year targets for the purposes of tracking the economic progress of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada.

“The 2012 Aboriginal Economic Benchmarking Report set the bold target of closing the gap in economic outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people by 2022, however three years after the initial report, the gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians remain large,” said Chief Clarence Louie, Chair of the NIEDB .

According to the report, while some progress has been made between 2006 and 2011, Indigenous people in Canada are currently not on track to achieving parity with non-Indigenous Canadians. In particular, the outcomes for First Nations on reserve have shown the least improvement. For First Nations on reserve, the employment rate declined from 39.0% to 35.4% and the unemployment rate increased from 24.9% to 25.2%.

Much of the progress outlined in the Progress Report reflects improved outcomes for the Inuit and Métis populations. For instance, Inuit unemployment declined from 20.3% in 2006 to 19.5% in 2011 – representing a two percentage point drop in the gap with the non-Indigenous population. Showing additional progress, the average income gap between Métis and the non-Indigenous population was reduced by 6.7%. In addition, in 2011, the employment rates for Métis were higher than the non-Indigenous population, at 61.8% compared to 61.2%.

In an effort to better reflect the changing economic landscape, a specific focus on Indigenous youth and regional outcomes has been included in the Progress Report. This focus helps to reflect the differences in the age structures and the differences in indicators by province and territory for both the Indigenous and the non-Indigenous population. This is important given the fact that the Indigenous population is both younger and growing more rapidly than the non-Indigenous population. The overall Indigenous population grew at an average rate of 3.6% per year from 2006 to 2011, four times faster than the non-Indigenous population. Differences in the age structure between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population can explain differences in some of the aggregate outcomes between the two groups.

“The Board is concerned that much of the economic potential of Aboriginal people remains unrealized,” said Dawn Madahbee, Vice-Chair of the NIEDB . “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.”

Based on the findings contained in the report, the NIEDB has come forward with the following eight recommendations. Please refer to the report for full recommendations.

  • First Nations on Reserve: It is strongly recommended that the development of discrete strategies for closing the gaps for First Nations on reserve be a government-wide priority. The Federal economic agenda needs to concentrate on First Nation treaty rights, obligations and working relationships.
  • Education: It is strongly recommended that continued and sustained efforts be made in ensuring Indigenous people have access to and receive high quality education in every corner of the country. To address this issue, it is recommended that an Indigenous-led Task Force on Indigenous Education be established;
  • Employment and Skills Training: It is recommended that investments in Indigenous skills development and training by all levels of government and industry be designed and tailored to meet the unique needs of Indigenous people, that aligns with concrete employment opportunities;
  • Employment and Skills Training (2): It is recommended that federal and provincial Indigenous labour market programming be regularly reviewed and revitalized, in consultation and in collaboration with Indigenous people, ensuring that programming is sustainable over the longer term.
  • Community Development: It is recommended that water and waste management systems be a priority for all Indigenous communities in Canada as a primary means to improve overall human health;
  • Business Development: It is recommended that the suite of Indigenous business programming and Aboriginal Financial Institutions be supported with the necessary level of capital and expertise (human and administrative) required to build a vibrant network of Indigenous businesses throughout Canada.

It is further recommended that financial supports be provided allowing Aboriginal Financial Institutions, who are generally located near major economic projects, to assist Indigenous communities with seed money and necessary capital required to participate meaningfully and invest in these opportunities.

  • Youth: It is recommended that a national Aboriginal youth strategy, focused on improving education, business and employment outcomes, be developed with the full engagement of First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth.
  • Data Collection: It is recommended that data collection be continuously improved and expanded, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal communities and institutions, using this report as a guide, 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.”

The NIEDB will continue to track the progress of Indigenous Canadians across all of the measures listed in the Aboriginal Economic Benchmarking Report and will report back to Canadians on a regular basis. The Board is committed to preparing a second Aboriginal Economic Progress Report in 2018 to track and assess advancements made in closing the gaps.

The Progress Report
The Aboriginal Economic Progress Report builds on the NIEDB’s 2012 Aboriginal Economic Benchmarking Report. It compares data from the 2006 Census and the 2011 National Household Survey to track changes in outcomes between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. The Progress Report is mainly used to compare key socio-outcomes, including employment, income, and education indicators, between Indigenous heritage groups (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) and the non-Indigenous population. It is not intended to explain why differences in outcomes exist. An advisory committee composed of seven economists and academics assisted the Board in the completion of this report.

Established in 1990, the NIEDB is a Governor in Council appointed board mandated to provide strategic policy and program advice to the federal government on Indigenous economic development. Comprised of First Nations, Inuit and Métis community and business leaders from across Canada, the Board plays an important role in helping the federal government develop economic policies and programs that are coordinated, accessible and responsive to the unique needs and circumstances of Indigenous Canadians.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

David Rodier
Hill+Knowlton Strategies