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Political & Economic Organizations - Additional Reading

Business and Politics

A. Standard of LIving

The United Nations Human Development Index consistently rates Canada as having one of the world’s highest standards of living – including the amount of living space per person per dwelling, the number of major repairs needed on a home, access to quality water, healthcare, education and so on.  The same index places the standard of living for First Nations at the same level as developing countries, such as Botswana and Vietnam. 

Statistics Canada defines crowded living conditions as homes with one or more people per room.  This means that a home with a kitchen, living room, dining room and two bedrooms would be considered crowded with more than five people living there.  In the 2001, Aboriginal Peoples Survey, 17% of Aboriginals living off reserves reported living in crowded conditions, whereas only 7% of all Canadians reported this. In 2001, 53%  of Inuit people reported living in crowded conditions.

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It was reported that 34% of Inuit peoples reported that there were times of year that their drinking water was unsafe.  In Nunavik, a northern Quebec Inuit region, the rate was reported at 73% during parts of the year.

 Government officials and Aboriginal leaders recognize that the causes for low standards of living (including poverty) must be addressed rather than the symptoms.  For example, programs need to address why individuals are unemployed, not provide money to replace employment income.

Aboriginal leaders today seek greater control over their lands and resources, as well as an equitable share of the wealth these resources represent.  They see this as an essential first step in re-establishing their peoples' self-sufficiency, something they enjoyed for thousands of years before European contact.

A Caution When Measuring Standard of Living

'Standard of Living' does not assess quality of life.  For example, poverty is one factor that causes low standards of living.  The rate of Aboriginal people living beneath the poverty line is nearly three times higher than that of other Canadians.  Yet First Nations considered poor in comparison to other Canadians might assess their own quality of life as high.  The people who left the Hobbema reserve in 1968 to live in Smallboy Camp, lived a life that had a low standard of living; tents for homes, fires for warmth in the winter and an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing.  Despite these living conditions, many people at the camp assessed their quality of life as high.