Aboriginal communities left behind in development discourse

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The term “developed country” shouldn’t imply that countries in the global North have reached a sort of utopia.

As Canadians, we generally look at “development” as something we need to assist other countries with. Discussions surrounding poverty alleviation, gender equality and technological advancement tend to focus on countries in Africa, Asia and South America.

But we seem to forget the issues present right on Canadian soil — issues very similar to the ones we become so passionate about in so-called “third world” countries.

While poverty affects many Canadians, it has always disproportionally affected Canada’s Aboriginal population.

In 2013, James Anaya, a UN indigenous rights investigator, argued that Aboriginal people in Canada live in similar conditions to those in developing countries.

It was found in 2013 that half of First Nations children in Canada live in poverty. In 2011, almost half of all children aged 14 and under in foster care were Aboriginal. In 2005, the average income for non-Aboriginals in Canada was $35,827, while for Aboriginals it was $23,888.

The list goes on.

Legacies of colonialism are to blame for many of the issues that Aboriginals in Canada face, but it seems as though the government has done little to eradicate such issues.

This was seen in the Harper government’s failure to follow through on the Kelowna Accord, which would have funded better education, employment opportunities and living conditions for Aboriginal communities.

The conditions of many of these communities remain dire and ignored by most — if not forgotten.

In light of recent campaigns that have called for an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women, it’s important to reflect on why, as one of the richest countries in the world, Canada has allowed such injustices to continue.

Perhaps these Aboriginal communities are a sobering reminder to the majority that we don’t live in a perfect state. In some ways, we’re very similar to those countries we consider to be “backwards” — countries that we’re so quick to blindly throw money and volunteer hours at — often without taking into account cultural and historical context of any sort.

We have the resources to focus on Aboriginal communities, but what must change is the notion that Canada is so far developed that there aren’t important issues that need to be addressed.

As we focus on issues in other countries, we should be working to improve the lives of those that live in Canada as well.

Mishal is one of the Journal’s Assistant News Editors. She’s a fourth-year political studies major.

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