Income gap for Aboriginal peoples stubbornly high: Report

April 8, 2010

OTTAWA – Income inequality between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canadians is stubbornly high, says a groundbreaking new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

For every dollar non-Aboriginals earned in 2006, Aboriginal peoples earned only 70 cents – a slight narrowing from 1996 when it was 56 cents for every dollar, say co-authors Dan Wilson and David Macdonald, who dug into 2006 Census data to quantify, for the first time ever, the Aboriginal income gap in Canada.

“The gap between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canadians narrowed slightly between 1996 and 2006, but at this rate it won’t disappear for another 63 years without a new approach,” says Wilson. “Ironically, if and when parity with non-Aboriginals is achieved, Aboriginal peoples will reach the same level of income inequality as the rest of Canadians – which is getting worse.”

Key findings in The Income Gap Between Aboriginal Peoples and the Rest of Canadians:

  • The gap is big: In 2006, the median income for Aboriginal peoples was $18,962 – 30 per cent lower than the $27,097 median income for the rest of Canadians.
  • The gap persists, even on reserves: First Nations people working on urban reserves earn 75 cents for every dollar a non-First Nations person makes; on rural reserves they earn 53 cents per dollar that a non-First Nations  person makes.
  • New gender trends: Aboriginal women are now earning median incomes closer to those of Aboriginal men – a trend that isn’t being replicated in the general Canadian population. They’re also getting high school diplomas and university degrees at a higher rate than Aboriginal men.
  • Education is one part of the answer: Aboriginal women who graduated with at least a Bachelor’s degree now have higher median incomes than non-Aboriginal Canadian women with equivalent education.

“The findings in this study suggest reason for hope,” Wilson says. “Wiping out Aboriginal poverty and closing the income gap is a possibility, within our lifetime. But it requires new commitment from our governments to make it happen.”

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Dan Wilson is a researcher of Mi’kmaq, Acadian and Irish heritage who previously worked for the Assembly of First Nations. David Macdonald is an economist and Research Associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Their report can be downloaded at

For more information please contact: Trish Hennessy (416) 525-4927.