Study reveals Canada’s shameful Indigenous child poverty rates

60% of First Nation children on reserve live in poverty
May 17, 2016

OTTAWA—Indigenous children in Canada are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than non-Indigenous children, says a study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The study calculates poverty rates on reserves and in the territories—something never before examined. It disaggregates child poverty statistics and identifies three tiers of poverty for children in Canada:

    1. The worst poverty is experienced by status First Nation children, 51% of whom live in poverty, rising to 60% for children on reserve.  Child poverty rates on-reserve worsened between 2005 and 2010.
    2. The second tier encompasses other Indigenous children and disadvantaged groups. The children of immigrants suffer a child poverty rate of 32%, while racialized (visible minority) children have a poverty rate of 22%. Between these are found non-status First Nations children (30%), Inuit children (25%) and Métis children (23%).
    3. The third tier consists of children who are non-Indigenous, non-racialized and non-immigrant, where the rate of 13% is similar to the OECD average.

“The shameful reality in Canada is that devastatingly high child poverty on reserves is getting worse, not better,” says David Macdonald Senior Economist with the CCPA. “Despite recent attempts at reconciliation concerning abuse in residential schools, we are risking a new lost generation of Indigenous youth who are growing up in unconscionable poverty.”

Among the study’s findings:

    • The poverty rate for First Nation children living on reserve is highest in Manitoba (76%) and Saskatchewan (69%) and lowest in Quebec (37%).
    • When examined by city, Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon have the highest Indigenous child poverty rates of 42%, 41%, and 39%, respectively. At 19%, Toronto has the lowest Indigenous child poverty rate.
    • Ontario, where Attawapiskat is located, has an on-reserve child poverty rate of 48%, while across Hudson Bay in Quebec, the James Bay Cree have a rate of 23%.

“There has historically been a frustrating lack of data when it comes to Indigenous poverty in Canada,” says Daniel Wilson, co-author of the report. “The Conservative government’s decision to deprive reserves of adequate funding is clearly related to the increase in child poverty we have observed. It is our hope that measuring and reporting on these shameful levels of child poverty can help bring an end to policymaking in a void of information.”

The study calls for immediate action on a poverty reduction plan for reserves that would: 1. report poverty rates on reserves and in the territories; 2. improve direct income support; 3. improve employment prospects; and 4. begin to implement longer-term solutions.

“For Canada’s youngest and fastest-growing population, it is critical that we come to terms with the ongoing crisis affecting Indigenous people and act immediately to help resolve it. The growth of Indigenous child poverty cannot be allowed to deprive another generation of opportunity,” says Wilson.


Shameful Neglect: Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada is available on the CCPA website.

For more information, contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Director of Communications, at 613-563-1341 x306.