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5a) I've heard that living conditions on many reserves are deplorable. Why can't native people take care of what they have?

"If you look at the data you will know the situation we are in. So we have talked about having our own systems. We have not felt justice in the courts within your systems. Our potlatch systems was our highest court of law. . ."

- Levina Lightboun, Haida

Of the 126,625 aboriginals living in B.C. (4.4% of the population of B.C.) 54.2% live on reserves. (B.C. has 1650 of Canada's 2300 reserves.) Of those living on reserve, 39% are under the age of 15.

Data outlining native life in B.C. reveals a terrifying reality:

  1. Employment

    According to 1989 figures, only three out of ten on-reserve registered Indians, aged 15 years or older, are employed (versus five out of ten for the rest of B.C.) Of these, 26% are employed in the Primary sector (logging, fishing, trapping) and earn an annual income of $9800 versus $18,700 for the rest of British Columbians. Almost half the total income for on-reserve registered Indians, aged 15 years or more, are government transfer payments.

  2. Education

    Figures published in 1989 reveal that those living on reserve have less formal education than the average B.C. citizen.

    bullet35.6% of on-reserve, age 15+, B.C. registered Indians have less than Grade 9 education versus 11.1% for the rest of B.C.
    bullet26.7% of on-reserve, age 15+, B.C. registered Indians have high school education versus 59.3% for the rest of B.C.

    Only 20% of native children complete Grade 12 compared to the provincial average of 75%. Though the formal education of native people significantly lags behind the rest of the province there have been dramatic and positive increases in the number of natives attending university and in the number of bands who have assumed control of schools on reserves.

    	Year		Number of Indians Attending University
    	1960				60
    	1985/86				5800
    	1986/87				13,196
    	Year		Number of Band-Operated Schools
    	1975/76				53
    	1986/87				243
  3. Living Conditions

    Many reserves have considerable material resources but lack capital, often combined with the results of past government policies encouraging dependence and inhibiting economic development. Lack of opportunities to earn a living, combined with other social and psychological forces, result in poor living conditions.

    A 1985 study by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) concludes that 47% of on-reserve housing fails to meet basic standards of physical adequacy and 36% of housing situations are seriously overcrowded. Nearly 19% of native houses have two or more families in them. Half the homes on reserve need major repairs. (Note that INAC itself decides housing allocations for bands. Only the small percentage of Indians on reserves with high incomes can afford better housing.)

    The proportion of native children taken into the care of welfare authorities is five times the national average. Juvenile delinquents number three times the national average.

  4. Causes of Death

    Accidental deaths are four to five times more common, suicides twice as common, and homicides ten times more common for native people than for non-natives.

    Alcoholism is legendary, capturing entire communities in some instances.

    Native babies die at twice the national average. Native men and women can expect to die ten years sooner than other Canadians.

5b) Why are employment, education, living conditions, and causes of death so unlike the rest of Canada?

The profile given by such data is not unlike other groups around the world - especially in the Third World - who have undergone a process of colonization and/or who suffer severe economic hardship.

In examining the social conditions on many reserves in B.C., the Premier's Council on Native Affairs "Progress Report and Interim Recommendations" (July 1990) concluded, in part:

Many of the problems faced by aboriginal people appear to be part of the legacy of misguided efforts. For example, for the better part of a century and as recently as the late 1960's many hundred of aboriginal families were disrupted by the placement of children in federally- funded residential schools hundreds of miles away from their homes. Although some of these schools were well run, many were not and thousands of children suffered physical, emotional, and even sexual abuse. Similarly, federal Indian policies and the Indian Act contributed to the breakdown of traditional social structures in aboriginal communities by removing most of the authority of band councils to make decisions about their communities. The Act also created divisiveness and disrespect for the traditional hereditary judicial system.

. . .There is sufficient evidence that programs developed and controlled from outside the aboriginal community have not been very successful. We recommend that the provincial and federal governments support the concept of social programs being controlled by aboriginal communities.