Politicians shouldn’t forget about aboriginals

By Olivia Brooks

When an election is looming a number of things can be expected: wasting taxpayer dollars on smear campaigns, preaching platforms to the converted, and a more recent development, pandering to the loosely termed “ethnic groups.”

Statistics Canada projects that by 2031, almost half of Canadians over the age of 15 will be foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent and the number of visible minorities will double. In recent years, political parties have taken to targeting this growing population with platforms geared toward their interests. During a debate with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff berated Harper for referring to immigrants as “these people” when in reality “they are Canadians.” Ignatieff went on to say how foreign-born Canadians deserve to be treated with the same rights and respect as those born in Canada.

What excludes our indigenous population from having the same attention that the government is giving to the ethnic vote? The parties are neglecting another rapidly growing population within our country, the Aboriginal community. According to the projections suggested by Statistics Canada, the Aboriginal population will increase to 1.4 million by 2017. About four per cent of Canadian citizens identify themselves as First Nations. A disturbing trend shows that our Aboriginal population also has the highest suicide rate among teens, the largest representation in prisons, are more likely to be violently victimized and have the highest unemployment rate. Canada’s indigenous people are moving to urban centres — therefore their socio-economic difficulties are no longer isolated to reserves. Our government needs to take into account this population in their campaigns as much as the growing immigrant population.

There is a movement towards self-governance within Aboriginal communities. They will impact the rest of the population of Canada, which is something that needs to be taken into consideration as our Aboriginal groups continue to grow over the next few years. In the political realm, Aboriginals are beginning to have their voices heard. They are pushing to have their rights recognized, which in turn is creating government policies protecting them.

Not to say that the government should blindly give money to the communities in need, a common criticism of past government aid to indigenous groups. The government should set up culturally appropriate resources and institutions to benefit our First Nations peoples. Collaboration between governing bodies and the Aboriginal communities is key to successfully incorporating social programs to curb negative trends found in these communities. Realistically, this is something that cannot be implemented immediately. However, it needs to be taken into account during campaign promises if our politicians are truly concerned for the well-being of all Canadians.

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