A new CBC News study has determined there are over 2,500 Indigenous people in Canada, with an average age of 58.
There are more than a quarter of them living in the north, and a significant number are women and children.
And yet, many are still living in poverty, with poverty rates of 16 per cent among Indigenous women and nearly one in three in Indigenous communities in Canada.
“There’s no question, we’re missing out on opportunities that are being created by our community,” said Lidia Cote, chair of the Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Council of Canada.
“There’s a lot of people, people who are not even living in our communities, who are getting that opportunity because of our government.”
The numbers in this story include the number of Indigenous women living in Canada as a percentage of the population.
According to Statistics Canada, there are currently 3,500 Aboriginal women living at home, compared to 1,848 in Canada’s total population of 6.4 million.
Indigenous women also have higher rates of poverty and low levels of education.
They also make up a disproportionate number of people who live in poverty in the country, and are disproportionately affected by the economic downturn.
“The number of Aboriginal people in poverty is not increasing, but the number that are living in a situation where they are experiencing poverty is rising,” said Cote.
The findings are a reminder that Indigenous people continue to be the majority in Canada but still lack the access to opportunities and benefits that are afforded to other Canadians.
“We have a history of people not being able to make it, to have the same opportunities as everybody else,” said Yolanda Mowat, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which is an organization that works to improve the lives of Indigenous people.
“It’s not just because there’s a lack of jobs, but also because there are some things that are really hard to achieve for Indigenous people.”
“We’re still missing out,” said Mowot.
“The way to do it is to make sure we have those opportunities for ourselves and our children.”
The research shows the Indigenous women who live at home are more likely to be in precarious financial situations, often with little support from their families.
Many of the Indigenous people living in poor conditions also face a higher risk of developing mental health issues, and more severe health problems like depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
The study also found that more than half of Indigenous Indigenous people are at risk of homelessness and mental health problems.
The report also found Indigenous women have higher life expectancy and higher rates to be employed than the general population.
Despite these numbers, the report said it is important to acknowledge Indigenous women are often underrepresented in politics and leadership roles.
“I think the lack of women is really concerning because if you think about the leadership of the Liberal Party, it is almost exclusively men, so it’s really important that we recognize that there’s some of that under-representation that exists,” said Chantal St. Laurent, a former Liberal MP and one of the authors of the report.
“It’s a little bit concerning that there are women who have no leadership experience, but they are also very active in the communities that they represent.”
“It has to be a conversation about how to ensure that we’re working for people of colour, we have to be working for Indigenous women, and women are also in a lot more positions of leadership,” she said.
“What we’re really missing in terms of representation is we’re actually doing a better job of understanding Indigenous women.”
The report is the first step in a broader study that will examine Indigenous issues in Canada and the U.S.
Cecilia Siegel, an associate professor of political science at Dalhousie University, says the study is a necessary first step.
“In order to have a broader discussion about the way that Indigenous issues are perceived and talked about in Canada in general, it’s going to be important to get a broader sample of Indigenous Canadians in order to understand what the actual numbers are, and how much of it is about racism and how that’s being perpetuated,” she told CBC News.
Siegel said the research also serves as a warning to politicians.
“What this shows is that the Indigenous issues that are at the forefront of Canadian political discourse, especially on Indigenous issues, have to come out of the public sphere,” she added.
“That is going to have to include an inclusive approach that includes all communities, and is inclusive of all people.”