Manitoba aboriginal child poverty rate over 60%

Manitoba’s aboriginal child poverty rate is well above the national average, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report, released Tuesday, revealed startling details about how dire the situation is in the province.

In Manitoba, 62 per cent of First Nation children are living below the poverty line. That number compares to just 15 per cent of non-indigenous Manitoban children, and 50 per cent of First Nation children nationally.

Dennis White Bird is a political advisor for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. He said the high rate of poverty is having major effects on the education of First Nation children.

“I’ve seen homes where there are as many as 20 people living in one house. You eat in shifts, and you sleep in shifts,” said Bird. “When it’s time to go to school, you’re tired or you haven’t eaten.”

The report indicates one of the difficulties is a two per cent cap on annual federal funding for reserves. That cap has been in place since the mid 1990s.

“While the funding for this budget keeps with inflation, it doesn’t keep up with population and doesn’t adjust for need,” said David MacDonald of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “[That’s] in contrast to every other social program in the country.”

Bird said in addition to funding changes. He’d wants to see the relationship between the federal government change. He thinks First nations should get a cut of nearby natural resources.

“There’s no meaningful employment out of that harvest, even though it’s in their backyard,” said Bird.

In the meantime, some First Nation residents are leaving reserves to escape poverty.

Lena Mousseau moved herself and her son Tristan from the Ebb and Flow First Nation to Winnipeg, in the hopes that Tristan would get a better education.

“I think you need education to go further,” said Mousseau. She said she would’ve liked to stay on the reserve, but the opportunities for herself and her son were few.

“[I] just wish there was more jobs -- more work out there,” she said.

Mousseau is currently living on social assistance in Winnipeg and hopes to eventually return to Ebb and Flow.

For more on the child poverty report, check out CBC’s national coverage.