[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]
OTTAWA (CP) - Canada may top the United Nations list for the highest quality of life in the world, but a new government study shows what the ranking hides - aboriginals living on reserves fall far down in the pack, with a ranking worse than Mexico and Thailand.
The study by the Department of Indian Affairs says the quality of life for on-reserve natives - about 380,000 people - is on a par with Brazil and countries considered to have only a medium level of human development.
For the more than 270,000 registered natives living off reserves, the quality of life is somewhat better. According to the UN ranking system, their living conditions are in line with Russia, the Globe and Mail reported Monday.
"This is not a surprise for us," said Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. "We live this every day. People have to be cautious about using the fact that we're No. 1, that Canada is the best place in the world to live. It's tough to say that to a family living in abject poverty on a First Nation."
This is the first time Indian Affairs has applied native-specific statistics to the human-development index created by the UN to compare the worlds countries. The index combines three factors: per capita income, education levels and life expectancy.
Canada has topped the list for the past six years. But among the 173 countries ranked in the 1994 UN report, the Indian Affairs study says off-reserve aboriginals came in about 35th and on-reserve natives rank about 63rd.
Broken down by province, the aboriginals fall fairly close together. But the study gives the lowest rating to on-reserve natives in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Reserves in British Columbia have the highest rating. For off-reserve aboriginals, Ontario offers the highest standard while the lowest rating is found in Saskatchewan.
According to 1996 statistics aboriginals are living longer than they were in 1981, although it is still seven years less than the Canadian average for non-natives. Life expectancy in Canada in 1992 was 77.2 years while it was 72.2 off the reserve and 67.6 on the reserve. And although the gap in income between native and non-native Canadians has narrowed between 1981 and 1991, aboriginals still make less than half the national average.
The per-capita income in Canada in 1991 was $19,320 while off-reserve natives made $9,905 and on-reserve aboriginals made $6,542, the Globe reported.
[S.I.S.I.S. note: Grand Chief Fontaine's salary is $125,000 tax free, equivalent to $240,000 per year - greater than that of the Canadian Prime Minister.]