Global experts at U of S workshop urge action on urban aboriginal issues
There has been little movement on aboriginal policy since the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples 13 years ago, although its recommendations could have improved the lives of First Nations and Métis people, says Canada Research Chair Evelyn Peters, a professor in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy on the U of S campus.
“If the Royal Commission recommendation that all levels of government should support aboriginal cultures in urban areas had been taken more seriously, aboriginal people living in cities would be facing fewer challenges today,” said Peters, who hosted a gathering this week of more than 30 experts on urban indigenous issues from around the world.
For example, she said aboriginal groups are always scrambling to raise funds for important initiatives, and frequently face a jurisdictional roadblock: the federal government regards urban aboriginal people as a provincial responsibility, while the provinces regard all aboriginal policy as strictly federal.
Today in Canada, approximately 50 per cent of all First Nations and Métis people live in urban areas. It is an emerging trend around the world, with the numbers even higher in Australia and New Zealand. John Taylor of The Australian National University noted the largest increase in the Australian indigenous population was in urban areas.
Peters praised the Canadian government’s Urban Aboriginal Strategy as a positive step forward, but identified several areas coming out of the workshop where urban aboriginal policy could be improved:
- The Canadian census should be altered to allow more exploration of urban aboriginal identities, says Chris Andersen of the University of Alberta. He notes that the wide range of identities is not reflected at present, which complicates policy development.
- Urban aboriginal organizations must be provided with consistent national funding to support access to their elders and traditional lands, says Peters.
- Support for programs and services in urban areas must become part of national government policies, which tend to be focused on rural areas, says Taylor.
For more information, contact:
Joanne Paulson, Research Communications Officer
Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy University of Saskatchewan
Tel: (306) 966-8393
Cel: (306) 290-9706
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