Updated: March 23, 2018
Eight of the key issues that are of greatest concern for Indigenous Peoples in Canada are complex and inexorably intertwined - so much so that government, researchers, policy makers and Indigenous leaders seem hamstrung by the enormity. It is hard to isolate just one issue as being the worst. The Indian Act greatly contributes to these eight issues and more. Be sure to read this article 21 things about the Indian Act, if you want to know the intent and extent of the Act.
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1) Poorer health
The World Health Organization's investigation into health determinants now recognizes European colonization as a common and fundamental underlying determinant of Indigenous health. There have been strides made on the part of many Indigenous communities to improve education around health issues, but despite these improvements, Indigenous people remain at higher risk for illness and earlier death non-Indigenous Peoples. Chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are on the increase. There are definite links between income, social factors, and health. There is a higher rate of respiratory problems and other infectious diseases among Indigenous children than among non-Indigenous children - inadequate housing and crowded living conditions are contributing factors. Read: A Snapshot of On-Reserve Clean Water Issues
2) Lower levels of education
Colonialism accounts for many bitter, demoralizing legacies, the most pervasive of which is education - the root of this particular legacy is that ultimate national experiment in assimilation - the Indian Residential School system. According to the 2016 Canadian Census, 33.65 per cent of those who identified as an Aboriginal person have no secondary (high) school or equivalency certificate, compared to 18.3 per cent of the rest of the Canadian population.
3) Inadequate housing and crowded living conditions
Three words - Attawapiskat First Nation. In 2011, the conditions in this community drew national and international media attention - as well as the attention of the United Nations - to a housing situation that far too many Indigenous communities struggle with. Of those First Nations people living on-reserve, 44.2 per cent lived in a dwelling that was in need of major repairs, compared to 6 per cent of the non-indigenous population living in such a dwelling. To learn more about on-reserve housing issues, read 8 Things You Need to Know About On-Reserve Housing Issues
4) Lower income levels
The average total income of Indigenous Peoples was 75 per cent that of non-Indigenous people in 2015 - that's a 25 percent income gap. It is a slight improvement from the 27 per cent gap in 2005.
5) Higher rates of unemployment
Indigenous Peoples have historically faced higher unemployment rates than non-Indigenous people. The employment rates of Indigenous Peoples in Canada did not increase between 2006 and 2016.
6) Higher levels of incarceration
In 2015/2016, Indigenous adults were over represented in admissions to provincial and territorial correctional services. They accounted for 26 per cent of admissions, while representing only about 3 per cent of the Canadian adult population. In federal correctional services, Indigenous adults accounted for 28 per cent of admissions to custody. Aboriginal adults in federal correctional services accounted for 28% of admissions to custody and 26% to community supervision in 2015/2016. Read: Nearly half of youth incarcerated across Canada are Indigenous: Statistics Canada
The over representation of Indigenous adults was more pronounced for females than males. Indigenous females accounted for 38 per cent of female admissions to provincial and territorial sentenced custody, while the comparable figure for Indigenous males was 26 per cent. In the federal correctional services, Indigenous females accounted for 31 per cent of female admissions to sentenced custody, while the figure for Indigenous males was 23 per cent.  Read: What are Gladue Reports?
7) Higher death rate among children and youth due unintentional injuries
Children in Indigenous families also have high rates of unintentional injuries and early deaths from drowning and other causes. According to Health Canada statistics, Indigenous children are three to four times more likely to die from unintentional injury than non-Aboriginal children of the same age.
8) Higher rates of suicide
And the most tragic of all is the higher rate of suicide among First Nation, Métis and Inuit youth. A 2016 Statistics Canada report found that more than one in five off-reserve First Nations, Métis and Inuit adults reported having suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives. Suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth than for non-Aboriginal youth, and for Inuit youth, the rate is among the highest in the world - 11 times the national average. “Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age.” (A Statistical Profile on the Health of First Nations in Canada for the Year 2000, Health Canada, 2003)
 Statistics Canada "First Nations People, Metis and Inuit in Canada: Diverse and Growing Populations
If you are interested in more information on the key issues for Aboriginal people in Canada, "8 Basic Barriers to Aboriginal Employment"
Interested in learning more about the impacts of the Indian Act? This little book is a great place to start.