As was discussed in a previous post emphasizing the impact and significance of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals, parties are calling on the 2015 Post-Development Agenda to recognize the special relationship that Aboriginal peoples have to the international goals. Specifically, it is the Aboriginal communities in Canada who have played a pivotal role in ensuring Canada maintains its integrity to issues of environmental sustainability.
Continually these communities have resisted pressures from both the public and private sector in order to preserve and protect the land. A recent UN News Centre article (“Indigenous peoples’ must feature in new global development agenda, stress UN experts,” July 2014) emphasizes the reality that despite the substantial contribution made by Aboriginal communities to environmental sustainability (Millennium Development Goal #7 – Ensure Environmental Sustainability), the reality in Canada is that Aboriginal communities are often the group most lacking in the enjoyment of the other goals. For instance, the overall prevalence of low income is significantly greater among Aboriginal people than among the non-Aboriginal population, while half of Aboriginal children live in poverty (see:http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/half-of-first-nations-children-live-in-poverty-1.1324232). Education for Aboriginals is also troubling; as the need to close the gap between Aboriginal (26.5%) and non- Aboriginals (9.8%) obtaining university degrees is increasingly emphasized.
While the MDG’s do not touch on post-secondary education (the aim is to achieve universal primary education), Canada’s level of development ought to also address issues of access to education for our specific circumstances, that being our Aboriginal children and young adults.
Although concerns not limited to education, poverty and governance continue to characterize the Aboriginal experience here in Canada and are frequently cited, this does not represent the multifaceted reality of a group that is not one, but many communities that span an entire nation, representing those living on and off the reserves, in Canada’s biggest cities and in the some of the most remote locations of the world.
A 2009 study by the C.D Howe Institute, “Breaking the Stereotype: Why Urban Aboriginals Score Highly on ‘Happiness’ Measures ” (Dominique M. Gross & John Richards, Toronto 2012) illustrated that when urban Aboriginals in Canada were asked “Overall, are you happy with your life?”, the response was comparable to other urban communities. Greater access to and success in education and employment, the study concluded, would further increase happiness rates. Although this paints a simplistic picture of the Aboriginal experience (of which the authors have not personally experienced), it helps emphasize the continued importance of the application of the the Millennium Development Goals here in Canada (as well as their adaptation to our country-specific needs), and their direct impact on urban Aboriginals here in our city.
As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated: “We must ensure the participation of indigenous peoples – women and men – in decision-making at all levels. This includes discussions on accelerating action towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and defining the post-2015 development agenda. ”
It is critical that Canada recognize and seek to incorporate, Aboriginal knowledge, culture and philosophy into the wider development agenda, while simultaneously seeking to redress the inequalities this group still faces.
We encourage readers in the Vancouver area to show even more gratitude and solidarity with the Aboriginal community by continuing to learn from and enjoy the cultural contributions seen in Aboriginal art, music, museums, etc. as well as in local knowledge that our city is so fortunate to be able to enjoy.