AFN National Chief says booming population of First Nations people requires urgent government action and immediate new investments

    OTTAWA, Jan. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Today's release of the 2006 Census by
Statistics Canada indicates that the population of First Nations people has
increased by 29 per cent in the last decade.
    "The First Nations population is growing 3.5 times faster than the
Canadian population," says National Chief Phil Fontaine. "More than half of
the people in our communities are school age or under the age of 25. First
Nations young people are a key component of Canada's present and future
workforce. They need education, training and jobs. Canada is facing critical
labour shortages in all sectors. Like it did with the recent financial aid
package for single-industry towns, the federal government needs to work with
the Assembly of First Nations now to determine what immediate investments are
required that will ensure that all Canadians can access the enormous untapped
potential of our First Nations people and communities. Investing in First
Nations is investing in Canada's future."
    "The 2006 Census highlights the fact that the booming First Nations
population can become a double win or a double-whammy to Canada's economic and
social future. With immediate and ongoing new investments by the federal
government in basic areas of critical need like schools, education, training,
employment, housing and water quality, our young population will have a bright
future and contribute to Canada's future workforce and productivity. If the
government neglects to make those needed investments, Canada will be forced to
bear increased social costs resulting from First Nations poverty and decreased
productivity," added National Chief Fontaine. "It's hard to learn if your
school is falling down around you."
    The Census figures also underscore the need for the federal government to
make more investments in housing for First Nations people because they are
five times more likely to live in crowded homes. The situation is even worse
for those living in First Nations communities. The proportion of homes
requiring major repairs has increased by 44 per cent in the last decade.
    "First Nations are very concerned about being able to properly meet the
needs of our young, rapidly growing population in key areas such as health,
housing, education, training and jobs. The last 12 years of chronic
under-funding by the federal government to core programs and services has
caused serious hardship in many First Nations communities," added National
Chief Fontaine.
    "None of this data should come as a surprise to Canadian governments. The
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Freedoms of Indigenous peoples has
drawn Canada's attention to the problems First Nations face. Concrete and
effective solutions are required," said National Chief Fontaine.
    "Statistics Canada made a noticeable improvement in its reporting by
differentiating between Métis, First Nations and Inuit people in the 2006
Census. However, Statistics Canada confuses a key issue by combining
non-status with status Indians in the majority of its tables to indicate that
more First Nations people are living off reserve and in urban centres. That
number is very misleading because it includes 'non registered Indians' who are
not members of First Nations communities or Indian bands and would likely not
live on Indian reserves in any event," said National Chief Fontaine.
    "In addition, the Government of Canada's Indian Registry indicates that
more than 200-thousand status Indians are not included in the 2006 census.
This discrepancy of more than 25 per cent is potentially harmful and could
have serious negative impacts on future policy and economic decisions if it is
not properly taken into account," concluded National Chief Fontaine.

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.

For further information:

For further information: Josee Bellemare, Bilingual Communications
Officer, (613) 241-6789 ext. 336, cell: (613) 327-6331,;
Nancy Pine, Communications Advisor - Office of the National Chief, (613)
241-6789 ext 243, cell: (613) 298-6382,

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