OTTAWA, Dec. 15 /CNW/ - Thriving communities - wherever they are located
in Canada - have four components in common: they are secure,
self-reliant, sustainable, and socially developed. Canadians living in
southern communities may take these conditions for granted. Northerners
may not be so fortunate; based on this definition, many Northern
Canadian communities are not thriving.
Compared to Southern Canada, many Northern communities fare poorly in
measures such as educational achievement, population health, crime
rates (especially in the three territories), and economic diversity and
development. The report, Toward Thriving Northern Communities - part of The Conference Board of Canada's five-year Centre for the
North project - is intended to bring the well-being of communities to
the forefront of Canada's discussion about Northern issues.
"While the future of the North is largely discussed in terms of economic
development or sovereignty, ultimately its destiny will depend on the
well-being of its residents," said Derrick Hynes, Director, Centre for
the North. "When the indicators are taken together, the picture of
Northern communities is grim. But there is some cause for optimism."
Reasons for Optimism
Provincial and territorial governments across Canada are developing
plans and programs that enhance community vitality in Northern regions
and take Northern perspectives into account.
Many Northern communities have taken leadership roles in piloting new
technologies (particularly for health-care and education delivery) and
launching programs to deal with mental health and violence issues, as
well as in community-based health research.
The Northern regions, especially the territories, are investing in
training and development to address skill shortages, increase local
employment, attract skilled workers, and generally improve community
wellness. However, there is a need for major infrastructure investment
to facilitate future development, such as broadband communication,
transportation and housing.
And, perhaps most important, tremendous progress has been made in the
settlement of land claims across Northern Canada over the past few
decades. These agreements recognize Aboriginal inherent land rights,
bring increased opportunity for Aboriginal self-determination, and
create greater certainty for stakeholder relations in Northern
A Northern Profile
Although Northern communities are different than each other and their
Southern Canadian counterparts, they have common attributes. In
general, Northern communities are remote - the North, as defined for
the Centre for the North, is 80 per cent of Canada's land mass but just
under seven per cent of its population. These communities are also
smaller, younger, and have more Aboriginal peoples than those in the
The North is often considered ethno-culturally homogenous. But the
Shannon Diversity Index indicates that Northern communities are much closer to their Southern
counterparts in levels of diversity. On a scale of 0 to 2.5, the North
scored a 1.54; the South scored 1.8. The Yellowknife community, for
example, comprises 115 nationalities and 15 First Nations.
Economic Diversity Lacking in North
Three types of local economies prevail in the North: public
service-based, resource-based, and Aboriginal-based (mixed economies
consisting of wages, government transfers, and land subsistence). Most
Northern communities have some combination of each. Nevertheless,
Northern communities are, in general, less economically diverse and
have lower employment rates than communities in the South, according to
Robert M. Bone's northern economy typology.
On Friday, December 17, The Conference Board will release a foundational
study elaborating on the outlook for Northern industries. This study, Mapping the Economic Potential of Canada's North, looks at seven key industries in the North, which include:
oil and gas, mining, forestry, and fishing - primary industries that
drive economic growth;
utilities and construction - enabling industries that support the
primary industries in growing the economy; and
tourism - an emerging industry that has the potential to contribute to
the Northern economy in the future.
The public sector (including government, health care and educational
institutions) is also a major player in Northern economies, is not
assessed in this economic report.
Lower Education Levels
Compared to Southern Canada, lower employment rates in many Northern
communities are an indication of skill shortages just as much as (or
more than) they are of job shortages. Educational outcomes are
generally lower in Northern communities, due to resistance to leaving
the community for schooling, resistance to education due to the legacy
of residential schools, a lack of local educational resources and lack
of alignment between training and local job shortages. Training
programs are offered in many Northern communities but they sometimes
fail to prepare students for jobs available locally.
Poor Health Outcomes
The health and wellness challenges among Northerners are well
documented. For example, average life expectancy in Nunavut is 10 years
below the national average. In the Northwest Territories, the incidence
of sexually transmitted infections is up to 12 times the national
average. Northern communities generally use technological advancements
(such as e-health) ahead of Southerners, but the effectiveness of these
technologies can be limited by language barriers.
High Crime Rates
In 2006, violent crime rates in Nunavut (6,764 per 100,000 population),
Northwest Territories (6,448 per 100,000), and Yukon were (3,007 per
100,000) far surpassed the national average of 951 per 100,000
The study concludes that a thriving Northern community must be, first
and foremost, secure - it has to meet the basic needs of its residents,
such as providing adequate food, water and shelter. Second, its economy
needs to create local wealth and be self-reliant. Third, communities
have to be sustainable, with a diverse economy and a balance between
local economic development and environmental protection. Fourth,
residents must enjoy good health and quality of life, and have a
general sense of well-being and belonging to their communities.
This publication is one of three foundational reports for the Centre for
the North, which is a Conference Board of Canada program of research
and dialogue. Its main purpose is to work with Aboriginal leaders,
businesses, governments, communities, educational institutions, and
other organizations to provide insights into how sustainable prosperity
can be achieved in the North. Over its five-year mandate, the Centre
for the North will help define strategies, policies and practices to
transform that vision into reality.
SOURCE Conference Board of Canada
For further information: For further information:
Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 448