ARCHIVED - Response of the Government of Canada to the Sixth Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples

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URBAN ABORIGINAL YOUTH:
AN ACTION PLAN FOR CHANGE

Tabled in the Senate on behalf of the Government of Canada by
The Honourable Jacob Austin
Leader of the Government in the Senate

INTRODUCTION

The Government of Canada is pleased to respond to the Sixth Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, Urban Aboriginal Youth: An Action Plan for Change. Created in December 1989, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has a mandate to examine legislation and matters relating to Aboriginal Peoples of Canada. In its report, the Committee examined the conditions that challenge many urban Aboriginal youth and proposed concrete initiatives that could improve policies and programs. The good work of the Committee, and the report that resulted from the Committee's efforts, demonstrate the commitment of Senators to, and the role that Parliament and Parliamentarians can play in addressing the needs of urban Aboriginal youth in Canada.

Aboriginal issues, including those facing urban Aboriginal youth, are a priority for the Government of Canada. At the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable in April 2004, Prime Minister Martin noted, "If young Aboriginals don't succeed, then all of us fail." As a key issue for the federal government, serious consideration is given to the Committee's recommendations. While not all of the specific recommendations can be adopted through this response, many will provide valuable input to the ongoing development of policies and initiatives that affect urban Aboriginal youth.

As many of the issues facing urban Aboriginal youth cross jurisdictional boundaries, it will be important for the Government of Canada to work closely with provincial, territorial and municipal governments to better harmonize our responses within our respective areas of responsibility.

As identified in the Government of Canada's Response to the House of Commons Standing Committee's 2002 Report on "Building a Brighter Future for Urban Aboriginal Children", the Government recognizes that, to properly address the needs of urban Aboriginal youth, efforts must begin well before a child becomes a teenager. The experiences of youth are deeply affected by positive learning opportunities during their earlier years, and before that, by healthy development during pregnancy. A concerted approach is needed, ranging from preventing the devastating damage of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, to improving learning in the childhood years, to helping young adults avoid involvement in crime or to escape from the influence of gangs.

The Government of Canada is already addressing the challenges facing Aboriginal youth and examples of these can be found throughout this Response. Other policies, initiatives and new directions may arise out of the work that is underway through the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable and follow-up Sectoral Sessions. A Policy Retreat and First Ministers Meeting are also planned (for the Spring and Fall 2005 respectively), to further develop the Government's agenda. The initiatives that flow from this process may complement and support the key directions advocated by the Senate Committee.

RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATIONS

The Committee's Report makes 19 recommendations, addressing four areas:

With this document, the Government of Canada will respond to each of the recommendations
individually.

RECOMMENDATION 1

The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, in collaboration with First Nations:

The Government of Canada shares the concern of the Senate Committee about the needs of First Nations people living off-reserve, and is seeking better ways to address them.

Census data show that over 70% of Aboriginal people live off-reserve, with one out of every two Aboriginal people living in an urban area. In its report, the Committee states that "Canada has not adequately met the needs of Aboriginal youth living in urban areas." A key impediment to progress in this area identified by the Senate report is the "jurisdictional wrangling" between federal and provincial/territorial governments regarding responsibility for the off-reserve Aboriginal population.

In addition to the programs and initiatives highlighted in this Response, the Government of Canada also responds to the needs of urban Aboriginal youth through transfers to provincial and territorial government (e.g., affordable housing and Canada Health and Social Transfers) that help fund programs of general application. Clearly, to address urban Aboriginal issues in a more effective manner, all levels of government must collaborate to find innovative ways to ensure the delivery of culturally appropriate, comprehensive, coordinated and effective programs. In some cases, these efforts may be enhanced through negotiations with Self-Governing First Nations for the provision and delivery of services to their off-reserve members.

Discussion of issues of access to programs and services for First Nations people off-reserve, and the pursuit more generally of a more inclusive Aboriginal agenda, are issues to be discussed and deliberated upon, with the participation of Aboriginal people and other governments, through fora such as the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable follow-up Sectoral Sessions and Federal-Provincial-Territorial-Aboriginal discussions. The Government of Canada is committed to these processes.

RECOMMENDATION 2

The Federal government must enter into formal negotiations with the appropriate Métis organizations to clarify and resolve outstanding jurisdictional and rights issues of Métis people of Canada.

In the time since the Committee made this recommendation, the Government of Canada and Aboriginal leaders have jointly taken important steps to find new ways to collaborate to the benefit of all Aboriginal people, including Métis.

In the February 2004 Speech from the Throne the Government committed to engaging Métis leadership on the place of Métis in its policies. A further advance on this recommendation was the first Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable in April 2004 and the full inclusion of Métis in this process. The Roundtable is being followed-up with a series of Sectoral Sessions on Housing, Health, Life-Long Learning, Economic Opportunities, Negotiations and Accountability for Results. In his address to the Roundtable, the Prime Minister specifically referred to the need to strengthen our relationship with the Métis community of Canada.

On September 19, 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in R v. Powley, wherein the Court held that the Métis community in and around Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, has an Aboriginal right to hunt for food that is protected by s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The decision is significant because it is the first time that the Supreme Court has recognized that the Métis can establish s.35 Aboriginal rights. The broader impact of Powley is that the Supreme Court has opened the door for Canadian courts to find there are other Métis groups who can satisfy the test for Métis Aboriginal rights.

The Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians leads the federal Response to the Powley decision. The interim response addresses the immediate implications of the decision in partnership with provincial governments and with Métis leadership. This involves discussions on methods to identify Métis harvesters and ways to accommodate their harvesting practices. This work is supported by research and legal analysis. In addition, Métis organizations are provided with capacity support to meaningfully participate in discussions. This approach has been successful and well-received by Provinces and Métis organizations. Establishing an objective and verifiable method of harvester identification will help provide clarity and stability to the principal question of the identification of Métis for the purposes of establishing potential Aboriginal rights. The Government of Canada has committed a total of $50.5 million to this process, which includes an additional $30 million announced in Budget 2005.

The Government of Canada considers that it is moving significantly in a direction that is consistent with the spirit of this recommendation.

RECOMMENDATION 3

The Government recognizes that post-secondary education is key to improving the quality of life for Aboriginal people regardless of their residence. It recognizes that lifelong learning is the foundation for self-reliance and an improved quality of life.

The Government has been involved in a number of joint initiatives with its Aboriginal partners, following the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable held in April 2004. In November 2004, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada held follow-up Sectoral Sessions on lifelong learning, one of which focused on Post-Secondary Education and Skills Development. The outcomes of these Sessions, as well as those anticipated from the Policy Retreat with Aboriginal leaders and the First Ministers Meeting (for the spring and fall 2005 respectively) will help to provide direction for the Post-Secondary Education review currently being undertaken at Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Education is a priority for the Government of Canada and it is through education that Aboriginal youth will be able to be active players in the economy. The Government is committed to taking concrete steps to ensure that Aboriginal youth receive the quality education that is necessary for them to play active roles in their communities, in the economy, and in Canadian society.

The Government of Canada currently provides funding in support of post-secondary education for Registered Indians and Inuit students. The Government also recognizes that there is a need to review all post secondary programming to ensure that it meets the needs of all Aboriginal people, and supports their increased participation and success in post-secondary education.

The Indian and Northern Affairs Canada website houses an e-directory of over 500 scholarships and bursaries. This electronic guide will facilitate eligible Aboriginal students' quick access to a national directory comprised of organizations and institutions that offer more than 500 awards, totalling more than $2.5 million.

As well, all Canadians have access to the $2.5 billion endowment for Millennium Scholarships established in 1999 and all Aboriginal people have access to the $22 million endowment, which includes an additional $10 million announced in Budget 2005, to be used by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF) to provide additional educational support. Aboriginal students can also access scholarships and bursaries, also administered by the NAAF, from Health Canada to help them pursue education opportunities leading to professional health careers.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is also reviewing the support it provides to off-reserve Aboriginal people as part of its labour market programming, particularly that provided under the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy (AHRDS). Further consideration will be given in this context to how best to help Aboriginal youth develop the skills required for available jobs.

RECOMMENDATION 4

The Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada recently conducted a series of horizontal reviews of government programming as part of an expenditure review process across all departments and agencies. In the course of this work, programs affecting urban Aboriginal youth within the various departments are being examined with a view to eliminating duplication and filling gaps in coverage.

The Government agrees that a database or clearing house to share information about youth programs and related work could be very helpful to a wide variety of organizations, both governmental and other, and that such a resource should be open to all. One approach would be to use an existing network such as YouthNet or the Aboriginal Canada Portal, accessible via The Aboriginal Canada Network  

The Aboriginal Canada Portal already provides a single window to information and services for Aboriginal peoples. The portal has partnerships with nine federal departments and with six national Aboriginal organizations. The portal is continuously engaged in increasing linkages to federal departments, provinces and territories. Also available, is the inventory of youth programs kept by Human Resources and Skills Development.

Annual reports on activities and findings in the area of Aboriginal youth will be included in the Aboriginal Report Card which the federal government has committed to produce as part of its work to ensure that programs and policies for Aboriginal Canadians are focussed on achieving quantifiable results.

RECOMMENDATION 5

The federal government should ensure the following principles are applied to programs that they fund for the delivery of services to urban Aboriginal youth:

The constructive principles identified by the Senate Committee to guide the development and delivery of programs for urban Aboriginal youth are useful, not only for federal efforts, but for all funding partners and stakeholders. Departments including Indian and Northern Affairs, Human Resources and Skills Development, Canadian Heritage and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness are already applying such principles in development and implementation phases of projects and initiatives.

In particular, the broad principle suggested here of involving those affected in the identification of needs, setting of priorities, design of programs and delivery of services is one that the Government has increasingly endorsed and applied in recent years in its partnerships with Aboriginal peoples. For example, federal initiatives such as the Urban Aboriginal Strategy include youth in local decision making processes through local steering committees. In addition, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada funds Youth Intervenors in each National Aboriginal Organization to increase the participation of Aboriginal Youth in skills development.

With respect to issues of funding in this field, the Government, through Social Development Canada, is developing a series of stakeholder workshops to develop a Service Strategy for Aboriginals, with particular emphasis on those living in urban settings. Strategic planning sessions are being held with the aim of creating a working group that can determine which service offerings should be given priority in current and future years.

The suggestion to "provide sustained funding for pilot projects that have demonstrated success and integrate these initiatives into departmental practice" should be seen in relation to the Government's objectives in funding such pilot projects. Many of these initiatives are intended to demonstrate the potential of certain approaches, with the expectation to learn what works, what does not work and what can be improved upon in terms of funding and delivery. These lessons learned will be valuable tools that help guide future development of Aboriginal youth programming.

RECOMMENDATION 6

By virtue of its fundamental, constitutional and fiduciary relationship with Canada's Aboriginal Peoples:

The Government of Canada agrees that it has an important role to play, in partnership with provinces, territories, municipalities and Aboriginal organizations to address broad policy concerns of urban Aboriginal people in Canada. Many steps to enhance cooperation among the various stakeholders are in progress. The Government participates in several initiatives, such as the Winnipeg Urban Development Agreement, that bring together federal, provincial, and other governments to address urban Aboriginal issues.

Another example of coordination and collaboration is the Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS). As the Senate Committee observes, the Urban Aboriginal Strategy is designed to improve policy development and program coordination at the federal level and with other levels of government by tailoring government programs to the specific needs of Aboriginal people living in cities.

The success of the UAS pilot projects resulted in the doubling of its funding to $50 million in Budget 2004. These monies will fund projects over four years in twelve cities---Vancouver, Prince George, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, Winnipeg, Thompson, Thunder Bay and Toronto. The pilot projects are locally-designed and locally-driven, partnering with local urban Aboriginal people, organizations as well as other levels of government. These projects are testing new approaches to responding to the needs of urban Aboriginal people. Furthermore, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is working within the AHRDS to improve the coordination and alignment of urban labour market programming and service delivery capacity in urban centres.

Through these and other efforts, appropriate Aboriginal organizations are increasingly involved in urban Aboriginal programming, including local organizations most familiar with the needs of Aboriginal people living in urban areas.

RECOMMENDATION 7

By virtue of the success of the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centre (UMAYC) Initiative and its importance to urban Aboriginal youth, the federal government, through the Minister of Canadian Heritage, should:

The Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centre (UMAYC) initiative offers urban Aboriginal youth opportunities to strengthen their cultural identities and helps them achieve their personal goals. A recent evaluation of the initiative identified three factors that contributed to its success, namely actively engaging and challenging Aboriginal youth thereby developing their management skills; strengthening the cultural identity of the young participants as a foundation for achieving personal goals and flexibility to enable projects to reflect community needs, cultures and capacity. The premise "By Youth, For Youth" enables young Aboriginal people to participate in planning their own futures. Youth collaboration on project design and delivery has lead to strengthened self-esteem and engagement in their community. Results show that, in many cases, as participants gained skills, knowledge, experience and self-confidence, particularly if engaged in project implementation or on advisory committees, they moved on to pursue educational or employment opportunities. Many are now community leaders.

The challenges faced by urban Aboriginal youth are still critical. Census information shows that although some gains have been made in educational attainment and unemployment rates of Aboriginal youth, they still face large differences in relation to non-Aboriginal youth. Canadian Heritage is building on the success by continuing to actively engage and challenge urban Aboriginal youth to improve their community potential and personal prospects.

RECOMMENDATION 8

The federal government, in collaboration with its provincial counterparts and appropriate urban Aboriginal youth representatives and agencies, should provide capital funding for the establishment of Urban Aboriginal Youth Centres in urban communities where there is significant Aboriginal youth population. Centres should be located in areas where they can be readily accessed by youth.

The Government of Canada through Canadian Heritage supports over 100 Aboriginal Frienship Centres across Canada. These offer urban Aboriginal people, including youth, a facility in which they can meet and access culturally relevant programming and services.

With the significant increase in growth of urban Aboriginal youth populations, Canadian Heritage is working with National Aboriginal Friendship Centres to address pressures facing urban Aboriginal youth.

RECOMMENDATION 9

The federal government, in collaboration with appropriate Aboriginal organizations, should establish community-based, culturally appropriate urban Aboriginal youth transition programs. Efforts should be made to link Aboriginal youth transition services to reserve and rural communities.

The Government of Canada agrees that transition programs can be an important part of efforts to help Aboriginal youth adapt to the demands of urban living, and that links to the reserve or their local communities are necessary to be fully effective. A number of departments are working with Aboriginal organizations, provincial and territorial governments and local authorities in this area.

For example, the majority of Canadian Heritage programming for urban Aboriginal youth is administered through third party agreements with Aboriginal organizations. Canadian Heritage funding supports Aboriginal youth councils at the national, provincial and regional levels. These youth councils are actively involved in the design and implementation of Canadian Heritage as well as other programming for urban Aboriginal youth. They create opportunities for Aboriginal youth to develop important leadership, policy and programming experiences and influences that assist governments in responding more effectively to the needs and aspirations of youth.

Another example of on-going work in this area is through the Urban Aboriginal Strategy Pilot Projects, which are testing new ideas of how to respond, through partnership, to the needs of urban Aboriginal people. Some of the Pilot Projects are experimenting with innovative approaches to addressing transition issues, and successful ideas will be emulated in future initiatives. The Government is open to ideas from Aboriginal organizations, communities and others for ways in which to help young people adapt successfully to urban life and in particular avoid the pitfalls of crime.

RECOMMENDATION 10

The federal government, through the Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport, should establish and fund an Urban Aboriginal Youth Sport and Recreation Initiative. The initiative should promote sport and recreation programs that are:

The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation, recognizing that sport can be an effective means of combatting the problems of youth in Aboriginal communities, both urban and rural. Canadian Heritage (Sport Canada), in collaboration with Aboriginal sport leaders at the national and community level is working to help enhance Aboriginal health and well being through sport. This work is designed, over the long term, to have its biggest impact on youth and children. Among its benefits will be the development of leadership, social and democratic skills, stimulation of the economies, helping to alleviate the negative effects of poverty, enhancing the quality of life for participants and their communities, and reducing barriers to participation in sport for Aboriginal youth in urban settings and else where.

Sport Canada contributes $1.2 Million per year to Aboriginal sport development through a total of eight bilateral agreements with provinces and territories. Sport Canada also provides funding to a number of national and multi-service sport organizations for Aboriginal sport participation development projects. In 2004-2005 the total contribution for seven Aboriginal Sport development programs was $330,000. This funding provided introductory sessions to Aboriginal children and youth in sports such as badminton, basketball, canoe/kayak, hockey and table tennis. Other Aboriginal sport development initiatives include an Aboriginal role model program (Esteem Team) and an "On the Move", an Aboriginal Girls Sport Participation Program (Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity) in partnership with the Aboriginal Sport Circle. Sport Canada also provides $485,000 in core funding to the Aboriginal Sport Circle to support national Aboriginal sport initiatives such as coaching and athlete development.

RECOMMENDATION 11

The federal government, through the Minister of Canadian Heritage, should provide dedicated and sustained funding for arts programming targeted specifically to Aboriginal youth in urban areas.

The Government of Canada appreciates the contribution that involvement in the arts of all kinds can make to both individuals and their communities. For urban Aboriginal youth, the arts can be a source of self-esteem and pride, an opportunity to explore their heritage and a way to find constructive outlets for their energy, talents and interests.

A number of the projects supported by various federal departments include arts experiences for Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Arts Secretariat of the Canada Council for the Arts also has the primary responsibility supporting the involvement of Aboriginal Peoples' artistic practices in all arts disciplines. Its grant program offers funding to Aboriginal groups and individuals for projects that involve the sharing, appreciation, understanding or awareness of traditional and/or contemporary knowledge and practice. Under the Urban Aboriginal Strategy Pilot Projects, the Government is supporting initiatives that provide opportunities for urban Aboriginal youth to participate in arts programming; one example of this is the highly successful Moccasin Flats television series produced in Regina.

RECOMMENDATION 12

The federal government, in cooperation with provincial, territorial governments and Aboriginal organizations, develop a strategy to reduce the Aboriginal youth truancy rate in schools. Such Strategies should include those targeting:

The Government of Canada sees the serious problem of Aboriginal youth truancy as part of the larger issue of educational effectiveness throughout the school years. Truancy is a symptom of various issues, some of which have their roots in the early years. A number of initiatives by various departments relate at least indirectly to this matter.

Aboriginal Head Start (AHS) in Urban and Northern Communities is a Health Canada-funded early childhood development program for Aboriginal children and their families. Under the program, early intervention strategies provide Aboriginal children with a positive sense of themselves, a desire for learning, and opportunities to become successful young people. Projects are locally designed and controlled, and administered by non-profit Aboriginal organizations.

In addition, through the follow-up Sectoral Session on Life Long Learning the Government is exploring ways of working with Aboriginal people and provincial and territorial governments where appropriate to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal people.

In terms of supporting Aboriginal culture and languages, the Government announced $172.5 million in December 2002 to support the creation of a new Aboriginal Languages and Cultures Centre. Recommendations from an Aboriginal advisory task force regarding the activities and operations of this centre are anticipated shortly. Budget 2005 provides funding of $5 million to extend the Aboriginal Languages Initiative, which supports community-based Aboriginal languages projects, for one more year.

In addition, the Canadian Studies Program (CSP) supports the research and development of quality learning materials for young Canadians. Funding initiatives include the development of culturally appropriate lesson material for Aboriginal youth.

RECOMMENDATION 13

Addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is part of a broader approach, (i.e., multi-agency approach) to identify long-term strategies for prevention and intervention that will benefit both urban Aboriginal communities and First Nations on-reserve.

Commitments to reduce the number of Aboriginal newborns affected by FASD and to provide Aboriginal communities with tools and resources to address FASD have been featured in the three most recent Speeches from the Throne. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is currently developing research, diagnostic and screening capabilities for dealing with FASD. It is also working with Government of Canada partners, the provincial and territorial governments, community-based organizations (including Aboriginal organizations), and affected individuals to explore the gaps in knowledge, training, tools and resources to deal with FASD. PHAC is currently exploring ways to target the general population while giving particular focus to Aboriginal people living in urban and northern communities.

This integrated FASD approach is working collaboratively to draw together, and therefore leverage, current investments in other federal, provincial and territorial strategies and initiatives, such as Canada Northwest FASD Partnership, Public Health (surveillance and epidemiology), the National Homelessness Initiative, youth justice renewal, crime prevention, disabilities and Canada's Drug Strategy Renewed, and Early Childhood Development for Aboriginal Children.

Budget 2005 identified $145M for maternal and child health and early childhood development. In general, program enhancements would build on the foundation of current investments to develop a more integrated and comprehensive approach and address priority gaps. The maternal child health program will promote healthy pregnancies, infants and young children. The expansion of Aboriginal Head Start on and off reserve is designed to prepare young Aboriginal children for their school years. The program encourages the development of locally controlled projects with components that include culture and language, education, health promotion, nutrition, social support and parental involvement. The program also strives to provide parenting skills and improve family relationships, foster emotional and social development and increase confidence.

RECOMMENDATION 14

The federal government, through the Minister of Health, and in collaboration with appropriate Aboriginal organizations and youth representatives should:

Sexual health, pregnancy and parenting related issues are clearly areas of great importance to Aboriginal Canadians and especially to youth. A number of programs supported by the Government of Canada address these areas.

The Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities offers locally controlled and designed early intervention strategies, which involve support to parents as the child's first and most influential teacher, while providing preschool experience to young Aboriginal children to prepare them for their school years.

Community-based programs increase access to health and social supports for children and families living in challenging circumstances. Through their adaptability of implementation at the community level, these programs are responsive to the needs of priority populations, including Aboriginal people living in urban and northern communities. The Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) for instance, serves approximately 50,000 women annually, approximately 22% of who identified themselves as Aboriginal.

Nobody's Perfect is a culturally appropriate program targeting various communities and groups, including Aboriginal people living in urban and northern communities. The program offers parenting education and support to vulnerable parents. Nobody's Perfect is disseminated through existing community-based programs such as the Community Action Program for Children, CPNP, Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities and through provincial health and social services.

It is widely recognized that public health promotion and disease prevention are critical to reducing health disparities, achieving gains in health outcomes, and contributing to the sustainability of our health system. It is for this reason that in Budget 2005 the Government of Canada announced the investment of $300M over 5 years on an integrated Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Strategy. This integrated Strategy will include a series of activities to promote healthy eating and encourage physical activity and healthy weight that can help to prevent and control chronic diseases; healthy living practices that can then be passed on by parents to their children.

Furthermore, at the Special Meeting of First Ministers and Aboriginal leaders on September 13, 2004, the federal government committed to implement a series of measures to address urgent and critical health issues for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. These investments will address urgent and critical health needs in Aboriginal communities, including sexual health. Over the longer term, these investments are expected to make a contribution to closing the gap in health status between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, and will increase access to quality health services. This funding was confirmed in Budget 2005. These investments include: $200M over 5 years for an Aboriginal Health Transition Fund; $100M over 5 years for an Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative; and $400M in upstream investments in prevention and promotion, including investments in Aboriginal youth suicide prevention, maternal/child health and early childhood development.

The Aboriginal Health Transition Fund (AHTF) is intended to enable governments and communities to devise new ways to integrate and adapt existing health services to better meet the needs of Aboriginal people. One funding envelop for the AHTF is through adaptation, the purpose of which is to support provincial and territorial governments to adapt their existing health programs to the unique needs of all Aboriginal people, including those in urban areas and Métis settlements and communities.

RECOMMENDATION 15

The federal government, in collaboration with provincial and municipal governments, and in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, should support the establishment of Safe Houses to assist urban Aboriginal youth exit gang life. Initiatives should be targeted to "high risk" cities.

The Government of Canada shares the concerns of the Committee regarding the involvement of Aboriginal youth in gangs. The Government supports a number of projects that are aimed, at least in part, at helping Aboriginal youth extricate themselves from gang involvement. Some examples of Government of Canada initiatives in this area follow.

The Department of Justice supports several projects in Winnipeg including the Community Roundtable on Aboriginal Gang Issues, which is being organized by the Winnipeg Métis Association to bring together front line workers from community-based initiatives in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba that work with Aboriginal gang members. This Roundtable will provide opportunities to discuss and plan for the successful healing and reintegration of Aboriginal gang members into the community.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC) and its portfolio partners are involved in a number of activities including a community strategy on violence and gang issues in Edmonton. This strategy seeks to address pressure points and gaps in service and to recommend and implement innovative approaches and solutions to existing problems. It will help to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system. It will also help develop community processes that offer alternatives to incarceration and support the safe, timely and effective release of Aboriginal offenders from federal institutions. Partners include the Edmonton Police Service and local businesses.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is taking steps to proactively deter youth from involvement in gangs. For example, many Aboriginal youths have to leave their remote communities to attend high school in larger urban centres. Gangs prey on these youth and recruit them to join the gangs. A program in Winnipeg funds the travel of victims of gang violence and former gang members out to these remote communities to "street proof" these youths prior to them leaving to attend school in larger urban centres.

The National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) supports initiatives that seek to reduce crime and victimization in communities across Canada. Approaching crime prevention through social development, the NCPS seeks to reduce the risk factors that can lead at-risk individuals, such as Aboriginal youth, to engage in criminal behaviour. The NCPS provides financial support and resources to help Aboriginal youth deal with psychological, social and economic factors that can contribute to crime and victimization such as family violence, social isolation, low literacy and drug and alcohol abuse.

As well, through the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has placed special emphasis on the needs of at-risk youth and is looking at ways to increase its support. The Youth Employment Strategy already helps many urban Aboriginal youth at risk and further possibilities are being explored.

RECOMMENDATION 16

The federal government should act to extend its National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program to include all Aboriginal youth, irrespective of status, residing in urban areas.

As a federally funded health program, the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP) provides treatment services to First Nations on reserve and Inuit in Inuit communities, however NNADAP accommodates First Nations living off-reserve where accessibility permits. NNADAP treatment centres target the adult population and provide services to older youth only as appropriate. Currently there are three NNADAP treatment centres located in urban areas (Calgary, Thunder Bay, and Winnipeg) with the remaining located on reserve. The program is scheduled to undergo an evaluation which will inform the future direction of the program, including its scope, the allocation of resources and program priorities.

The National Youth Solvent Abuse Program (NYSAP) provides community-based prevention, intervention and inpatient treatment to youth solvent abusers. This includes a network of solvent addictions treatment centres that provide culturally appropriate in-patient and out-patient treatment services to First Nations youth. Most of the centres target youth 12 to 19 years and one is aimed at youth aged 16 to 25 years. The program components consist of intervention and treatment. As is the case for NNADAP, the primary target group of NYSAP is First Nations on-reserve and Inuit in Inuit communities, however NYSAP also accommodates First Nations youth living off-reserve where accessibility permits. An evaluation of the services NYSAP provides to First Nations and Inuit youth who abuse solvents is underway.

It is an objective of the NNADAP and Youth Solvent Abuse programs to provide culturally appropriate treatment to First Nations and Inuit people. The programs are operated by First Nations organizations and/or communities, and combine "non-native derived" approaches such as 12 step programs with teachings and self-care skills and techniques that are based on First Nations and Inuit cultures. This recommendation to make treatment centres and services for youth age and culturally appropriate is supported and is currently being implemented in the NNADAP and Youth Solvent Abuse programs.

The Alcohol and Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Program, a $14 million annual cost-sharing program with participating provinces and territories works to ensure access for Canadians to effective alcohol and drug treatment services, particularly youth and women. Such services can include alcohol and drug treatment programming for Aboriginal people not eligible for funding under NNADAP. The program also undertakes research activities, such as the development and dissemination of knowledge and information that contributes to effective and quality alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation programs to address the needs of vulnerable populations. The Drug Treatment Court Funding Program (DTCFP) is a contribution funding program available to governmental and non-governmental organizations to implement Drug Treatment Courts in Canada. The DTCFP received approval from Treasury Board in October 2004. Depending on the location of new Courts supported under the Program, there is the potential that some of these may be available to off-reserve clients.

RECOMMENDATION 17

As noted earlier, the Government of Canada, through the Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy (AHRDS) is not only working to provide relevant employment skills to Aboriginal youth but is examining possibilities for additional initiatives in this area. These include additional support under AHRDS, as recommended by the Committee and further projects for Aboriginal youth under the Youth Employment Strategy.

Similarly, Aboriginal students can access scholarships and bursaries, administered by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF), from Health Canada to help them pursue education opportunities leading to professional health careers. The $100 million confirmed in Budget 2005 for the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative is intended to increase the number of Aboriginal people choosing health care professions; to adapt current health professional curricula to provide a more culturally sensitive focus; and to improve the retention of health workers serving all Aboriginal peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis. This work will build on the work of the pan-Canadian Health Human Resources strategy. Health Canada is working with Aboriginal, federal, provincial, territorial, health professional and other partners to develop an overall initiative to increase labour market participation of Aboriginal people in the health care field.

Creating greater linkages between Aboriginal youth and the private sector is a necessity if Aboriginal youth are to participate fully in Canadian society. To this end, the Government of Canada contributes to the Blueprint for the Future (BFF), a NAAF project designed to increase awareness of employment opportunities and associated training requirements in diverse sectors of the Canadian workforce. To date, the program has assisted approximately 25,000 youth who have attended career fairs in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax.

RECOMMENDATION 18

The Government of Canada has long been committed across a wide range of programs to addressing the needs of those most at-risk. In particular, local steering committees under the Urban Aboriginal Strategy direct resources and effort to helping at-risk youth.

For example, the BladeRunners Workplace Integration Project will provide 24 Aboriginal youth, 16 men and 8 women, with training and employment in trades and construction. The youth will receive employment readiness training, job placement and on-going support as they develop a long-term attachment to the workforce. The goal of the project is to provide meaningful work experience for participants in construction and trades, resulting in a long-term attachment to the workforce.

The UAS pilot projects are locally-designed, locally-driven, and work with local urban Aboriginal people and organizations. There is no one-size fits all solution to the issues facing Aboriginal people living in cities. For that very reason, each UAS pilot city uses a different approach to address the issues they identify as pressing in their community and try to find local solutions to address these local priorities. The emphasis placed on local input into decision-making using a variety of approaches (e.g., local service agencies, community groups, Friendship Centres, etc.) is expected to greatly contribute to the success of the UAS pilot projects.

RECOMMENDATION 19

The agencies and departments of the federal government involved in coordinating and implementing the recommended actions contained in this report prepare an annual review of their actions and progress in this regard and table it before this Committee.

The Government of Canada is committed to evaluating the results achieved by departments and agencies for the benefit of Aboriginal Canadians, including urban Aboriginal youth, and to reporting the results to Aboriginal people, to Parliament and to the general public.

To achieve this, the Government is demonstrating its commitment to supporting the progress of Aboriginal Canadians through the development of an Aboriginal Report Card. The October 2004 Speech from the Throne committed the Government to "develop specific quality-of-life indicators and a 'Report Card' to hold all to account and to drive progress."

The Report Card is an important initiative to measure the progress being made in addressing socio-economic conditions and transforming Canada's relationship with Aboriginal people. It will include jointly developed key indicators and identify areas where more work is needed to close the gap between the living conditions of Aboriginal Peoples and those of other Canadians.

As a first step towards the creation of the report card, Canada's Performance 2004 released by the President of the Treasury Board, contains a chapter on Aboriginal issues and provides performance information on four key outcomes for Aboriginal Canadians: participation in life-long learning, economic self-reliance, healthy communities, and a strengthened relationship between Aboriginal people and Canada.

In addition, a range of related reports are released by the individual departments and programs.

Taken together with the current Response, these reporting initiatives should serve the needs of the Committee and of others who share the Government's concern about urban Aboriginal youth.

CONCLUSION

The Government of Canada is increasingly supporting and partnering with a wide range of stakeholders, including federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, and - most importantly - Aboriginal organizations to tackle the challenges faced by urban Aboriginal youth. As many of these issues cross jurisdictional lines, it is important that the Government of Canada works closely with provinces and territories to jointly respond to the issues facing Aboriginal youth.

The Senate Committee, and the many witnesses from which the Committee heard, understand the critical importance of getting the next generation off to a good start. There is a consensus that the issues of education, job training, and employment are critical if Aboriginal youth are to find a significant place in Canada's economy. There is also a shared understanding that social participation, maintaining good health, a sense of personal identity and opportunities for artistic development are an equally important part of the essential development of young people, and that in all of these areas urban Aboriginal youth face unique challenges.

The Government of Canada agrees with the Committee that it is time to shift to a more positive view of urban Aboriginal youth than one that focuses only on problems. While the challenges are real, and increased efforts are needed to address them, it is at least as important that all involved "begin to explore a more constructive approach, one emphasizing the contribution Aboriginal youth now make, and can continue to make, to Canada's future."

The Committee's work in understanding the issues, the principles it has identified to guide the Government of Canada in its responses to the needs of urban Aboriginal youth, and the many thoughtful recommendations it has put forward, are a major contribution to shaping the national response to this critical issue, and the Government thanks the Committee.



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