Close the gap between Canada and its aboriginal people: AFN chief – by Kim MacKrael (Globe and Mail – May 14, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — The leader of the country’s largest aboriginal group is calling on Ottawa to close the gap between Canada and its aboriginal people as the UN prepares to adopt a new set of sustainable development goals.

Perry Bellegarde said in an interview Wednesday that the federal government should invest more in education, training and housing to bring conditions for aboriginal Canadians in line with the rest of the country. The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations said he plans to bring that message Thursday to a gathering of international development experts and non-governmental organizations in Gatineau, Que.

Mr. Bellegarde’s comments come as the United Nations prepares to adopt a new set of global targets to replace eight millennium development goals when they expire at the end of this year. The new objectives will cover 17 target areas, ranging from ending poverty to combatting climate change and reducing inequality. Unlike the previous goals, the new targets have been explicitly developed to be universally applicable, which means wealthy countries like Canada will be expected to work toward achieving them alongside lower-income countries.

Canada regularly places well on the UN human development index, which measures living conditions in all countries. But development experts say that inequalities within the country – particularly in relation to aboriginal Canadians – could come under scrutiny when the next set of global-development goals come into effect in 2016.

Mr. Bellegarde said that if the indicators used for the human development index were applied to aboriginal Canadians, they would place 63rd on the list. Canada as a whole ranked eighth last year on the UN index.

“In Canada, it’s all about closing the gap, and right now, there’s a huge gap between indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples,” Mr. Bellegarde said. He said the new development goals could help place added pressure on the government to do more to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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