Senate Recommends Equality for Off-reserve Natives

Friday, October 31, 2003 at 15:27



The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples is calling for a fundamental change in the way Ottawa deals with Metis and off-reserve native people.


The Committee has released a 120-page report with 19 recommendations concerning issues affecting urban Aboriginal youth.


One of the most noteworthy recommendations calls for the federal government to remove artificial status-based restrictions so that all Aboriginal youth are eligible for post-secondary student assistance.


The program is currently limited to First Nations and Inuit youth, and effectively excludes Metis and non-status Indians.


The report also calls for a major departure from Ottawa’s current Aboriginal policy to deal with the demographic shift of the Aboriginal population from reserves to the city. The committee notes that two-thirds of Aboriginal people live off-reserve, and of the 8 billion dollars the federal government puts annually into Aboriginal programs, only 270 million flows into urban and off-reserve programming.


The report calls on Ottawa to recognize mobility rights of First Nations people when they leave reserve communities, and to enter into formal negotiations with the Metis peoples of Canada to recognize and clarify their rights.


The committee’s report also highlights the need for urban transition services to help native youth adjust to city life, measures to address the high drop-out rates, community-based youth programs that promote sound parenting skills and long-term strategic approaches for labour market readiness.