Aboriginal people living in Saskatchewan are one of the groups most greatly affected by poverty and the province hopes a newly appointed advisory committee will help find solutions.
Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer announced an 11-member advisory group on poverty reduction Monday morning.
The group will release a report of recommendations in May which will guide the provincial government on its poverty reduction strategy.
Harpauer says higher poverty and lower health rates are often located in inner-city areas with higher Aboriginal populations, such as the west side of Saskatoon.
“In your particular area that you identify, there is a larger Aboriginal community and that is a concern – is the infant mortality, absolutely,” she says. “As you notice, there’s a strong health representation on our panel and they will be looking at those particular issues.”
Saskatoon doctor Ryan Meili of the West Side Community Clinic and Chief Medical Officer of the Saskatoon Health Region Cory Neudorf are members of the advisory group.
Aboriginal representation on the committee will be provided by former RCMP commanding officer for Saskatchewan Russ Mirasty and Director of the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre Jo-Ann Episkenew.
The co-chairs are Alison Robertson of the Saskatoon Food Bank and Social Services assistant deputy minister Constance Hourie.
Robertson says while poverty rates in the province are improving overall, things are getting worse in terms of certain groups.
“Well, the evidence suggests that while the poverty rate is decreasing, poverty is deepening for some groups,” she says. “So, what’s behind that and how can we address that? Those are exactly the types of things that this group is going to be looking at.”
NDP Social Services Critic David Forbes says the opposition doesn’t have a problem with naming an advisory committee but the concern is the group will not make its recommendations until May, long after the provincial budget is tabled.
“We’re deeply concerned that now, with the report coming out in May, that will be past the budget cycle, so the signal is clear – don’t be looking for things in the budget for 2015 and 16,” he says. “Maybe in 2016/17 at the earliest – that’s too late for too many people here.”
The advisory group is made up of six community members and five representatives from government.