Canada’s ministers responsible for social services are examining poverty reduction efforts in First Nations communities.

At a meeting this week in Halifax, the ministers pledged to support those living in poverty, but also look at prevention.

Saskatchewan’s minister Paul Merriman says the provinces and territories are awaiting the release of a federal Indigenous poverty reduction strategy, with another meeting expected this fall.

Merriman says while each jurisdiction has its unique challenges, there are three commonalities for First Nations poverty across the country — food insecurity, housing and employment.

“Food insecurity, housing and bridging to employment. How we can bridge the people on temporary programs into employment and sustainable employment?” Merriman said.

Merriman noted that Sask Housing currently has a surplus of housing units. He credits lowering poverty rate in the province down a half percentage point over the past month to a housing-first strategy and to adjustments to income assistance.

“Our poverty numbers have come down. I think from 9.8 per cent to 9.2 over the last year or so,” said Merriman.

On food security, Merriman wants to work on addressing providing more quality, healthy and affordable foods into communities and decrease junk food. He believes education and food preparation will help to combat hunger.

As for employment, Cameco’s announcement of an indefinite shutdown of the McArthur River and Key Lake operations will affect hundreds of jobs in the north. Merriman says several ministries are working to help those impacted.

(PHOTO: Sask. Social Services Minister Paul Merriman. Photo courtesy of the Sask Party.)