Study Proposes Strategies in Meeting Aboriginal Service Needs
A University of Waterloo study indicates that Aboriginal service provision and delivery in Southern Ontario urban centres would be more effective if it were better attuned to the specific health, social, and cultural needs of local Aboriginal peoples.
Martin Cooke, Julia Woodhall, and Jennifer McWhirter examined and synthesized current literature on the health and social problems of the growing population of Canadian urban Aboriginal peoples. According to Cooke, “in large Ontario cities like Toronto there are large numbers of First Nations and Métis people, and well-developed urban Aboriginal networks that can provide culturally appropriate services. For some smaller cities in Ontario, growing Aboriginal populations may be served primarily by mainstream health and social service providers. We tried to provide evidence from the research literature that would help those organizations understand the characteristics and needs of those populations.”
Their paper documents that the urban Aboriginal population has both different and greater needs than non-Aboriginals, due to higher risks of low income, poor health, crime, and victimization.
Many of these concerns are associated with loss of culture and identity. Literature revealed that social distress from cultural disruption and lasting impacts of the residential school system is a prominent cause of the high rates of substance abuse, suicide, self-harm, and domestic violence among Aboriginal peoples. Services directed towards Aboriginals not only must respect Aboriginal cultures, but also should “decolonize” by helping these populations reclaim pride in their identities.
For example, one approach might be to introduce culturally-relevant educational programming to Aboriginal high schools and early childhood education, which are currently very “Euro-centric”. Culturally-relevant curricula may also improve Aboriginal participation in secondary and post-secondary education.
In terms of health, literature showed that Aboriginal peoples living off-reserve are 1.8 times as likely as other Canadians to be obese, and that they are twice as likely as other Canadians to be diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Health services and programmes for Aboriginals in Southern Ontario should target obesity prevention, treatment, and management.
The review also revealed that policy makers and service providers should focus on employment as a major issue for Aboriginals. The unemployment rate of Aboriginal adults is about twice that of non-Aboriginals, while employed Aboriginals are proportionally over-represented in manufacturing and processing occupations and under-represented in professional occupations. Focusing on preparation for, and integration into, the labour force would enhance economic circumstances of the urban Aboriginal population, as well as the economic and social prospects of Canadian cities.
For more information, contact Martin Cooke.
A summary of the research can be found at the Population Change and Lifecourse Strategic Knowledge Cluster ResearchBrief13.html