Data Shows Inuit Children’s Basic Needs Severely Lacking

Media Release

National Inuit Leader Responds to the Aboriginal Children’s Survey

Ottawa – Wednesday October 29, 2008 – Statistics Canada released information today from the Aboriginal Children’s Survey, with a focus on the family, community, and childcare of Aboriginal children under six years of age.Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Mary Simon is calling on the Federal Government to improve the quality and accessibility of public programs, services, and infrastructure for Canadian children and families in the Arctic. Some highlights of the data revealed that four in ten Inuit children are receiving regular childcare. This includes formal daycare or care by a grandmother, extended family, or neighbor. 35% of parents of Inuit children gave a “fair” or “poor” rating for facilities such as community centres, rinks, and gyms.A minorityof parents of Inuit children rated their community, nursery schools, and early childhood programs as “excellent” or “very good”.

“The data released today demonstrates the glaring needfor basic programs and servicesfor our children’s health and development. Children in the Arctic deserve equal opportunities for a decent start in life and education, and at the very least, access basic services that are provided across Canada,” said Ms. Simon. “Inuit populations are among the fastest growing in Canada, and Inuit youth represent over 50% of our people. That’s about twice the Canadian average. About one quarter of Inuit children under six had mothers between the ages of 15 – 24, about three times the Canadian average. These demographic realities place a lot of pressure on the young and the community that must support their children and youth.”

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada TB infection rates have worsened among the Inuit population and are 23 times the national average. From another study, it is also known that the hospital admission rate for lower respiratory tract infections is higher for Inuit children in Canada than for any other group in the world. This rate is impacted by poorly ventilated, crowded homes. Inuit children live in some of the most crowded housing conditions in Canada, and are six times more likely to live in an overcrowded home.

“There are some positive resultsin the data, and it must be mentioned that parents and guardians of Inuit children report high levels of satisfaction with their support networks from family and friends. Where government falls short, family support blooms”.

Mary Simon concluded, “Constructive partnership is key to achieving positive results. Invest now in the children of the Arctic. As fair-minded Canadians, we cannot accept what is going on. ITK has proposed a national joint strategy for Inuit children and youth, and is ready to work with our government to make positive changes. I am also calling on the Prime Minister to appoint an ombudsman to protect the interests of Inuit and Aboriginal children throughout Canada. Together we can build healthy strong communities; there is no time to lose”.

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