Source: Jessica Ball IRPP Choices 14 (7). Retrieved October 20, 2010
Summary: The situation of many of Canada’s Aboriginal people is one of the country’s most pressing public policy questions. Based on a range of measures, from income and unemployment levels to health indicators, there are significant gaps in life chances between many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. There has been progress in some areas —for example, in the proportion of Aboriginal people who have completed post-secondary education. Nonetheless, measures such as the United Nations Human Development Index continue to underline the unacceptable disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. Self-government agreements signed during the past 30 years or so, particularly in the North, hold promise of a better future for the First Nations who have acquired greater community autonomy. But the majority of Aboriginal people, notably those who live in cities, are not covered by such agreements; for them, there is a need for other approaches and — above all — renewed political will.
In this study, Jessica Ball addresses in considerable depth the health, socio-economic and other conditions of Aboriginal children in Canada. Based on an extensive review of the literature, she demonstrates that many Aboriginal children live in poverty and face unacceptably high health and development challenges. Their situation is compounded by other factors, including the impact on parenting abilities of time spent in Aboriginal residential schools.
Drawing on research from other countries, Ball reviews the benefits of early childhood programs. In this regard, she focuses on the Aboriginal Head Start programs, which the Canadian federal government began to fund in the mid-1990s. Ball reports some encouraging preliminary findings about the impacts of these programs and recommends that they be expanded to enable access for a minimum of 25 percent of Aboriginal children. She presents several further policy recommendations for measures intended to enhance the life chances of Aboriginal children while protecting their cultural heritage.