OTTAWA – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the federal election, now underway, is an opportunity for all Canadians to help close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations people and the rest of Canada.
“This election presents the first opportunity for Canadians who watched the Truth and Reconciliation proceedings unfold to cast a vote in favour of a brighter future for all Canadians, including First Nations,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “There is a very high cost of maintaining the gap between First Nations and the rest of Canada, and there are great benefits to all of us in closing that gap. Closing the gap builds not only stronger First Nations communities, but a stronger economy and a stronger Canada.”
The gap is well established. In recent years, Canada has ranked between 6th and 8th on the UN Human Development Index while First Nations fall between 63rd and 78th. The federal government’s own Community Well-Being Index shows that the gap has not closed at all since 1981. The gap in quality of life results in First Nations facing poorer health, a shorter life span, housing shortages and over-crowding, communities under boil water advisories, First Nations vastly over-represented in jails and the high numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls among many other stark statistics. Studies have shown that closing the gap would add $400 billion to Canada’s economy and save an additional $115 billion in social costs related to poverty.
“Our issues are Canada’s issues,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “I am calling on all Canadians and all candidates to commit to working with us as partners to close the gap. This election comes at a time when Canada is poised to begin the era of reconciliation. The AFN is doing its part to inform First Nations about how to participate in this election. Our leaders and citizens are mobilizing to vote. Our ask today is that Canadians from all walks of life consider the potential of healthy, well-educated and fully participating First Nations peoples across the land. We are asking Canadian voters to support the leaders and the candidates who commit to a brighter future, one that includes First Nations as true partners in Canada.”