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First Nations Communities In Crisis: Report

Updated Tue. Jun. 26 2007 10:30 AM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Members of Canada's First Nations communities are living in conditions comparable to those of developing countries, according to a new report.

The report, released by the North-South Partnership and prepared by a team of international humanitarian experts, focused their findings on the communities of Mishkeegogamang and Webequie First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario.

The report details a litany of problems including:

In some cases, the report finds that as many as 20 people are living in two or three bedroom homes and as many as 50 per cent of children are regularly going hungry. Children are also lagging three to four years behind in their education.

"It will give us an avenue to be able to advocate for what the conditions are in our communities," Chief Connie Gray-McKay of Mishkeegogamang Ojibway Nation told CTV's Canada AM. "It's also proven in the structure of Canada that we are not making these stories up."

"These really are there and their own organizations that are finally being able to verify these conditions for us and we can use this to advocate for more funding to address some real basic issues such as housing."

The report was prepared by representatives from Save the Children Canada, Save the Children US, the Ontario Office of Child and Family Services Advocacy, among other organizations, as well as community leaders and youths in the First Nations communities.

The report also cites that employment opportunities are restricted to seasonal and community work, and physical and mental health problems that are exacerbated by the housing and economic problems are also contributing to the overall problems.

"Contributions from Partnership organizations have already touched the lives of many young people in our communities. But, as this recent report indicates, there is much more work that needs to be done to ensure that our children and families have the best opportunities possible," Chief Scott Jacob of Webequie First Nation said in the report.

To address these issues, the report recommends the implementation of new housing projects, suicide awareness programs and development of the tourism and craft industries.

Gray-McKay believes that despite the scenario presented in the report, people in the First Nations communities are hopeful of a better future.

"I believe they have hope. A lot of it comes down to how much as First Nation leaders we can really continue to push and pressure the government and anyone that's willing to come and help us," Gray-McKay said.

"And that takes a lot of time. When you work with government, it's something that you've got to have a consistent effort in order to move your issues forward and not to give up hope. Because if you give up hope it's harder for your people."

Taken from http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070626/firstnations_report_070626/20070626?hub=Canada.

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