‘Incomprehensible failure’: Auditor general says federal government not improving life for Indigenous people

The federal government has failed to adequately track the country’s progress in closing socio-economic gaps between First Nations people living on-reserve and other Canadians, according to a new auditor general’s report.

The federal government’s inability to help improve life for Indigenous people in Canada is an “incomprehensible failure,” according to the auditor general.

A new scathing audit report states Indigenous Services Canada has not adequately collected data – and sometimes reported inaccurate data – about the well-being of First Nations living on reserve.

With incomplete information on factors like education, income and health, Indigenous Services Canada has also failed to track the country’s progress in closing socioeconomic gaps between on-reserve First Nations and the rest of Canada, the report concludes.

“There are so many discussions about the need to close the socio-economic gaps between Indigenous people and other Canadians in this country and we don’t see those gaps closing,” said Auditor General Michael Ferguson on Tuesday, after the report was tabled in the House of Commons.

“We don’t even see that they know how to measure those gaps.”

That also means Parliamentarians who have rubber-stamped funding for Indigenous communities have not had the full picture of life on-reserve.

For example, the report states government spent $42 million over four years (2012-2013 to 2015-2016) for a First Nations post-secondary education preparation program.

But auditors found only eight per cent of those enrolled actually completed program.

“Despite these poor results, the department did not work with First Nations or education institutions to improve the success rates,” said Ferguson.

The report also found the department reported inaccurate data to Parliament concerning the number of First Nations students who graduated high school within four years.

The department reported almost half of First Nations students (46 per cent) finished high school, on average, between 2011 and 2016.

However, auditors found only 24 per cent who started high school in grade 9 actually finished in four years.

“These findings matter because, without complete and accurate information, Canadians, First Nations, and Parliamentarians were not fully informed about the true extent of First Nations’ education results or the education gap,” the report reads.

The federal government was also “inconsistent” in its funding approach to educating students over age 21. While an elementary and secondary education program was meant for students aged four to 21, a “significant” number of students over the age limit were funded. Yet other older students wishing to return to high school were denied funding.

Also, despite 30 years of federal funding to various employment training programs for Indigenous people, the report concludes the federal government failed to track whether more Indigenous people are successfully finding jobs and staying employed.

“They didn’t have a definition of what sustainable employment means,” said Ferguson. “Even if somebody got a part-time job or a job for five days working on a construction project, they counted that as one of the clients getting a job, even though it’s very short-term.”

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott said she welcomes the report’s findings, noting the Liberal government is working with First Nations to better track progress on closing socioeconomic gaps.

Contrary to Ferguson’s characterization of the report’s findings, Philpott said the gaps are “absolutely comprehensible” considering how Indigenous programs and services have been underfunded for generations.

But Ferguson said past governments are not solely to blame.

The new Indigenous Services Canada department received $2.6 billion to fund its core education funding budget from the 2016-2017 fiscal year until 2020-2021. However, auditors deemed the department’s analysis to support this amount was “insufficient.”

In August 2017, the federal government announced it was splitting Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada into two different departments: Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.

Ferguson said this could be a step towards improving services for First Nations – but we won’t know unless there’s a way to track the outcomes.

“What we really need to see is actual changes in results.”

14 thoughts on “‘Incomprehensible failure’: Auditor general says federal government not improving life for Indigenous people

  1. “Incomprehensible failure” is a significant understatement for the incompetent uncaring vindictive cruel-o-crats that your elected officials just can’t control or change. How are Canadians to reconcile with Canada’s Indigenous peoples in such an unforgiving toxic environment? Most Canadians want to reconcile but do not know where to start. Indigenous awareness training is just the starting point as Canadians need to know as much as possible about those they wish to reconcile with.
    Being able to demonstrate respect is critical.

  2. We first Nations could have phoned you told you no need for more surveys, that all what has happened in the past 50 in the first Nations community’s has not worked,never will work, because we have never been included in any process,when there is a ” program”new or old, money goes only to the administrators,pennies trickle down ,,

  3. “Incomprehensible failure” is a significant understatement for the incompetent uncaring vindictive cruel-o-crats that your elected officials just can’t control or change. How are Canadians to reconcile with Canada’s Indigenous peoples in such an unforgiving toxic environment? Most Canadians want to reconcile but do not know where to start. Indigenous awareness training is just the starting point as Canadians need to know as much as possible about those they wish to reconcile with.
    Being able to demonstrate respect is critical.

  4. We first Nations could have phoned you told you no need for more surveys, that all what has happened in the past 50 in the first Nations community’s has not worked,never will work, because we have never been included in any process,when there is a ” program”new or old, money goes only to the administrators,pennies trickle down ,,

  5. Sounds like a chaotic operation federal aboriginal services ; I’m not sure what to call this department anymore. One thing I do know is I’ve been looking for the announcements and enhancements and I’m not seeing it..

  6. Sounds like a chaotic operation federal aboriginal services ; I’m not sure what to call this department anymore. One thing I do know is I’ve been looking for the announcements and enhancements and I’m not seeing it..

  7. Another study , another 30 years of failed programs . The only people who benefit are the administators of these programs , just like the lawyers , the environmentalist eveyone is getting rich off first nations . Great industry where the cash always rolls and no accountability. They only people who dont benefit are the first nations who these people have been helping out for a hundred years , can anyone say proper drinking water.

  8. I am so frustrated with the gov’ts who have no clue what goes on within our first nations and yet impose decisions on us that don’t work. First nation gov’ts should be given the opportunity to govern themselves, that’s the only way it’s going to work.
    This is 2018 already. It just hit me, if we gain full control, these useless gov’t agencies would be out of work. We’re their bread and butter, without us, they won’t have a job and the mighty gov’t wouldn’t want that.

  9. Another study , another 30 years of failed programs . The only people who benefit are the administators of these programs , just like the lawyers , the environmentalist eveyone is getting rich off first nations . Great industry where the cash always rolls and no accountability. They only people who dont benefit are the first nations who these people have been helping out for a hundred years , can anyone say proper drinking water.

  10. I am so frustrated with the gov’ts who have no clue what goes on within our first nations and yet impose decisions on us that don’t work. First nation gov’ts should be given the opportunity to govern themselves, that’s the only way it’s going to work.
    This is 2018 already. It just hit me, if we gain full control, these useless gov’t agencies would be out of work. We’re their bread and butter, without us, they won’t have a job and the mighty gov’t wouldn’t want that.

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