Blog: COVID’s socio-economic impacts on Indigenous populations

June 22, 2020

By now Canada is well aware that the pandemic has hit vulnerable communities hardest. Within Canada, we know that this includes, among others, women, people with disabilities, and Indigenous communities.

Statistics Canada has published a short overview, Indigenous people in urban areas: vulnerabilities to the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19, to provide information on the vulnerabilities that some Indigenous peoples face due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report focuses on indicators that show Indigenous communities are highly vulnerable to financial impacts. However, the data is from the 2016 Census and the 2017 Aboriginal People’s Survey. Current, relevant, and accurate Indigenous data is incredibly difficult to come by. So while this is some of the information that we do know, it’s important to remember that these numbers represent households in urban areas off reserve, offering a limited sub-set of Indigenous data and therefore not representative of all Indigenous peoples and populations.

The results from these two surveys indicate that 24% of Indigenous people living in urban centres are in poverty (compared to 13% for those who are not Indigenous). Within these urban areas, 30% of Indigenous youth (18 years or younger) live in poverty; the number increases to 37% for foster children, 43% for kids living with only grandparents, and 51% for kids living with single-parents. These are staggering numbers when compounded with economic hardships faced by adults during a pandemic. Furthermore, Indigenous adults are at higher risk of living in a food insecure household (38%), an issue that affects women (41%) more than men (34%).

Many Indigenous people work in low-wage jobs, and have been affected by work stoppage and lost income since the pandemic. Challenges to meet rent, pay transportation costs, and purchase groceries are among top concerns and priorities. For those who do not have access to the internet or a computer at home, they can face further work interruptions, and may also have children who are struggling to keep up with at-home learning. Clearly there are systemic disadvantages that Indigenous peoples face to not only survive, but to succeed during challenging times like this.

Stay tuned for our exploration of data as it relates to racialized populations in Canada, coming soon.  

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