Issues: tackling First Nations concerns

In part four of our series on the major issues of this campaign, we asked Conrad Burns, Martin Ring and Greg Dionne how they plan to address First Nations concerns

At the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce mayoral debate on Oct. 12, candidates scuffled over whether their competitors had attended the Powwow for long enough.

It’s unfortunate that their exchange was the closest the campaign’s biggest debate got to a real dialogue on indigenous issues. Our next mayor will have a lot more to think about than how long to stay at the next Powwow.

About 40 per cent of the city’s population is First Nations or Métis. And that number is set to grow – fast. The median age of First Nations people in Saskatchewan is twenty, about half that of the non-aboriginal population. It’s safe to say that Prince Albert will soon be a majority indigenous community.

But the city still hasn’t really succeeded in integrating its aboriginal residents, particularly those recently arrived from northern communities. First Nations and Métis students are less likely to be in school, and less likely to graduate, than their non-aboriginal peers. According to the 2006 census, the unemployment rate for they city’s indigenous population was three times that of the rest of the city. The census showed that aboriginal women had a median income of only $16,700, while full-time aboriginal workers had actually seen their earnings decrease from five years earlier.

Conrad Burns, Martin Ring and Greg Dionne, should one of them become mayor, will have to face those grim statistics. They told the Daily Herald how they plan to work with First Nations communities.

For more on this story, please read the Prince Albert Daily Herald’s subscription-based print or e-editions.