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Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap: Impacts on Service Delivery for Mobile Urban Aboriginal Peoples in Winnipeg, Canada

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In recent decades, Aboriginal peoples in Western settler nations have become increasingly urbanized. In many cases, urbanization has been associated with notably high levels of geographic mobility between rural/reserve areas and cities, as well as within cities. Despite the increasing urbanization of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, the policy environment in Canada remains focused on the reserve-based population. Drawing upon thirty-nine in-depth interviews with mobile, urban Aboriginal peoples and urban Aboriginal service providers in Winnipeg, Canada, this article demonstrates that colonial-rooted policy and legislation, along with federal downscaling and privatization of social services, have impacted how service providers operate. This has resulted in service gaps between urban and rural/reserve areas, as Aboriginal migrants seek out information and support from housing, employment, education, health and social-related services. This leaves Aboriginal migrants often unprepared for their transition from rural/reserve areas to cities. Intra-city movers also experience difficulty maintaining continuous social and health service care as they travel across urban neighbourhoods. The research findings suggest a need for urban Aboriginal policies that reflect the right to self-determination and adequate service delivery, as service providers remain constrained by neoliberalism, government funding restrictions, and service delivery models that do not acknowledge urban Aboriginal peoples’ mobility experiences.
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Vol. 5, no. 1, 2015, pp.
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ISSN: 1923-3299
Article DOI:
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap: Impacts
on Service Delivery for Mobile Aboriginal Peoples in
Winnipeg, Canada
Marcie Snyder, PhD
Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga
Kathi Wilson, PhD
Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga
Jason Whitford, Program Manager
Eagle Urban Transition Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
aboriginal policy studies, vol. 5, no. 1, 2015
ISSN: 1923-3299
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap: Impacts
on Service Delivery for Mobile Aboriginal Peoples in
Winnipeg, Canada
Marcie Snyder, PhD
Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga
Kathi Wilson, PhD
Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga
Jason Whitford, Program Manager
Eagle Urban Transition Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Abstract: In recent decades, Aboriginal peoples in Western settler nations have become
increasingly urbanized. In many cases, urbanization has been associated with notably high
levels of geographic mobility between rural/reserve areas and cities, as well as within cities.
Despite the increasing urbanization of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, the policy environment
in Canada remains focused on the reserve-based population. Drawing upon thirty-nine
in-depth interviews with mobile, urban Aboriginal peoples and urban Aboriginal service
providers in Winnipeg, Canada, this article demonstrates that colonial-rooted policy and
legislation, along with federal downscaling and privatization of social services, have had an
impact on how service providers operate. This has resulted in service gaps between urban and
rural/reserve areas, as Aboriginal migrants seek out information and support from housing,
employment, education, health and social-related services. This leaves Aboriginal migrants
often unprepared for their transition from rural/reserve areas to cities. Intra-city movers also
experience difficulty maintaining continuous social and health-service care as they travel
across urban neighbourhoods. The research findings suggest a need for urban Aboriginal
policies that reflect the right to self-determination and adequate service delivery, as service
providers remain constrained by neoliberalism, government funding restrictions, and service
delivery models that do not acknowledge urban Aboriginal peoples’ mobility experiences.
In recent decades, Indigenous populations
across the Western world have become
increasingly urbanized. In Canada, the urban Aboriginal population has experienced
steady growth since the 1950s, when less than seven percent was urban (Kalbach 1987).
Currently, over half of the Aboriginal population is living in cities. According to Statistics
1 The term ‘Indigenous’ is recognized by the United Nations and by a growing number of scholars to refer to
the First Peoples of a region. It usually refers to First Peoples internationally (NAHO 2011).
aboriginal policy studies
Canada, approximately fifty percent of urban Aboriginal peoples are First Nations, forty-
three percent identify as Metis, and seven percent are of Inuit descent.
In Canada, as well as in other settler nations, the urbanization of Indigenous peoples
has been associated with high levels of geographic mobility between rural areas and cities,
as well as within cities (Norris and Clatworthy 2003; Snipp 2004; Taylor and Bell 2004).
As mobility flows have increased in recent decades, urban policy and service delivery
have struggled to meet the needs of Aboriginal urban newcomers and intra-city movers.
Although urban Aboriginal service providers often serve as a key point of entry for
newcomers, there remains a distinct need for transitional service support, and adequate
and appropriate service provision remains a point of concern (Distasio and Sylvestre
2004; Distasio, Sylvestre, and Wall-Wieler 2013). Although urbanization is by no means
a recent phenomenon, adequate transitional supports, including housing, remain a key
issue for recent Aboriginal migrants and movers. Housing is of particular significance,
as housing distress may drive higher rates of mobility (Belanger, Awosoga, and Weasal
Head 2013), and yet the federal government has for decades neglected the housing needs
of the Aboriginal population seeking to establish itself in the city, and has focused rather on
reserve-based housing (Belanger, Weasal Head, and Awosoga 2012). Internationally, it has
been argued that urban service providers have difficulties meeting the transitional needs of
mobile Indigenous populations, largely due to complications in providing continuous and
adequate care to non-stationary populations (Clatworthy and Norris 2007; CMHC 2002;
Prout and Yap 2010; Taylor 1998). According to the United Nations (2010), Indigenous
peoples’ urban mobility remains an ongoing priority area, as frequent Indigenous movers
often experience limited access to health, housing, employment, and education services,
broadly due to a lack of adequate access to information, and to resistance on the part of
dominant governance structures to acknowledging and valuing Indigenous peoples’ right
to self-determination and ways of knowing, including participation in, and co-creation of,
urban planning and the management of services.
Despite these concerns around mobility and service delivery, little is known regarding
the relationships between mobility and service planning, delivery, and use. Aside from
the work of Skelton (2002), which highlighted the need for social policy that respects and
supports the housing needs and perspectives of mobile, single Aboriginal mothers living
in Winnipeg, who were often forced to relocate due to deplorable living conditions and
experiences of racism, and that of DeVerteuil and Wilson (2010), who found that urban
services do not necessarily meet the cultural and social needs of urban (and mobile)
Indigenous populations, there remains a key gap in knowledge.
2 It should be noted that the categories First Nations, Metis, and Inuit fail to acknowledge the multiple tribes,
identities, and experiences of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and also run the risk of homogenizing diverse
populations. However, for the sake of this discussion, we use these categories, as well as the collective term
Aboriginal, as these are widely agreed upon at this time. This is done with the understanding that state
policies have been used to manage these so-called categories of Indigeneity at the geographic and population
levels. These racialized categories have been used to displace Aboriginal populations politically and culturally
(see Andersen 2008).
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap
Furthermore, structural inequities and inconsistencies perpetuate a discourse in which
mobile Indigenous peoples are often particularly vulnerable, as they are not sufficiently
supported by existing social policies. Aboriginal mobility is often construed as a negative
practice (Cooke and McWhirter 2011), and it has been suggested that frequent movement
may disrupt or have a negative impact on service delivery (Clatworthy and Norris 2007; Prout
2009; Taylor 1998). While research has examined how service provision and government
funding affect the identity of First Nations women living in urban areas (Peters 2006), and
has documented Indigenous mobility patterns and flows over the past half-century (Norris
and Clatworthy 2011), little to no work has examined the relationship between service
delivery and mobility. Research also has yet to consider the effect that government policy,
or lack thereof, has on planning of and access to services for mobile urban Aboriginal
populations. In light of the disconnect among levels of government, funders, and urban
Aboriginal communities, this article seeks to examine and address the challenges and
limitations of service delivery for mobile urban Aboriginal populations, rather than the
challenges that mobility presents to service delivery. The purpose of this paper is therefore
to examine the use of and challenges related to accessing urban services, including health,
education, employment, housing, and social supports, by mobile urban Aboriginal peoples.
More specifically, we focus on how governance structures shape service delivery for mobile
Aboriginal peoples in urban Canada, and examine what is needed to support the successful
transition of urban Aboriginal movers to and within urban areas.
Situating Indigenous Peoples’ Mobility
For the purposes of this paper, mobility is considered to refer both to migration, which
includes moves between urban and rural/reserve areas, and to residential or intra-city
mobility, which refers to a change of residence within a given city (Bell and Brown 2005;
Clatworthy and Norris 2007). Migration from reserve to urban areas is largely motivated
by a lack of favourable circumstances and opportunities on reserves. Issues include a
lack of access to health and social services, education and training; family formation or
dissolution; substandard housing; poor environmental conditions; and/or lack of economic
and political resources on many reserves (CMHC 1996; Cooke and Belanger 2006; Peters
and Robillard 2009). It has been suggested that residential mobility, on the other hand, is
largely motivated by experiences with racism in the rental market coupled with substandard
housing conditions, poverty, eviction, family violence, and/or crime and safety issues
(Clatworthy and Norris 2007; CMHC 2002; McCaskill, FitzMaurice, and Cidro 2011).
Indigenous mobility experiences are similar in Canada, the United States, New Zealand,
and Australia, where colonial governments have historically and actively dispossessed
Indigenous peoples from their lands and cultural identity through paternalistic and
assimilationist policies that have had long-lasting repercussions, and have influenced
mobility patterns. In Canada in particular, First Nations peoples had their lands appropriated,
their cultural practices outlawed, and their children forcibly removed from their families
and homes to attend church- and state-run residential schools, where many young people
aboriginal policy studies
faced brutal abuse (Lavallee and Poole 2009). This agenda to dispossess First Nations people
of their lands was realized largely through the reserve system. Although lacking any actual
basis in law, Indian Affairs, a federal government department, designed a pass system in
the late 19
century meant to confine First Nations peoples to their reserves. Those who
left their reserves without a pass were taken into police custody. This segregation restricted
mobility into urban areas, and although illegal, remained in practice until the 1930s (Barron
1988). The creation of government-controlled reserve lands, which breached treaties and
started a system of segregation that would become a template for South African apartheid,
resulted in forced relocation, mobility restrictions, and displacement from traditional
lands, as well as removal of Indigenous people from cities (Canada 2014c; Smylie 2009).
Similarly, Metis people who, by the 19
century, were a culturally and politically distinct
people, were stripped of their land by government policy that disregarded Metis land rights
and privileged settler immigration (Laliberte 2014). While some Metis people have lived
in urban areas for generations, and not all Metis people associate with a particular land
base, ongoing colonization drove many from their lands and communities to live as a
marginalized and hidden people. By the 1950s, a lack of resources as well as overcrowding
in First Nations reserve communities, coupled with the lifting of mobility restrictions and
a decline in once-vibrant rural Metis communities, contributed to urban migration rates
(Andersen and Denis 2003).
This complex history of social, economic, political, and geographic inequality continues
to play a role in shaping Aboriginal peoples’ mobility. It is also important to recognize
that mobile Aboriginal people are unique in that they are not only urban newcomers,
moving from one defined geographic area to another, but are also moving within their own
traditional territories. Consequently, the mobility picture, by and large, differs between
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations, due not only to the frequency with which
mobility tends to occur, but also to the distinct context in which Aboriginal mobility is
situated. Although distinct, urban Aboriginal movers’ histories and status are often not
recognized (Peters 2005), and, as a result, urban migrants do not receive special status
upon migrating to the city. This is due in part to a lack of eligibility for federal programs
and services, which focus on reserve-based populations, as well as reluctance on the part of
provincial governments to develop Aboriginal-specific urban policies. It could be argued
that federal government policy has encouraged urbanization by underfunding reserve
services and declining to recognize Indigenous status within cities.
This complexity around policy and programming is exacerbated by colonial perceptions
that have suggested that being urban and Indigenous are somehow incompatible. Early
urban migration was perceived by settlers to be problematic, and as a result, government
interventions were often “complex and contradictory” as policies did not challenge colonial
interpretations of First Nations peoples and culture. For example, urbanization was
framed as a cultural change, and it was assumed that urban migrants were rejecting their
culture and communities of origin to integrate with mainstream society. Federal programs
did, however, provide assistance to early migrants, and facilitated urban employment
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap
and residence as a way to integrate movers. In later years, urban migration was further
supported as First Nations groups began to request support for their own service-delivery
initiatives (Peters 2002). By 1972, the federal government recognized the growing need
for Friendship Centres, which represent a national infrastructure of service providers and
advocates for all urban Aboriginal people. In turn, government implemented the Migrating
Native Peoples Program, which would later become the Aboriginal Friendship Centre
Program, to provide core funding for Friendship Centre programming and service delivery
(National Association of Friendship Centres 2011). Many urban Aboriginal institutions
that exist today grew from the Friendship Centre movement (Newhouse 2003). More
recently, the Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS) has come to address key priority areas for
urban Aboriginal peoples, including family, health, job and skill training, and support of
youth initiatives. Since 1998, UAS programs have been funded in thirteen cities across
Canada. This being said, past and present urban policy does not consider Indigenous rights
to self-determination and self-government, and may not represent the needs and interests
of all urban Aboriginal communities (Tomiak 2013) or movers.
The Role of Government, and Resulting Gaps in Urban Aboriginal Policy
Despite the existence of federal programs and funding to facilitate urbanization,
there remains a lack of clarity over which level of government has jurisdiction over
urban Aboriginal people, and governments continue to avoid clarifying this issue (Peters
2011). As Peters notes, this continues to contribute to the assumption that Aboriginal
culture and rights are associated with non-urban areas. Although mobility may at times
challenge service provision (Clatworthy and Norris 2007), adequate service programming
and delivery are also hampered by factors beyond mobility—specifically, by a policy
environment that is still rooted in colonial structures that, despite the growth of successful
urban self-governing Aboriginal community organizations and networks, treats Aboriginal
peoples as outsiders in cities (Peters 2005). In this way, government programming is not
sustainable, as it disregards the call for Aboriginal self-determination and seldom recognizes
Aboriginal peoples as co-creators at the policy table (Belanger, Awosoga, and Weasal Head
2013; Walker 2005). Federal, provincial, and municipal governments rarely agree upon
financial responsibility for care, resulting in a “policy patchwork” rife with jurisdictional
ambiguities and a lack of Aboriginal-specific policy (Lavoie et al. 2011). Consequently, the
federal government tends to favour reserve-based funding, and there remains a resistance
within the service delivery structure itself to providing culturally appropriate care that
privileges Indigenous well-being (DeVerteuil and Wilson 2010). As Lavoie et al. (2011)
explain in their analysis of Aboriginal health legislation in Canada, coordinating the needs
of Aboriginal communities with the relationships and policies of governments remains an
ongoing challenge.
aboriginal policy studies
According to the Canadian Constitution Act of 1867, the federal government is
responsible for funding health services and other programs to status Indians
living on
reserve. This means that status Indians have the right to live on-reserve and have access
to First Nation-administered, federally controlled health services, social housing, and
assistance. Although there is nothing in place to prevent the federal government from
taking responsibility for urban Aboriginal people, it has largely interpreted its role as being
accountable for First Nations people on-reserve, and as a result those who migrate from
their reserves to urban or rural areas lose most of the services and benefits to which they
have access on reserves. The only program to extend benefits off-reserve is the Non-Insured
Health Benefits program, which provides status Indians with eyeglasses, prescription drugs,
and medical transportation (Lavoie et al. 2008). This paternalistic policy geographically
discriminates against urban status Indians, as they lose most of their status rights upon
leaving the reserve boundary (Senese and Wilson 2013). This legislation also completely
negates benefits for Metis and non-status Indians who, whether urban or non-urban, are
not eligible for these benefits, as the federal government does not recognize constitutional
responsibility for these populations.
With the federal government’s “ambivalence” toward urban Aboriginal peoples (Abele
and Graham 2011), urban issues have appeared sporadically on the federal agenda (RCAP
1996). For more than half a century, federal and provincial governments have disputed who
is responsible for supporting the service needs of urban Aboriginal peoples (Peters 2006).
Aboriginal service delivery is often downloaded to provincial and local governments as
well as to private stakeholders, and provincial bodies or tripartite agreements usually end
up funding Aboriginal services at the urban level. This is further complicated by the fact
that provinces are constitutionally responsible for delivering health and social services
to all citizens of a province, including Metis, non-status Indians, and off-reserve status
Indians who are living outside their traditional territories. Furthermore, funding for urban
Aboriginal services has not matched the growth of the urban Aboriginal population, and
urban Aboriginal services, for the most part, remain grossly underfunded. As a result, the
service needs of mobile, urban Aboriginal peoples are often underrepresented, and the
urban programming and policy gap remains an issue.
Despite these caveats, some successful multi-level, tripartite government partnerships
have emerged to support urban Aboriginal programming (Abele and Graham 2011). One
such example is the Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS) mentioned in the previous section, in
which the federal government has partnered with other levels of government, community
organizations, and Aboriginal community members in an effort to increase coordination
across jurisdictional scales of governance and to meet community-based needs. In
3 A status Indian is someone registered under the terms and conditions of the Indian Act. Although First
Nations is the preferred term used by the Indigenous peoples of Canada, they have historically and legislatively
been referred to as Indians. Non-status Indians are not registered under the Indian Act, and relatively few
live on reserves.
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap
Winnipeg specifically, Nguyen (2014) found that one of the key factors to the success of
the UAS was that government representatives were invested in it as community members,
and that they listened respectfully to the opinions of the committee. While tripartite
funding and programming partnerships such as the UAS are increasingly becoming
the preferred mechanism to address urban Aboriginal policy gaps and jurisdictional
conflicts, these agreements do not necessarily clarify federal, provincial, and municipal
service responsibilities for off-reserve, non-status, and Metis peoples, nor do they support
Indigenous self-determination. Nevertheless, cross-jurisdictional mechanisms do currently
promote more appropriate, coordinated policy responses for urban Aboriginal populations,
as various Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal stakeholders come to work together (Lavoie et
al. 2008; Abele and Graham 2011).
Increased partnerships can present opportunities for Indigenous self-determination;
however, the “collaborative paradigm” does not necessarily result in actual decision-making
power, autonomy, or governance for urban Indigenous community organizations (Tomiak
2013). Certainly, under neoliberalism, all service providers have been subject to federal
downscaling and privatization of services. Services that were once sheltered under federal
and provincial umbrellas are now the responsibility of the nonprofit sector, resulting in an
assemblage of organizations that are often left in a liminal space between state and society,
as they simultaneously negotiate their autonomy and their financial dependency (Trudeau
2008). While neoliberalism has allowed more local players to contribute to program design
and delivery, this often creates contradictory relationships between nonprofit organizations
and government, as organizations are faced with the opportunity to increase their capacity
by responding to their local community’s needs and circumstances, but are simultaneously
challenged by government funding restrictions that dictate the activities of nonprofit
organizations (Morison 2000; Trudeau 2008).
This being the case, Aboriginal-led service organizations without coordinated urban
policy agreements in place tend to receive less ongoing funding than do mainstream service
providers (Hanselmann 2001), and the sustainable operation and program delivery of
many urban Aboriginal-led organizations ends up being limited to a string of short-term,
project-based funding arrangements (Sookraj et al. 2010). As a result, human resource
hours must be allocated to securing piecemeal program funding, making it difficult for
Aboriginal organizations to deliver sustainable services adequately. Funding instability, a
lack of core funding, and the need to compete for a finite pool of resources can lead to
inter-agency competition, and often creates scarcity conflicts within the Aboriginal service
landscape (Peters 2011). Furthermore, this leaves Aboriginal service representatives with
rarely enough time or opportunity to pursue involvement at the policy table (Walker et al.
2011). The following section uses in-depth interviews with Aboriginal service providers
and mobile urban Aboriginal peoples to illustrate more clearly the role that jurisdiction
plays in shaping urban service delivery and resources for mobile Aboriginal populations.
aboriginal policy studies
Study Site: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
In order to examine how governance structures shape service delivery for mobile Aboriginal
peoples in urban Canada, and to illustrate more clearly what is needed to support the
successful transition of urban Aboriginal newcomers who are moving between reserve/
rural and urban areas as well as within cities, thirty-nine qualitative interviews were
conducted with Aboriginal urban newcomers, intra-city movers, and Aboriginal-led service
providers in the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Winnipeg is an important study site
as it is home to the largest urban Aboriginal population in Canada. In 2006, over 68,000
urban dwellers in Winnipeg were Aboriginal, representing just over ten percent of the city’s
population. Approximately forty percent of the Aboriginal population in Winnipeg is of
First Nations descent and approximately sixty percent is Metis. A small percentage (less
than one percent) is Inuit (Canada 2012).
Aboriginal peoples’ mobility rates are relatively high in Winnipeg. According to the
authors’ calculations, based on 2006 Census data, twenty-six percent of the Aboriginal
population had moved over a one-year period, and fifty-eight percent over a five-year
period (Canada 2014a). In contrast, thirteen and thirty-nine percent of the non-Aboriginal
population were respectively mobile (Canada 2014b). This represents the highest percentage
of intra-city movers among the five Canadian cities with the largest Aboriginal populations.
Furthermore, Winnipeg’s Aboriginal population is twice as likely to move within the city
compared to the non-Aboriginal population.
It should be noted that while this research focuses on experiences of frequent and
potentially involuntary mobility, and that interviews were conducted with mobile service
users, certainly not all Aboriginal people are highly mobile or socioeconomically vulnerable.
Indeed, recent research has pointed to the prevalence of an urban Aboriginal middle-
income group, despite statistics suggesting that urban Aboriginal peoples are more likely to
be in lower income groups than non-Aboriginal people. Urban Aboriginal households with
higher incomes are less likely to move than those with lower or middle incomes (Parriag
and Chaulk 2013).
Winnipeg is also home to approximately seventy Aboriginal-led, community-based
organizations, some which have been in operation for over twenty years (Silver 2009).
The City of Winnipeg also has a unique lineage of tripartite government agreements that
started in the 1980s, focusing on inner city revitalization and possessing an Aboriginal-
focused component. This city has been called a national leader in its efforts to create policy
relationships with urban Aboriginal representatives (Walker et al. 2011). While these
relationships have been somewhat flawed in that governments have approached Aboriginal
stakeholders at the implementation stage of the policy consultation process, rather than as
co-producers from inception through to implementation, Winnipeg remains a leader in
terms of its innovative and inclusive consultation processes (Walker et al. 2011).
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap
This project is the result of a collaborative research partnership with a nonprofit, Aboriginal-
led service organization called Eagle Urban Transition Centre (EUTC). The Assembly of
Manitoba Chiefs (AMC)—a reserve-based but urban-situated political organization that
represents First Nations across Manitoba—created EUTC in an effort to fill a service gap
that would link mobile Aboriginal populations, both newcomers to the city and intra-city
movers, to vital health and social services. Although associated with reserve communities,
EUTC is a “status blind” Aboriginal organization, meaning that they provide holistic,
culturally relevant transitional support to anyone who identifies as First Nation, Metis,
or Inuit. They also provide client advocacy, and work to improve the overall quality of
life for urban Aboriginal peoples. EUTC plays a central role in supporting the transition
of urban Aboriginal newcomers and is one of the only organizations of its kind in urban
Canada. Their client base has nearly doubled each year since 2009, with over 7,000 walk-in
clients passing through their doors in 2012. Although another Canadian city, Edmonton,
Alberta, has developed a similar program for assisting with urban transition (the Aboriginal
Welcome Service Program), these types of transitional supports for urban Aboriginal
newcomers remain few in number in the Canadian context.
Working in partnership with EUTC, the first author conducted two sets of in-depth,
semi-structured interviews. In an effort to capture a snapshot of mobility experiences within
the urban Aboriginal community, recruitment was broad, and was open to First Nations,
Metis, and Inuit people. It is not our intention to homogenize urban mobility experiences, but
rather to provide an introductory argument about the need for responsive urban Aboriginal
policy that effectively addresses the needs and interests of vulnerable, frequently mobile
Aboriginal peoples. We conducted interviews with twenty-four urban Aboriginal movers
and fifteen representatives from Aboriginal-led urban service organizations. All interviews
ran 20 to 120 minutes in length. Aboriginal service providers were defined as being from
status blind” organizations that had some level of experience working with mobile clients,
and were from nonprofit organizations. We sought to interview participants from a range
of sectors, including health, housing, education and training, employment, and transitional
services in order to gain a broad perspective on urban Aboriginal service delivery. We
duly recognize that these sectors may be treated as distinct policy environments in and of
themselves, and as such may encounter unique challenges. This being the case, we sought
to touch upon an array of services that may assist mobile populations in their transitions.
Using a purposive sampling strategy, fifteen Aboriginal service providers were recruited.
Service providers were identified in consultation with EUTC and through scanning
service directories (see Table 1). Participants were contacted via telephone and/or email to
establish initial contact, describe the research goals, and enlist interest. Once interest was
established, participants were met at their place of employment, or in a public setting (e.g.,
coffee shop). Participants were asked about their roles in their organizations, how they
felt their organizations addressed the service needs of mobile Aboriginal populations, and
about the challenges and successes that they experienced in working with urban Aboriginal
newcomers and intra-city movers.
aboriginal policy studies
Interviews were also conducted with mobile urban Aboriginal people. These
participants were recruited using snowball sampling, in which service providers served
as initial contacts, or liaisons, for referring potential participants. Mobile participants
also referred their friends or family to participate. A second strategy consisted of posting
recruitment flyers in community and neighbourhood centres, universities, banks, grocery
stores, and health clinics (Peters and Robillard 2009). In total, five migrants, five residential
movers, and fourteen migrants/residential movers were interviewed. Notably, mobile
populations can be difficult to reach, and the matter of setting an appropriate sample size
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap
in qualitative research remains open to interpretation. In the case of this research, we
concluded conducting interviews at the point at which no new data was emerging and
similar instances were arising repeatedly (Patton 2002). For the purposes of this research,
migrants are individuals who had moved from a rural or reserve area to the city. Residential
movers are urban-born Aboriginal participants who were mobile, meaning they had
moved more than once within the year before the interview. Migrants/residential movers
are migrants who had found themselves in a cycle of intra-city mobility upon migrating
to the city, sometimes moving back and forth between the reserve and urban areas. Of
the twenty-four participants, nine were male and fifteen were female. Participants ranged
from 18 to 54 years of age. Nineteen were First Nation and five were of Metis descent. We
captured a broad group of participants from an age perspective, given that this research
represents one of the first studies of its kind, and as such is exploratory in nature. It is
beyond the scope of this paper to do a life-stage analysis; however, we acknowledge that
older and younger movers may have different levels of understanding in terms of service
access. That being said, the interviews focused on mobility history, use of Aboriginal and/
or non-Aboriginal services within the city, experiences with service use, and perceptions of
the impact of mobility on service accessibility. The interviews were conducted in person in
mutually agreed-upon public locations.
With full consent from all participants, the interviews with service providers and mobile
Aboriginal participants were audio-recorded. The transcribed interviews were analysed
using NVivo, a software program that is designed to assist with organizing and coding
unstructured, qualitative data. Coding was done with the intention of drawing key themes
from the interview data, which were then shared and discussed with key stakeholders.
Dominant themes from the interviews included the need to enhance connections between
service providers and movers, between service providers themselves, and between scales
of service delivery and jurisdiction (i.e., urban-reserve disconnect, the need for more
diverse urban service locations); the need for respectful and safe spaces for mobile persons;
struggles with program funding arrangements; and the need for continuity of adequate
care for mobile populations. The interview findings are discussed in the following section,
and are organized by themes related to the service gaps and the relationships between
mobile Aboriginal populations and Aboriginal-led service providers, including the need
for transitional supports between reserve/rural and urban areas as well as within urban
areas; funding restrictions; and continuity of care for mobile urban Aboriginal populations.
Bridging the Gap? Locating Transitional Supports when Migrating to an Urban Centre
Most Aboriginal service providers who were interviewed indicated that Aboriginal migrants
who move from reserve or rural areas to urban communities have difficulty locating service
information and providers, particularly in terms of housing and transitional supports.
Some mentioned that this information disconnect is due to a programming gap between
reserve and urban areas. Given that service providers are often a first point of contact for
urban Aboriginal migrants (Distasio and Sylvestre 2004), this gap can have an impact on
aboriginal policy studies
Aboriginal migrants’ access to resources and adequate preparation for a move to the city.
Service providers stated that as a consequence, upon arriving in the city, migrants are
often not only overwhelmed by the intensity of the urban experience, but may also, for
example, find themselves in situations of housing crisis or experience adversity in securing
service supports for employment or childcare. Although a number of Aboriginal housing
programs exist in Winnipeg, as well as in other cities in Canada, the demand for adequate
and affordable housing continues to result in long waiting lists and an often a complex
application process. As one service provider explained, Aboriginal migrants in particular
encounter multiple hurdles in transitioning to the city, including racism and difficulty
locating culturally safe support services:
We have a lot of migrants from First Nations communities migrating back and
forth … I think theres a funding and service gap there … [When] a lot of First
Nations people migrate to the city … they’re often moving to the city unprepared
and without the supports that they need … they’re already going to struggle with
the transition, and they’re going to struggle with trying to find the services, but
they’re also going to … struggle with battling stereotypes and racial images that are
already made upon them before they even get into the city.
-Aboriginal Youth Project Coordinator
An Aboriginal housing manager echoed similar sentiments, suggesting that migrants
are often overwhelmed and underprepared for the transition from reserve/rural to urban
areas, as service information, support, and resources are often unavailable, or difficult
to obtain, at their point of departure and point of arrival (the city). This could in part
be due to a gap in scales of service provision—that is to say that First Nations migrants
are transitioning from federally funded reserve programs to provincially or municipally
funded off-reserve programming and services. Although there are a number of Aboriginal
nonprofit housing providers, service providers and movers both identified access to safe,
affordable, and adequate housing as the most important service need for urban newcomers
and frequent residential movers. This service gap can also feed into a cycle of residential
People will come to the city and they havent realized how different it is from where
they live. And so they move here and then they haven’t given thought to where
they’re gonna live … but then, when you’re living in the city it’s ‘way different than
living in a small community. So they’re stressed out because they gotta take the
bus—it takes forever to get anywhere, to fill out applications, and they cant get a
place and they’re staying with people and—so, sometimes I wonder if … they had
supports in the community or places to go in the community that would prepare
-Aboriginal Housing Development Manager
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap
Movers also spoke about their difficulty and confusion in accessing urban services and
information, particularly that which supported housing transition. One migrant explained
that since moving to the city for medical care that was not available on reserve, he had been
unable to secure adequate housing and employment support:
Its really hard to get help over here [referring to city]. You have to give like an arm
and a leg to get some assistance … I came here on medical aid, but I’d been wanting
to leave the reserve for a long time … I wanted to go to school, that was my main
goal … the challenge right now is finding a place thats affordable and clean. [The
government] just leaves us out in the dust. You have to protest or do something
dramatic to get some attention or help.
-First Nations Migrant, Male
While movers indicated that they were generally aware that housing, education, and
employment support services existed in Winnipeg, they did not know how best to access
services, or in some cases where services were located. In the case of the quotation above,
some migrants felt as if they had fallen through the cracks. As one Metis migrant suggested,
the services are there, but its just a matter of finding them.” A First Nations migrant
who had relocated from her reserve to Winnipeg for education explained that in order to
access services comfortably, she felt that she needed to know people who worked for those
I’m not really clear what organization does what … I would say, like, people who
first move to the city don’t really know a lot of the things [referring to service
organizations] … unless like you know this person who works there.
-First Nation Migrant, Female
This suggests a need for coordinated outreach to movers, in a space or manner that is
welcoming. Another migrant, a young parent attending school, also identified the difficulty
that she had obtaining support and service information when she transitioned to the city.
She suggested that information availability and visibility were key needs, and suggested
that a welcome program might be helpful:
What I would suggest is for new Native families that move to Winnipeg to have,
y’know, information, pamphlets, like a little welcome type of gift for these people
who move so they have this information. They dont have to go out and find it—
they have it and they know, like, oh this is where I can go for this and, y’know, stuff
like that. That wouldve made my move a little bit easier.
-First Nation Migrant, Female
In response to these service knowledge gaps, movers reported using word-of-mouth
networks to assist in bridging the information void. Tenuous connections between reserve/
rural and urban programming also create a gap when attempting to identify and locate
aboriginal policy studies
urban housing or transitional support services prior to, and upon, arrival in the city. This
gap could be bridged through fostering and supporting service provider relationships and
methods of information delivery between rural/reserve and urban areas. It remains the
case, however, that federal funding rarely extends the financial resources necessary to do
this. As an Aboriginal transition counselor explained, “Theres a huge disconnect between
the urban resources and the rural First Nation communities.
Wed have more success transitioning people to the city … if we were able to
get out and build stronger relationships with First Nation communities, but …
we dont have those—we dont have, I guess, that option because of funding
-Aboriginal Project Coordinator
More than half of the service providers who were interviewed indicated the importance
of extending services, information, relationships, and advocacy beyond the urban boundary
by creating interconnections with reserve/rural jurisdictions. However, the allocation of
resources represents a key barrier.
Service Delivery and Access for Mobile Urban Aboriginal Populations
Nearly every participant alluded to how a lack of core funding impeded their time,
resources, and capacity to serve the interests of the mobile urban Aboriginal community
and to provide advocacy for those in a vulnerable period of transition. An Aboriginal
health provider described the difficulties that nonprofit, Aboriginal-led organizations face
in terms of securing funding and retaining staff, suggesting that service providers are often
forced to wedge their needs into funder criteria, creating restrictions around where and
how services are delivered:
Its not like we can go out there and identify a need, design a program around it,
and then find a funder. It doesn’t work like that. Because funding comes from
government, of one level or another, or through [private] funding agencies, but
they all have criteria. So you’ve gotta see whats out here, and see if you can design a
program to fit in there. And hopefully the needs youve identified, you can address
with that funding stream … Every year for non-profits it gets tougher and tougher
and tougher … And it makes it very difficult to retain staff because, y’know, when
you cant keep up with [those] that have more money.
-Aboriginal Executive Director
Some service providers expressed the need for mobile service units, or multiple service
units throughout the city. A transition counselor who worked with youth suggested of their
program that “there needs to be more of these programs stationed throughout the city …
but there also needs to be more of these programs … out in communities and out in other
urban centres” so that movers who are seeking to create ties with service providers as a way
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap
to ease their urban transition can do so. This program focuses on training and assisting
youth in transition into housing, employment, and training, and in providing a culturally
relevant and safe space in which clients may do so. This points to the need for targeted
distribution of youth and transition services across geographic spaces, including reserves
and rural communities, and within cities. This was also true in terms of general healthcare
delivery. As a Metis participant suggested:
It would be great if we were able to have satellite programs in other parts of the
city, y’know, because, I mean, were the only urban Aboriginal Health Centre in the
whole city, in fact, probably in the whole province, that isn’t on reserve.
-Aboriginal Health Service Provider
There remains a need for mobile and fluid models of service delivery that privilege
mobility experiences. Singular as well as stationary models of service delivery can constrain
continuity of care for migrants, as well as for those who may move from one area of the city
to another. As one residential mover explained: “There are many times Id be stuck out in
[the suburb to which he had moved] and then I’d be thinking to myself, ‘Oh no, I hope I
don’t get ill’,” as the bulk of Aboriginal services are located in the inner-city area.
Mobility and Continuity of Urban-Based Care
Aboriginal-led service providers reported difficulty in meeting the needs of residentially
mobile Aboriginal populations, as well as those who move between First Nations reserves
and the city, as these service providers often do not have the capacity to maintain continuity
of care beyond particular geographic boundaries. A participant from an education and
training centre discussed how mobility poses a challenge to continued service access and
program completion.
[Mobility] impacts on how they [movers] use the services. One huge issue is keeping
in contact with them. Our clients have issues with finding safe and affordable
housing so they often move from location to location. As a result, it is difficult to
provide ongoing support to action plans developed with our clients, as many do
move frequently, resulting in longer timelines to action plan completion due to
stopped then restarted plans as clients come, leave, then return.
-Aboriginal Director of Education
Almost half of the movers also discussed how mobility affects their continued access
to service care. One residential mover expressed her frustration with attempting to
maintain support through the use of drop-in centres when moving from neighbourhood
to neighbourhood:
Its basically when you do move, and then when you want to go back, then they
[service providers] say, “Well, you moved to this area and you can’t use this service
because you live in that area now.
-First Nation Residential Mover, Female
aboriginal policy studies
Certainly this may be due to capacity restrictions set in place by the service provider, but
it also speaks to a larger need for an increase in this type of support. Many drop-in centres
have specific catchment areas; however, nearly half the residential movers interviewed used,
or volunteered at, drop-in centres, suggesting that these spaces provide important support
for those in transition. The existence of service boundaries, whether due to capacity or
funding restrictions, may not adequately support the mobility circumstances of intra-city
movers. This loss of support is a point of concern, as those who were frequently mobile within
the city all moved due to neighbourhood violence or inadequate housing circumstances.
A residential mover, who was forced to move her family due to safety and housing issues,
explained how connections to drop-in centres and community are interrupted by forced
mobility across neighbourhood boundaries:
Oh, I used to stay out in [my previous neighbourhood] and … I used to go to [a drop-
in centre] there. And then when I moved from there to [my new neighbourhood],
they told me I can’t go to that [drop-in centre] anymore ‘cuz its too far for me …
And I asked them, “Well whats the difference? You guys are like almost the same
like distance.” And they said, well, I passed that boundary … so I had to go to a
different [drop-in centre] … I didn’t know who to talk to and I was like, “Oh, who
do I talk to about this?” Didn’t feel really comfortable.
-Métis Residential Mover, Female
Jurisdictional gaps can create challenges in terms of service delivery for residential
movers relocating across neighbourhoods within the city, as well as for urban migrants
moving between reserve/rural and urban boundaries. From a policy and funding perspective,
one solution in terms of facilitating service delivery for the urban Aboriginal community
is through an organization such as the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg (ACW). The
ACW is a federally funded initiative, via the UAS, that brings together local governments,
Aboriginal organizations, and the private sector. They are an example of a political and
advocacy voice that seeks to develop self-governance and to represent First Nations, Metis,
and Inuit people living in Winnipeg. They offer economic development, education and
training, health services, support for adequate housing, and youth programming in one
central location (see Winnipeg 2015). This tripartite supported initiative does provide a
good example in the Canadian context of an attempt to close some of the jurisdictional
gaps in terms of urban Aboriginal service delivery and policy. The ACW serves as an urban
gathering space that is safe and welcoming for urban Aboriginal people, and that also
seeks to empower the community and to remove systemic barriers that urban community
members may encounter, particularly those in vulnerable transition to or within the city.
Organizations within the ACW that were interviewed did speak to ongoing gaps, reflected
by the need to extend services beyond neighbourhood boundaries as well as beyond the
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap
Conclusions: Key Findings and Challenges
Our study suggests that a disconnect among federal, provincial, and municipal levels
of government, as well as between urban Aboriginal stakeholders and community
organizations, can affect resource allocation and the structure of urban Aboriginal service
delivery. This, in turn, affects urban Aboriginal migrants’ and residential movers’ access to
support services. While initiatives such as the UAS indicate a clear shift in terms of federal
policy and tripartite agreements that recognize urban Aboriginal communities and the need
for the distribution of resources that support urban Aboriginal organizations, the UAS has
been criticized for its lack of strategic direction and long-term vision (Abele and Graham
2011) as well as for its lack of consideration for Indigenous rights to self-determination
and self-government. Urban Aboriginal governance, and the resulting service landscape,
will require collaboration among a multitude of players. Current governance practices
rarely meet or represent the needs and interests of urban Aboriginal communities, and
the research findings reveal an aspect of this gap in terms of meeting the needs and
interests of mobile Aboriginal populations. As Tomiak (2013) and Maaka and Fleras
(2000) have suggested, self-determination should be a platform from which to reimagine
urban Indigenous governance and to challenge the legitimacy of state boundaries, while
strengthening Indigenous jurisdiction over land, identity, and politics. More specific to the
context of this research, we must consider how mainstream policy legitimates only certain
types of service delivery (i.e., reserve and urban areas are considered distinct and separate;
mobile or satellite service delivery is not supported).
As a way to address the “policy patchwork” in a way that is both appropriate and
effective, we must consider the diversity of urban Indigenous communities, and that federal,
provincial, municipal governments as well as First Nations, Metis, and Inuit organizations
and service providers must come to participate collaboratively and, at the very least, as
equal contributors in service and program planning, as well as in community building.
This must also be done in consideration that a lack of core funding leaves many Aboriginal
service providers stretched for resources, with little time or financial capacity to engage in
policy development.
These gaps tend to occur largely across reserve, rural and urban boundaries, resulting
in a service and information gap for prospective migrants and urban newcomers that
may impede their successful urban transition. At the urban level, stationary models that
privilege location or singular nodes of service delivery can affect continuity of care for
mobile populations. Given that research has suggested that service providers remain an
important first point of contact for migrants (Distasio and Sylvestre 2004), and that half
the Aboriginal population in Winnipeg uses and relies at least occasionally on Aboriginal
services (Environics Institute 2011), these findings remain a point of concern.
Our findings also reveal that Aboriginal migrants experience difficulty obtaining service
information and are often not aware what services are available when they are preparing
to migrate to the city, as well as upon arrival. Furthermore, those who are mobile within
the city have difficulty maintaining continuity of adequate care beyond neighbourhood
aboriginal policy studies
boundaries. The use of mobile or satellite service programs could serve to transcend
neighbourhood and urban boundaries.
Before discussing the implications of these findings further, a few limitations deserve
mention. First, most of the movers who were interviewed were connected in some way to a
service organization. The research may therefore overlook the perspectives and experiences
of mobile persons who are more isolated. As well, we do not wish to suggest that urban
Indigenous communities should in any way be defined by service providers, nor that all
urban Aboriginal peoples use such services, but rather that these spaces provide important
points of connection, network, and support—particularly, in the case of this research,
for more vulnerable and mobile community members. This segment of the Aboriginal
population may have unique service needs, and represents an important area of future
research. Furthermore, while this research includes the voices of Metis and First Nations
participants, it did not reach the Inuit community, which represents less than one percent
of Winnipeg’s population. It is not our intention to conflate these identity groups, but for
the sake of this paper we seek to provide a broad view of Aboriginal peoples’ mobility. We
affirm that urban Indigenous peoples are importantly diverse and multi-national in their
composition; however, within the context of this paper, and due to its qualitative and in-
depth nature, we draw upon a smaller sample of participants as a springboard to address
the mobile urban Aboriginal community at large as a means to forward the importance
of self-governed policy and programming that represents the broader mobile urban
community, particularly those who are vulnerable and in transition. Our current goal is to
provide a general understanding of the relationship between Aboriginal peoples’ mobility
and service delivery, which to date remains largely unexplored. These limitations point to
the need for future research that addresses the specific needs and concerns of mobile Metis,
First Nations, and Inuit people, and that targets particular types of service delivery.
Despite these limitations, the research demonstrates significantly the disconnect that
exists between reserve/rural and urban areas. Furthermore, the research is critical to
the policy discussion around mobility and service provision, as it draws attention to the
experiences of an often-overlooked and underrepresented population. It also highlights
federal, provincial, and municipal funding agreements and how these may play out in the
urban environment. It is little wonder that Aboriginal peoples’ mobility has been construed
as negative or disruptive to service delivery, given that it is situated within a colonial context
that has generated a patchwork of mismatched and inadequate scales of resource allocation.
Although past research has suggested that mobility has an impact on service delivery,
little has been done to uncover how and why this might be. By drawing upon the lived
experiences of movers, as well as by speaking to Aboriginal service providers, this article
demonstrates the need to enhance relationships between reserve/rural and urban service
providers, as well as among all levels of government, in order to facilitate the transition of
mobile Aboriginal populations. To address these service gaps in earnest, cohesive, tripartite
agreements that holistically address the transitional needs of migrating urban Aboriginal
residents will be necessary to foster healthy, sustainable urban communities. Based on
Examining the Urban Aboriginal Policy Gap
the findings of this research, key policy and research recommendations should address
the need for increased transitional housing, and the development of satellite services that
bridge urban neighborhoods as well as urban and reserve or rural boundaries.
Strategies for Moving Forward
Some service providers suggested the need for satellite programs within the city as well as
beyond the urban boundary, as mentioned above. Other concrete examples for moving
forward include an initiative taken by our community partner EUTC to offer a series of
YouTube videos that provide information and support for potential migrants. Making
Aboriginal service directories and information accessible to those considering a move
to the city is another helpful avenue. Furthermore, developing and supporting other web
resources that address questions that migrants have around urban housing, transportation,
and training opportunities would also be a useful step in the right direction.
Aboriginal-led service providers also have the potential to inform urban Aboriginal
policy, as they often work closely with mobile Aboriginal populations, and have an intimate
knowledge of the disjointed resource allocation between reserve/rural and urban spaces. It
is a serious disadvantage that voices from these Aboriginal organizations are rarely involved
in policy decisions (Walker et al. 2011), but are rather left securing fragmented resources.
In order to strengthen tripartite relationships and Aboriginal-governed programming
further, all levels of government will need to form sustainable, co-productive relationships,
not only with each other, but with Aboriginal political and service organizations (Walker
et al. 2011), and to engage in creating a more coherent urban Aboriginal policy framework,
more adequate funding arrangements, and a commitment to urban Indigenous self-
government (Tomiak 2013). It is time that all levels of government step forward with a
long-term, collaborative vision that seeks to improve and maintain the well-being of all
urban residents.
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... Another way in which politics affects the lives of urban Indigenous Peoples is through the complexity of public policy for urban Indigenous populations and the trend toward the federal government only being responsible for those residing on reserve (Peters, 2011) or within a land claim settlement region (Bonesteel, 2006). Simply, First Nations who move off reserve or Inuit who move outside of their land claim settlement region, which includes urban First Nations and Inuit older adults, are ineligible for many federal programs and services, which results in further marginalization (Bonesteel, 2006;Snyder, Wilson, & Whitford, 2015). The federal government pushed many responsibilities to provincial and municipal governments; however, they have been reluctant to develop policies that adequately support urban Indigenous populations (DeVerteuil & Wilson, 2010;Snyder et al., 2015). ...
... Simply, First Nations who move off reserve or Inuit who move outside of their land claim settlement region, which includes urban First Nations and Inuit older adults, are ineligible for many federal programs and services, which results in further marginalization (Bonesteel, 2006;Snyder, Wilson, & Whitford, 2015). The federal government pushed many responsibilities to provincial and municipal governments; however, they have been reluctant to develop policies that adequately support urban Indigenous populations (DeVerteuil & Wilson, 2010;Snyder et al., 2015). Municipal policy thus comes up against a legacy of federal policy that inadequately supports Indigenous Peoples and, for this article, particularly Indigenous older adults in urban communities. ...
... Non-Indigenous organizations, however, have historically been unable, or unwilling, to engage in and co-produce services with Indigenous Peoples in response to the growing urban Indigenous population (DeVerteuil & Wilson, 2010;Snyder et al., 2015). As a result, many Indigenous people lack trust in non-Indigenous service providers and decision-makers, which contributes to a lack of interest in accessing these services (Ouart & SIMFC, 2013). ...
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The urban Indigenous older adult population in Canada continues to grow; however, there is a lack of understanding of how non-Indigenous health and social services and Indigenous-specific organizations are responding to and addressing the growth of this population. Therefore, in this research, we conducted a postcolonial discourse analysis of semi-structured interviews with six decision-makers (e.g., managers and directors of health and social services organizations) and seven service providers (e.g., program coordinators and social workers) from Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and social service organizations in Ottawa, Canada, to examine how they produce understandings of supporting urban Indigenous older adults to age well. The participants produced three main discourses: (a) non-Indigenous organizations have a responsibility to support Indigenous older adults, (b) culturally specific programs and services are important for supporting Indigenous older adults to age well, and (c) it is difficult for community stakeholders to support Indigenous older adults to age well because this population is hard to reach. The results demonstrate the complexities and tensions that community stakeholders face in supporting Indigenous older adults to age well within a sociopolitical environment informed by reconciliation and a sociodemographic trend of an aging population.
... This programming entails the creation and oversight of health services in the community as well as the subsidizing of the cost of medical transportation to access provincial health services not available locally (Hurley 2000). This policy structure is highly contested and has often been criticized as being a patchwork approach, characterized by shifting responsibilities between federal and provincial governments as well as a lack of accountability and clarification around responsibilities (Dwyer et al. 2013;Lavoie 2013;National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health 2011;Snyder et al. 2015). As policy and jurisdiction are often found to be discordant (Jordan' s Principle Working Group 2015) for the delivery of healthcare to First Nations, it is critical to understand the impact that existing health policies have on participation in cancer screening if these services are to be improved. ...
... This has resulted in both the creation of policies that do not necessarily reflect First Nations' lived realities and the increase in frustration with the cancer screening system for First Nations peoples and uncertainty regarding where best to address grievances. Our results echo existing critiques of the current Indigenous health policy structure (Dwyer et al. 2013;Lavoie et al. 2010;Lavoie 2013;National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health 2011;Snyder et al. 2015) and corroborate the emerging discourse from within First Nations' health literature that supports the creation of a national Indigenous policy framework (Lavoie 2013;Richmond and Cook 2016). ...
Background: First Nations peoples in Ontario are facing increasing rates of cancer and have been found to have poorer survival. Cancer screening is an important strategy to improve cancer outcomes; yet, Indigenous people in Canada are less likely to participate in screening. Ontario has established organized breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening programs; this paper examines the health policy context that informs these programs for First Nations peoples in the province. Method: This paper follows an embedded multiple-case study design, drawing upon a document review to outline the existing policy context and on key informant interviews to explore the aforementioned context from the perspective of stakeholders. Results: Policies created by agencies operating across federal, regional and provincial levels impact First Nations peoples' access to screening. Interviews identified issues of jurisdictional ambiguity, appropriateness of program design for First Nations persons and lack of cultural competency as barriers to participation in screening. Conclusion: Federal, provincial and regional policy makers must work in collaboration with First Nations peoples to overcome barriers to cancer screening created and sustained by existing policies.
... Federal policy related to urban Indigenous peoples' health remains restricted to members of federally-recognized First Nations who are registered under the Indian Act. This is despite calls having been made for decades by scholars, independent commissions, and policy analysts to expand entitlements to rights, services, and benefits for urban Indigenous people and those not affiliated with a reserve (Browne, McDonald, & Elliott, 2009;Cardinal & Adin, 2005;Hanselmann, 2001;Place, 2012;Snyder, Wilson, & Whitford, 2015). The 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Daniels v. Canada required that Métis peoplesthe most highly urbanized of the three federally-recognized Indigenous groupsbe included under federal government responsibilities for "Indigenous peoples," yet has not to date resulted in action on the part of the federal government in terms of entitlement to benefits and services (MacDougall, 2016). ...
The political-legal discourse of Indigenous rights continues to be separated from discussions of health care services in geographic scholarship, due to the ways in which political-legal, settler-colonial definitions of rights fail to take Indigenous understandings into account, as well as a distrust on the part of scholars of the limited and contingent notion of “rights.” While Indigenous rights, inherently tied in Canada to recognition by the settler-colonial state, have limited application in achieving social justice or decolonization for Indigenous peoples, we argue that Indigenous rights can be used as a complementary discourse to Indigenous resurgence, within broader discourses of Indigenous justice, to lend legal and political weight to arguments for cultural safety and human rights in health care. We draw on a study conducted with 50 Indigenous community members and 15 health services professionals in the northern city of Prince George, Canada, to elucidate how Indigenous peoples’ experiences in health care settings may be improved by giving attention to rights discourse and removing the geographic and identity-based limitations of Indigenous rights to health care in Canada.
en The Indigenous population in Canada totals approximately 1.6 million individuals, representing about 5% of the total population. The off‐reserve Indigenous population represents the fastest growing segment of the Indigenous population, with over 50% living in urban settings. Despite the size of the off‐reserve population, research on the health of Indigenous peoples tends to remain focused on reserve‐based populations. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to a better understanding of health and social determinants of health among off‐reserve Indigenous peoples in Canada. Using data from the 1991 and 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Surveys this paper examines changes in health status and the social determinants of health over a 20‐year time span. Results show a decline in health care use and self‐reported health status in the period between 1991 and 2012. The results may be related to urbanization, aging, and increased prevalence of some chronic conditions. The findings may also be tied to barriers to achieving adequate off‐reserve health care—jurisdictional disputes, disjointed program coverage, systemic racism, and a lack of equity‐oriented health services. There remains a pressing need for Indigenous and non‐Indigenous governments, researchers, and policymakers to build new relationships that bridge these gaps in health and access to timely care. Tendances à long terme de l’état et des déterminants de la santé parmi les populations autochtones hors réserve au Canada, 1991–2012 fr Les populations autochtones au Canada comptent environ 1.6 million de personnes, représentant près de 5% de la population totale. Par ailleurs, les autochtones qui vivent hors réserve constituent le segment de la population autochtone qui connaît la croissance la plus rapide. Incidemment, 50% de ceux‐ci se retrouvent dans des milieux urbains. Malgré la taille de la population hors réserve, les recherches sur la santé des peuples autochtones tendent à se concentrer sur les populations qui vivent dans les réserves. Le but de la présente étude est de contribuer à une meilleure compréhension de la santé et des déterminants sociaux de la santé des Autochtones hors réserve. En utilisant les données des Enquêtes de 1991 et de 2012 auprès des peuples autochtones, nous analysons les changements dans l’état de santé et les déterminants sociaux de la santé sur une période de 20 ans. Les résultats indiquent une diminution de l'utilisation des soins de santé et de l'état de santé auto‐déclaré durant la période ciblée. Ces résultats peuvent être reliés à l'urbanisation, au vieillissement et à la prévalence accrue de certaines maladies chroniques. Nos conclusions peuvent également être associées aux obstacles à la mise en place de soins de santé adéquats pour les autochtones hors réserve, c'est‐à‐dire les conflits de compétences, la confusion sur les soins couverts, le racisme systémique ainsi que le manque de services de santé axés sur l'équité. Il y a donc un besoin urgent d'établir de nouvelles pratiques en vue de combler ces lacunes dans la prestation des services de santé.
Applying Indigenous Research Methods focuseson the question of "How" Indigenous Research Methodologies (IRMs)can be used and taught across Indigenous studies and education. In this collection, Indigenous scholars address the importance of IRMs in their own scholarship, while focusing conversations on the application withothers. Each chapter is co-authored to model methods rooted in the sharing of stories to strengthen relationships, such as yarning, storywork, and others. The chapters offer a wealth of specific examples, as told by researchers about their research methods in conversation with other scholars, teachers, and community members. Applying Indigenous Research Methods is an interdisciplinary showcase of the ways IRMs can enhance scholarship in fields including education, Indigenous studies, settler colonial studies, social work, qualitative methodologies, and beyond.
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Do Aboriginal–state public consultations allow for the effective participation of Aboriginal participants in the democratic process, given the group’s political marginalization? This paper argues that public consultations are an effective tool for ensuring the successful participation of Aboriginal groups when the consultation process includes mechanisms for redistributing power from governments to stakeholders. Specifically, this paper looks at the federal government’s current Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS) in Winnipeg. Although the direction and tone of the UAS is set by the federal government, the members of the Steering Committee, composed of twelve Aboriginal members and three government officials, are the ones who decide which policies and programs will receive funding. Decision-making is done through ongoing consultation with the Steering Committee and the Aboriginal community at large. Employing ideas in Arnstein (1969) and public consultations literature to create an evaluation framework, this paper identifies critical components that must be present for consultations to be fruitful. And, based on interviews with the Steering Committee, it finds that the UAS in Winnipeg is a successful mechanism for enabling the effective participation of Aboriginal participants in the democratic process—a process which is resulting in the construction of a renewed Aboriginal–state political relationship.
The migration pattern of Indigenous persons from reserves, rural and remote communities into a Canadian urban center is examined by focusing on the factors that contributed to the decision to move, the service utilization patterns upon arrival in an urban centre and the subsequent decision to remain in the city. The movement of Indigenous persons into urban settings led to unique outcomes, including a significant number remaining unable to find or secure independent housing or the appropriate services necessary to support a successful transition to urban living. Our research indicates that more attention is needed to understand Canadian Indigenous mobility, with an emphasis on assessing the circular patterns that often result in persons moving to urban centers and back to home communities. Recognizing the distinctiveness of this pattern of migration is critical to developing more effective policies for this group.©2001 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
Contemporary cultural criticism has celebrated the potential of the idea of the "traveling native" for disrupting cultural assumptions about the modern "nation." The focus has been on movements across contemporary national borders and boundaries-fundamentally, on transnationalism. However, nations also make sense of themselves through internal spatial and social divisions. Challenging these divisions also disrupts definitions of "nation." The urbanization of First Nations people in Canada provides a telling illustration of this point. This paper explores the frameworks government agencies employed to understand First Nations peoples' movements into cities, paying particular attention to how these frameworks related to earlier colonial geographies of dispossession and reserve creation, and how they related to First Nations' perspectives on the urbanization process. It begins with a brief description of First Nations urbanization between 1945 and 1975-a pivotal period in the emergence of urban First Nations people within Canada. It then turns to the government departments' and First Nations representatives' attempts to formulate responses to these changing geographies. Despite contradictions in government-program development, and despite First Nations representatives' attempts to influence the definition process, policies and programs that emerged during this period reinforced colonial interpretations of the place of First Nations people and cultures in the Canadian nation.