What the Human Development Index misses

Date: November 8, 2010
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Monrovia, Liberia. In grade ten my teacher reprimanded me in class for suggesting that in Canada we had people, aboriginal people primarily, who lived in developing world conditions. Third world was the term used then.

I had spent much of the previous summer camping and windsurfing in an area on the west coast accessed only by many hours of driving on gravel logging roads. Often rain-scarred and pot-holed, if you saw a logging truck approaching you had to swerve your car into the ditch to avoid a collision.

In the town near the lake we stayed at, life seemed inexplicably hard.

Relatively wealthy in some ways (the local native Band owned a Sea-Doo), it was a community with few jobs and few services. Many of the adults in this town were survivors of the residential school system, a government policy for much of the twentieth century that saw native children taken from their parents, their culture beaten out of them by priests and nuns. They were often sexually and physically abused.

Unsurprisingly this town had many social problems. Although it was a dry town (no alcohol sold), alcoholism was rampant and child abuse common. Life in Canada’s native communities can be hard: Infant mortality is one and a half times the Canadian average, and the life expectancy significantly less. According to Health Canada, approximately one quarter of all water systems on reserves are a high risk to human health.

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