Unemployment, Poverty & Homelessness


The labor force participation rate for Aboriginal people is similar to that of non-Aboriginal people at 74%, but unemployment rates for Aboriginal people are nearly double those of Canadians overall. In Calgary, 11% of the Aboriginal population is unemployed as compared to 6.6% of the non-Aboriginal population. The unemployment rate among Aboriginal people ages 15-24 is 15.3%, almost double that of the non-Aboriginal youth at 8.0%. (Removing Barriers, 1999).

I have problems getting work due to people thinking I drink because I'm Native.

Aboriginal female - 17 yrs

For Aboriginal youth, education and employment are intertwined. As previously mentioned, youth recognized that their ability to succeed in school has direct and profound implications on their ability to participate in the labor force. Many of the youth involved in the study were too young for summer jobs. Those over sixteen expressed difficulties in finding summer positions, internships and entry level opportunities.

Entry level positions, summer employment opportunities or internships develop marketable employment skills and experience. As well, when these youth positions are supported through role modeling and mentoring with Aboriginal staff, cultural pride and knowledge are reinforced. Supporting Aboriginal young people increases their chance of success.


During the 2000 Count of Homeless People, 251 people of Aboriginal origin were counted. At 19.2% of the total street population, the number of Aboriginal people found on the street portion of the count was disproportionately higher than in the total count, with one third of the total street population identified as Aboriginal (City of Calgary, 2000). Although there are no exact numbers of Aboriginal youth living on the street, a visible increase can be seen. They may be living on their own at an early age, thereby losing many valuable life-skills, educational opportunities as well as being burdened by basic needs in their teenage years. High drop out rates makes it difficult to secure employment with a grade 7 or 8 education. Coupled with racism, stereotypes and discrimination, many Aboriginal youth are forced to rely on poor paying jobs or welfare.

Why are so many Aboriginal people on the street and why don't they have a place to sleep at night and why are people saying that Aboriginal people are taking over prostitution in downtown Calgary. That makes Natives feel bad because when you walk around people think you area prostitute.

Aboriginal male 15 yrs

Pregnant teens need homes where they can raise their babies in a safe place

Aboriginal female 14 yrs

Social problems and family crisis such as alcoholism and family violence often create an environment whereby Aboriginal youth turn to the street for safety, companionship and the hope that they can control their own lives. Many youth have also been led to believe that because they are Aboriginal, this is their path.

Throughout the duration of the focus groups the prevalence of Aboriginal females involved in prostitution as well as high rates of Aboriginal youth suicide received a high degree of media coverage. Although Aboriginal youth did not refer directly to these serious social issues as something to emulate, they spoke about them almost as givens. In combination with racism and discrimination in the broader community, it is difficult to combat stereotypes of Aboriginal youth involvement in drug abuse, prostitution, physical and sexual abuse and crime.