EDI – Racial Inequality in Canada


Poverty is a multifaceted phenomenon stemming from systemic and structural injustices deeply rooted in colonialism, racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of oppression throughout history. Structural injustice occurs when social processes, including legal, social, and cultural norms, systematically threaten certain groups’ capacity to develop and exercise their capabilities while enabling others, primarily more privileged individuals, to dominate and enjoy a wide range of opportunities. In Canada, interconnected systems and structures create barriers preventing underserved groups from accessing political participation and socio-economic opportunities such as employment, housing, food, education, healthcare, and childcare.

In general, poverty disproportionately affects systematically marginalized groups facing high levels of discrimination, racism, and stigma. The National Advisory Council on Poverty identifies these marginalized groups as including Indigenous people; immigrants; refugees; individuals who identify as members of ethno-cultural groups, Black and other racialized communities; 2SLGBTQIA+ people; persons with disabilities; people experiencing homelessness; children and youth in care; people living in institutions; and people living in remote areas. However, their marginalization extends beyond socio-economic exclusion to invisibility within society, evident in the lack of representation in official poverty statistics. Indigenous people living on reserves and settlements, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, asylum seekers, refugees, and the homeless face significant data gaps, reflecting their unique socio-economic isolation and deprivation. This lack of data hinders efforts to accurately depict and address the lived realities of these marginalized groups in Canada.


Despite poverty’s downward trend in the last 10 years, it continues to affect certain groups more severely than others. Generally, these are groups that have been marginalized and overlooked due to deeply embedded systemic and structural barriers that are rooted in racism and discrimination, homophobia and sexism, ableism, colonialism, and violence. While a more detailed analysis of key indicators of poverty among these underserved and overlooked groups follow, it is helpful to offer a quick overview or snapshot of how poverty disproportionately affects them. 


Colonial policies and practices have instigated and perpetuated inequities, leading to a disproportionately high prevalence of poverty among Indigenous peoples. According to 2021 census data, the poverty rate for First Nations people living off reserve was 14.1 per cent, twice as high as that of non-Indigenous people (7.4 per cent). Metis and Inuit people had slightly lower rates at 9.2 per cent and 10.2 per cent, respectively.

Yet, it is important to acknowledge that these figures present a somewhat misleading picture, as they do not account for poverty rates among Indigenous people living on reserves and settlements. Considering the significance and complexity of the Indigenous experience in Canada, this report will feature a dedicated section on Indigeneity and the key indicators of poverty.

Racialized People:

In 2021, 7.4 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line. However, the rate for racialized people, who represent 25 per cent of the Canadian population, was much higher. To illustrate, 19 per cent of Korean Canadians lived in poverty in 2021. This high poverty rate was closely followed by Chinese Canadians (15.3 per cent), Black Canadians (12.4 per cent), and South Asian Canadians (10.8 per cent).

Shedding light on racialized poverty and its persistence, a study “Poverty among racialized groups across generations” reveals that racialized groups consistently have higher poverty rates than White people. While poverty rates tend to be higher among first-generation Canadians and then diminish among second and third-generation Canadians, this general trend does not apply to all racialized groups. For example, the poverty rate gap for Latin American and Black Canadians increases to more than double by the third generation. Similarly, Arab, Southeast Asian, and Korean people have higher poverty rates than White people in the third generation.

Sex & Gender:

Women can be disproportionately impacted by poverty, especially those who are lone-parents with young children. The vast majority of lone-parent households (upwards of 80 per cent,) are headed by women, and they experience significantly higher rates of poverty than other families with children. According to data from the 2021 census, nearly 1 in 3 (31.3 per cent) lone parent households lived in poverty. This phenomenon, known as the feminization of poverty, reflects the deep-seated cultural, social, and structural factors that contribute to women’s economic disadvantage. This is particularly true for women who become mothers and face a maternity penalty upon their return to work. Working mothers report feeling sidelined and overwhelmed, with as many as 1 in 3 contemplating leaving their jobs due to insufficient support reintegrating into the workforce after returning from leave. Women and girls face systemic barriers that impede their full participation in, and benefit from, the economy, which is rooted in sexism, gender bias, and discrimination. These barriers limit their access to opportunities and resources, perpetuating their vulnerability to poverty.

Transgender and non-binary people are also more likely to experience poverty. Based on the latest census data, the poverty rate for transgender women and men was 12.0 per cent and 12.9 per cent, respectively. Cisgender women and men, by comparison, experience poverty at a much lower rate at 7.9 per cent for women and 8.2 per cent for men. Non-binary people are most severely affected with a poverty rate of 20.6 per cent. Transgender and non-binary young adults are particularly impacted, with a poverty rate of 19.3 per cent for transgender people aged 18 to 24 and 32.5 per cent for Non-binary people in the same age group.

Overall, existing research shows that members of the 2SLGTQIA+ community experience “profound material disparities and suffer significant social and health inequities.” There is evidence that 2SLGTQIA+ youth, older sexual and gender minorities, and two-spirited people are most vulnerable to poverty. For example, surveys (see also here) on homelessness have revealed that 2SLGBTQIA+ youth are one of the most overrepresented homeless populations. Yet, despite these important points of data, quantitative and qualitative studies on 2SLGTQIA+ poverty remains scant.


The 2022 Canadian Survey on Disability reported that 27 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older (approximately 8 million people) have one or more disabilities that limit them in their daily activities. The most recent report on poverty and disability reveals that people with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to people without disabilities (16.5 per cent compared to 8.6 per cent). Even though disability is present across all population groups, women are more likely to report having a disability and these women are overly represented among the poor. In 2021, 17.6 per cent of women with disabilities were poor compared to 15.1 per cent of men with disabilities. In addition to the overrepresentation of women with disabilities in data on poverty, seniors with disabilities (all persons aged 65+) are also severely affected by high poverty rates (20 per cent), quadruple the rate for seniors without a disability (4.7 per cent). 

Further, just 59 per cent of people with disabilities are employed compared to 80 per cent of people without disabilities.  People with disabilities who are employed are more likely to work in lower-skilled jobs, creating an income gap, such that Canadians aged 25–54 years without disabilities have 40 per cent higher incomes (or $19,000 per year more) than peers with disabilities, with the premium widening to 70 per cent (or $27,000 per year) by ages 55–65 years.  Difficulties finding and maintaining gainful employment often stem from attitudinal barriers in the workplace that fail to appropriately accommodate people with disabilities, or an unwillingness to remove barriers to allow employees to work at their full potential. 

In addition to attitudinal challenges in securing meaningful employment, marginalized populations also encounter shortcomings in social service support programs meant to address systemic inequities. Most income support programs designed to support people with disabilities, like many provincial disability assistance programs, use all-source income calculations to determine eligibility.  While the actual funding calculation is designed to fill the gap in living expenses for someone with a disability, these calculations often require persons with a disability to have an income below the poverty line. In addition, no provincial government provides disability support at a level that meets the poverty line in that province. This all but guarantees that a person relying on disability support will continue to experience poverty.

Additionally, many people with disabilities struggle with costs associated with living with a disability. Costs related to accessible housing, medical expenses (equipment, prescriptions, supplements, practitioner fees, etc.) and disability supports that are not government-funded further drive people with disabilities toward the poverty line for mere survival.  In many cases, these expenses are needed to overcome accessibility challenges in the environment.  For example, paying service fees for curbside pickup or delivery because the building itself is not accessible for someone to enter and make a purchase directly.


According to UNICEF Canada’s most recent report, child poverty rose from 4.7 per cent in 2020 to 6.4 per cent in 2021, representing an increase that was greater than that of the general population. However, as discussed below, there are significant disparities among the population of children affected by poverty. As is the case in most other population groups, child poverty is affected by intersecting factors such as race, gender, and ableism.

Putting it in concrete numbers, 37.4 per cent of on-reserve First Nations children, 24 per cent of off-reserve First Nations children, 19.4 per cent of Inuit children, 15.2 per cent of Metis children, 18.6 per cent of Black children, and 15.2 per cent of racialized children live in poverty.[1] Children who belong to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, live in lone-parent households, and have a disability are also at greater risk of poverty.

The poverty rate for those in their core working years, aged 25 – 54, was 7.9 per cent, but as individuals move towards retirement a higher proportion experience financial hardship. The poverty rate begins to rise as individuals hit their late 50s, peaking at 10.1 per cent for those aged 64, before dropping substantially at 66. Seniors by comparison have the lowest rate of poverty among all age groups, at 4.7 per cent, reflecting the strong impact of supports available to people in retirement, including the CPP, OAS and GIS.

The disproportionately low rates of poverty among seniors show the effectiveness of government transfers to support people to maintain an above poverty standard of living. However, this data contains a range of experiences and not all seniors experience financial security. Seniors living alone experienced poverty at more than 5 times the rate experienced by those living with family (13.3 per cent compared to 2.4 per cent)

Poverty Snapshot Conclusion:

This snapshot highlights that groups that have been made marginal are disproportionately vulnerable to poverty. Not only do these vulnerable groups have a statistically higher probability of entering poverty but they are also less likely to leave it. Numerous interrelated systems and structures rooted in a history of oppression and domination function to adversely impact marginalized groups, thereby creating and perpetuating inequity and injustice.


In assessing poverty within Canadian society, it is imperative to examine key indicators that reflect the standard of living and well-being of individuals. These indicators encompass various facets, including healthcare access, education, income and employment, housing, environment, safety and security, and social inclusion.

Understanding these indicators offers insights into the challenges individuals face in accessing basic necessities, such as housing, food, and income security, and underscores the importance of targeted interventions to alleviate poverty and promote economic inclusion. This section focuses on three measures of quality of life and poverty: income, housing, and food security, and examines how these factors disproportionately impact marginalized groups.



According to a governmental analysis on poverty in Canada, racialized people continue to face systemic barriers rooted in racism and discrimination that make them more vulnerable to low and/or lower income.  In 2021, for example, the median after-tax income for racialized persons was $36,800 compared to median after-tax income of $43,100 for persons that are not racialized, representing an average gap of $6,300. While Latin American, Filipino, and Black people had the highest income among racialized population groups, Chinese ($33,700), Arab ($33,100), and South Asian ($33,200) had the lowest after-tax median income.

Statistics Canada reports that racialized people earn a lower income at the beginning of their careers and are less likely to have a unionized job and benefit from pension coverage. Our population survey this year equally found that more than half (54 per cent) of the racialized population in Canada agreed that low wages are affecting their ability to make ends meet. This rate is concerningly 21 percentage points higher than non-racialized Canadians (33 per cent).



In Canada, women often earn less money than men due to a combination of systemic factors including gender discrimination, occupational segregation, and unequal opportunities for career advancement. This discrepancy, often referred to as the gender wage gap, directly impacts women’s incomes, resulting in lower lifetime earnings, reduced financial security, and limited opportunities for wealth accumulation and economic independence. To illustrate, 2021 census data show that 11.4 per cent of women have a low income as opposed to 9.4 per cent of men. While this gap may not appear significant, additional data indicates that, in 2021, the average annual employment income for Canadian women stood at $43,200, whereas men earned $59,200 annually, reflecting a $16,000 disparity between the genders. Furthermore, research on the labour force participation of women suggests that women are overrepresented in part-time employment and underrepresented in high-demand jobs such as skilled and high-paying occupation (i.e., science, technology, engineering, etc.). They are also overrepresented in healthcare, education, accommodation, and food services. This concentration in low-wage service sectors, which in the last decade have seen negative wage growth, increases their risk of poverty and economic instability due to lower income and income insecurity.

However, income inequality does not affect all women equally. Disparities exist and persist between different population groups of women. Indigenous and immigrant women encounter significant obstacles accessing the labor market. These obstacles limit their economic participation and diminish their earning potential, leading to income insecurity and a heightened risk of poverty. Indigenous women often face racism, discrimination, and negative stereotypes when seeking employment. The ongoing effects of colonialization, including lower education and literacy levels among Indigenous people, worsen this situation. Along with Indigenous and immigrant women, women with disabilities face similar barriers to earning a sufficient income for economic security. In fact, women with disabilities are far more likely to have difficulty meeting their financial needs (38 per cent) compared to the general female population (27 per cent).


Data from 2018 indicate that 40.5 per cent of 2SLGBTQIA+ Canadians have a total before tax income of less than $20,000. An additional 24 per cent make between $20,000 to $39,999 per year.  By merging these two data points, we observe that roughly 65 per cent of individuals within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community fall within the bottom two income quintiles compared to roughly 50 per cent of non-2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. A further study on the economic characteristics of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals unveils that bisexual persons make significantly less in before-tax income ($39,200) than their heterosexual ($55,000) or gay/lesbian ($50,100) counterparts. The study also finds that heterosexual (74 per cent) and bisexual women (68.1 per cent) in the core working ages of 25 to 65 are least likely to be employed full-time or part-time.


Finally, persons with disabilities face ongoing barriers to equitable and accessible participation in the labour market. The 2022 Labour Force Survey, for instance, reports that persons with disabilities are “consistently employed at lower rates than those without disabilities” in part due to “unmet workplace accommodation and workplace discrimination.” In fact, as the severity of disability increases, employment rates drop from 76.6 per cent (mild disabilities) to 65.5 per cent (moderate disabilities), 50.4 per cent (severe disabilities), and 26.8 per cent (very severe disabilities).

Consequently, persons with disabilities are deeply financially disadvantaged when compared to persons without disabilities, and this disadvantage increases proportionately with the severity of the disability’s impact on a person’s life. This financial disparity is made evident in the median personal after-tax income for persons with disabilities, which, per the 2022 Canadian Survey on Disability, was $32,870 compared to $39,490 for persons without disabilities. People with disabilities are also over-represented in food banks because of this decrease in wages and support. This disparity reaches alarming heights in Ontario, for example, where disability support recipients represent 30 per cent of food bank clients despite making up only 4 per cent of the provincial population.


Housing costs have skyrocketed in Canada, disproportionately affecting economically vulnerable groups that have been marginalized. The current crisis has resulted in a growing number of people living in ‘core housing need’, which refers to an individual or household living in a dwelling that is not adequate (i.e., in need of repairs), affordable (i.e., amount of before-tax income spent on rent), or suitable (i.e., number of rooms sufficient for household composition). Currently, affordability of housing– defined as spending 30 per cent or less of total before-tax income on rent – is the most pressing issue affecting renters.

In fact, a recent report by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) indicates that core housing need affects renters more extensively and acutely than owners since the former’s median income tends to be less than half that of owners. This holds true especially for recent renter households who face higher monthly dwelling costs than existing renters. In fact, close to half of recent renters (43.2 per cent) were likely to reside in unaffordable housing.  As a result, renter households also make up 68 per cent of food bank visits despite being only 33 per cent of the population.


Housing affordability has affected renters significantly more than homeowners. As racialized people are more likely to be renters than non-racialized people, they are more vulnerable to increasing housing rates. Current census housing data suggest that 17.2 per cent of racialized people (referred to in the census data as ‘visible minorities’) who rent live in core housing need compared to 16.7 per cent of non-racialized people. Although this gap may seem small at first glance, the numbers are misleading as Statistics Canada does not categorize Indigenous persons as “visible minorities.” Due to Indigenous people’s notably high rate of living in core housing need (23 per cent of renters), the comparison provided above fails to accurately depict the real disparity between racialized and non-racialized individuals in core housing need. In fact, a new study by Western University and the University of Toronto on Canada’s affordability crisis found that racialized people are more likely to reside in unaffordable housing than White people. To quote, “unaffordable housing rates were especially high among Middle Easterners, North African, and South Asians.

Filling out the picture of racialized people’s access to affordable housing, a Statistics Canada analysis on recent and existing renters states that recent renters, who are most likely to live in unaffordable housing, are Latin American (11.9 per cent), Arab (10.3 per cent), and Black (9.7 per cent). In addition, the analysis also finds that one-sixth of recent immigrants (16.7 per cent) lived in a recent renter household in 2021. These findings suggest that immigrants grapple with housing affordability more than Canadian-born residents, including those from the same ethno-racial groups. Overall, 54 per cent of racialized individuals agree that it’s hard to keep up with rising rents, compared to 32 per cent non-racialized.


Most recent census data show that 30 per cent of female lone-parent households living in rentals experience core housing need compared to 11.6 per cent of two-parent households in rentals. While the per centage of renting single male-parent households in core housing follows closely behind at 28.4 per cent, they only comprise a fraction of lone-parent families (approximately 15 – 20 per cent). Thus, there is a clear overrepresentation of lone parent households renting homes that are unaffordable, inadequate, and/or unsuitable.

3. AGE

In 2021, more than 1 in 3 (34.1 per cent of) children considered poor lived in unaffordable, unsuitable, and overcrowded housing compared to a rate of 17.5 per cent for all children. Poor or not, the rate of children dwelling in low-quality housing is worrisome as research indicates that quality as well as affordability of housing affects the health and development of children.

Seniors, on the other hand, are the fastest growing age group in Canada. Latest estimates show that 19.0 per cent of Canada’s total population is aged 65 and over, an increase of  per cent 2.1 per cent since 2016. While most seniors (75 per cent) are owners of adequate and affordable homes, those who rent experience distinct vulnerabilities as with renters across all groups. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of seniors who rent face challenges regarding the quality and affordability of their dwellings.


While the housing crisis has resulted in an increasing number of Canadian residents living in core housing need, it has also exacerbated homelessness – that is, living “without stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it”. As previously mentioned, there is a significant lack of data for people experiencing homelessness, making it difficult to capture an adequate picture of homelessness.

Given that the census does not collect data on homelessness, the most reliable data is found in point-in-time counts of homelessness that “provide a one-day snapshot of homelessness in a community, including people experiencing homelessness in shelters and unsheltered locations, and those who are provisionally accommodated in transitional housing.” Based on the most recently nationally coordinated point-in-time counts in 2020 and 2022, it is possible to distinguish some significant socio demographic trends.

Most survey respondents were aged 25 to 49 years (55 per cent) and identified as men (63 per cent). Indigenous people and 2SLGBTQIA+ people disproportionately experience homelessness. To be more precise, 31 per cent of respondents identified as Indigenous and were more likely to stay in unsheltered locations (41 per cent) or experience hidden homelessness (45 per cent). While homeless people are predominantly male (63 per cent), among Indigenous respondents a higher percentage identify as women (40 per cent) compared to non-Indigenous counterparts (34 per cent). Indigenous people were also more likely to have been homeless in their childhood or youth.

The point-in-time counts unequivocally reveal that 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals (13 per cent) are disproportionately represented within the homeless population, considering they constitute only 4 per cent of the general population. Notably, the percentage of 2SLGBTQIA+ youth within this demographic was the highest (26 per cent) among their age group. When questioned about the causes of housing loss, 2SLGBTQIA+ respondents mentioned mental health issues (15 per cent) or conflicts with a parent or guardian (12 per cent) more frequently than their counterparts, who reported rates of 9 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.

Food Security:

Before delving into the data, it’s essential to consider some overarching trends that have impacted recent levels of material deprivation, including food insecurity, in Canada. Global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and, more recently, the war in Ukraine have resulted in a four-decade-high rate of inflation in 2022. Rising inflation rates have also meant that certain groups of individuals and households have struggled to meet their basic needs. For example, the rising cost of living has disproportionately affected the purchasing power of low-income earners, who are disproportionately racialized, Indigenous, female lone-parents, and individuals with disabilities. In practice, households with the lowest incomes experienced a 25 per cent decrease in purchasing power, necessitating them to allocate nearly a quarter of their income toward food expenses . Notably, by the end of 2022, 35 per cent of the Canadian population struggled to afford essential everyday expenses, including food, which has seen costs increase at a pace greater than inflation. Between February 2019 and 2024, the cost of food increased by 26.9 per cent and is predicted that food prices will increase by a further 2.5 – 4.5 per cent in 2024.

To illustrate, data from the Canadian Social Survey (CSS) indicates that 40.3 per cent of Indigenous people had difficulty meeting their financial needs. Among racialized population groups, 56.9 per cent of Arab individuals, 50.1 per cent of Southeast Asians, and 46.6 per cent of Black individuals encountered significant financial difficulties.  In contrast, ‘only’ 30.5 per cent of individuals not identified as a visible minority faced similar challenges. Additionally, 40.7 per cent of individuals within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, compared to 32.7 per cent of those outside the community, experienced financial struggles. Furthermore, while 28.5 per cent of individuals without disabilities faced financial challenges, the percentage rose to 38.8 per cent for individuals with disabilities.

In 2022, 2.7 million households were food insecure – that is, 17.8 per cent of the Canadian population, nearly 1 in 5 households, and 6.9 million people, including 1.8 million children – met the criteria for food insecurity, such as being unable to purchase food, provide a balanced diet, eat three meals per day, and more. These numbers may understate the scale of the problem, as data from the 2023 HungerCount found that food bank visits increased by 32 per cent between 2022 and 2023.

Available data consistently demonstrates that household food insecurity is a multifaceted issue influenced by factors such as race, gender, age, and ableism. Thus, White people are least likely to experience food insecurity, with 15.3 per cent living in food insecure households. In comparison, Black (39.2 per cent), Indigenous (33.4 per cent), and Filipino (29.2 per cent) people face food much higher rates of insecurity in their households.

The racialized nature of the problem is also apparent if one looks at the percentage of children with inadequate access to food. In 2022, 24.3 per cent of children under 18 lived in food-insecure households. In fact, per UNICEF Canada’s 2023 child poverty report, children “have the highest rate of food insecurity among all age groups in Canada.” The numbers are more disconcerting when examining the percentage of racialized children, where, compared to White children (19.3 per cent), 46.3 per cent of Black children, 40.1 per cent of Indigenous children, 33.5 per cent of Arab children, 32.9 per cent of Filipino children, and 29.5 per cent of Latin American children experienced food insecurity. Overall, the disparity between racialized and non-racialized people is adequately captured in our national poll from this year which found that racialized people were far more likely (41 per cent) to say that they worry about feeding their family than non-racialized people (28 per cent).

As mentioned above, there is a general lack of concrete data on the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, including data on food insecurity. From the existing data, we know that 2SLGBTQIA+ people are heavily and disproportionately affected by poverty, low income, and homelessness. For example, 40.5 per cent of 2SLGBTQIA+ Canadians have a total income (before tax) of less than $20,000. An additional 24 per cent make between $20,000 to $39,999 per year. These low incomes severely affect individuals’ ability to securely access food and meet their basic needs.

According to data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) spanning from 2015 to 2018, bisexual individuals were nearly three times as likely as heterosexual individuals (24.8 per cent versus 8.5 per cent) and almost twice as likely as gay or lesbian individuals (13.3 per cent) to have lived in food-insecure households in the year leading up to the survey. And further, a recent study on 2SLGBTQIA+ people’s experiences of food insecurity in Toronto reveals that 42 per cent of survey respondents experienced food insecurity. The overrepresentation of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals among the homeless population further indicates their precarious access to food.

Addressing household food insecurity is critical as it is “one of the strongest predictors of poor health, making its persistence in Canada a serious public health problem. In short, it is a potent social determinant of health as people, including children, experiencing food insecurity are much more prone to suffering from chronic physical and mental health problems as well as infectious and non-communicable diseases. 

Indigenous Populations:

Canada’s history of colonialism, persistent colonial policies and processes and ongoing discrimination, racism, and systemic oppression, profoundly affect Indigenous communities. These historical and contemporary factors significantly hinder Indigenous peoples’ access to fundamental necessities such as housing, food, and income security.


 All Indigenous populations, whether Metis (12.6%), Inuit (16.5%), non-status Indian (16.8%), registered Indian off reserve (19.8%), or registered Indian on reserve (31.3%), experience much higher rates of low income than the rest of the population (10.7%), according to the 2021 Census.

In terms of income, the historical and ongoing impacts of colonial practices and policies have placed Indigenous people disproportionately among low-income earners, thereby perpetuating their experiences of poverty in Canada. Their ongoing marginalization and often precarious socio-economic and cultural circumstances contributed to their disproportionate impact from the pandemic, leading to a slower recovery period thereafter.


Inadequate housing poses a pressing issue within Indigenous communities, particularly in remote and Northern regions, where building materials are scarce and come at a higher cost compared to non-remote areas. On-reserve Indigenous communities face even greater challenges due to restrictions imposed by the Indian Act, which prohibits using on-reserve property as collateral for accessing finances to build or renovate housing.

To better understand the housing conditions of Indigenous peoples, consider the following data: According to the 2021 Census, 16.1 per cent of Indigenous individuals reside in housing requiring major repairs, such as those with mould or structural defects, compared to 5.7 per cent of non-Indigenous individuals. This indicates that Indigenous peoples are three times more likely to live in inadequate, unsafe, and unhealthy housing. Additionally, 17.1 per cent of Indigenous individuals live in overcrowded housing, exceeding the National Occupancy Standard for suitable living space. This percentage rises to 25.4 per cent for Indigenous individuals who are registered or hold Treaty Indian status. For example, a significant proportion of Inuit individuals reside in dwellings with a shortfall of one, two, or three or more bedrooms, further underscoring the housing challenges faced by Indigenous communities.

Finally, indigenous homelessness in Canada is intricately tied to the nation’s colonial past and its enduring effects. It’s essential to understand that Indigenous experience of homelessness extends beyond mere lack of housing. Indigenous individuals experience homelessness across twelve distinct dimensions, including historic displacement, separation from ancestral lands, spiritual disconnection, mental imbalance, cultural erosion, overcrowded housing, relocation for socioeconomic opportunities, returning home as outsiders, lack of refuge, fleeing harm, crises, and displacement due to climate change.

In addition to their unique experience of homelessness, Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, are disproportionately affected by homelessness in urban areas across Canada, with nearly one-third identifying as Indigenous (24 per cent as First Nations, 6 per cent as Métis, and 2 per cent as Inuit) in the most recent Point-in-Time Counts of Homelessness in Canada. This overrepresentation is evident when comparing to census data, where approximately 5 per cent of Canadians identify as Indigenous. Moreover, Indigenous respondents are more likely to be those staying in unsheltered locations or experiencing hidden homelessness, suggesting that shelter-specific statistics may underestimate the extent of Indigenous homelessness.

Additionally, Indigenous respondents, particularly women, exhibited higher rates of chronic homelessness, with 75 per cent of Indigenous respondents experiencing chronic homelessness compared to 68 per cent of non-Indigenous respondents. Point-in-Time Counts of Homelessness reveal that early experiences of homelessness were also prevalent among Indigenous respondents, with 55 per cent first experiencing homelessness as children or youth, compared to non-Indigenous respondents who tended to experience homelessness as adults. Indigenous respondents were also more likely to have experience being in care / of the child welfare system in their youth, with 51 per cent reporting such experiences compared to 22 per cent of non-Indigenous respondents.

Regarding health challenges, Indigenous respondents exhibited higher rates for all health issues, with the largest difference seen in substance use issues, reported by 69 per cent of Indigenous respondents compared to 57 per cent for non-Indigenous respondents. This overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples among those experiencing homelessness underscores the complex interplay of historical, cultural, and systemic factors perpetuating homelessness within Indigenous communities.


Data on household food insecurity among Indigenous Peoples in Canada is predominantly sourced from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) and the Canadian Income Survey (CIS). However, these surveys exclude individuals living on-reserve, thus failing to fully capture the experience of Indigenous people residing on-reserve, who make up nearly half of status First Nations individuals in Canada. This presents a large and deeply concerning gap in the data and makes it impossible to understand the full scale of the challenge. With what research is available, accounts indicate that Indigenous people experience higher rates of food insecurity than the rest of the population. Surveys conducted in remote Northern communities, such as Nunatsiavut and Nunavik, reveal alarmingly high rates of household food insecurity. However, people residing in these communities are likely under-surveyed due to limited coverage and sampling. As examined in Data Resources and Challenges for First Nations Communities, First Nations communities have also been harmed by the misuse of their data and have experienced being “researched to death”, with this data rarely being used to the benefit of First Nations communities. This data misuse has resulted in broken trust and misappropriation. While the methodological differences make direct comparisons challenging, it’s probable that food insecurity among Indigenous Peoples is even more severe than national estimates suggest, given this underrepresentation.

According to the groundbreaking and comprehensive First Nations, Nutrition and Environmental Study (FNFNES), which addresses the gaps in knowledge about Indigenous nutrition and food security on reserves, the percentage of food insecurity (48 per cent) is very prevalent and high in First Nations communities. While the highest rates of food insecurity were found in Alberta (60 per cent) and in remote communities, the lowest were found in northern British Columbia. In general, households with two or more individuals employed full-time, older adults aged 71 and above, males, and individuals reporting good health and non-smokers experienced lower levels of food insecurity. More studies like this are needed to close the research gap, particularly on health outcomes, that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals. This is imperative to meet the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call 19, which calls on the Government of Canada “in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

Indigenous food insecurity is worsened by inadequate employment opportunities and income levels in comparison to rising food expenses. Compounding the issue, food prices are notably higher in communities distant from major urban centers, making a healthy and ample food supply unattainable for many. In fact, FNFNES suggests that food costs can be two to three times higher in communities situated over 50 kilometers away from urban hubs, with even steeper prices observed in fly-in communities. Overall, nearly half of all First Nations families struggle to adequately feed themselves. The impact is even more pronounced among families with children.

[1] Calculated using LIM-60 instead of MBM.