Each year October the 4th is dedicated to educating and engaging all Canadians about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people in the country. In New Brunswick, the Wolastoqiyik Sisters in Spirit organized several events to honour and remember them throughout the week of October 1 – 6, 2018, including vigils in Fredericton and Tobique. Visit http://www.sistersinspiritnb.ca/ for more details.
While this week is dedicated to some of the most serious issues facing Indigenous women in this country, women face challenges on numerous fronts. A quick glance at the most recent income statistics, for example, shows the degree of inequality in New Brunswick. According to the 2016 Canadian Census (see Table 1), women in New Brunswick earn $13,650 less than men. In the same year the average Indigenous person earned $8,354 less than the provincial average. The situation for Indigenous women is particularly severe, with Indigenous women earning less than $20,446 the non-Indigenous male average and $10,188 less than the Indigenous male average.
These numbers are just averages and do not tell us the whole story. They do not tell us, for example, if Indigenous women working full-time earn less than any other group that is also working full-time. However, if educational levels were any indication of income, we would expect the gap to be smaller.
In 2016, for example, 51% of Indigenous women age 25 and over in New Brunswick had some form of post-secondary education. This is higher than Indigenous men (49%), and close to non-Indigenous women (54%) and non-Indigenous men (52%). It is true, however, that Indigenous New Brunswickers are less likely to attend university than their non-Indigenous counterparts.
So more university education may be one way for Indigenous women to narrow the income gap, but this is not so easy. We also know from the recent census that women are 4 times more likely to head a single-parent household than men – this number is nearly identical for Indigenous and non-Indigenous families. (Table 2) With these additional responsibilities the cost and time needed for 4-year education may be out of reach.
These numbers give us an idea that there continues to be significant inequality between both men and women and Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in New Brunswick. While access to work might improve the situation for many women, it may do little if these positions are low paying and women continue to bear large household and child care responsibilities. More long-term training and education programs are needed that address these additional barriers (‘wrap around’ supports like child care) and offer some promise of high paying employment. And at a minimum, those delivering projects and programs for clients must incorporate these unique perspectives during the design and implementation phase.
Tyler Foley is a Research Specialist at JEDI and will be a regular contributor to the JEDI blog. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Political Science at Carleton University. Prior to working with JEDI he spent several years working with International humanitarian and development organizations. He is from Oromocto, NB.