Alberta Health: “Indigenous populations exhibit startlingly low life expectancy”

Alberta Health has released its annual report on life statistics in the province. It also collects demographic data on its participants because sometimes (usually) trends appear in specific populations, identifying these can help with creating policy to redress certain health problems. An outcome as general as “life expectancy” has a lot of contributing factors to it, and investigating those trends can lead to identifying health care gaps.

In a refreshingly honest report, Alberta Health has identified one of its gaps–Indigenous communities: (emphasis added; spacing added to make it more readable)

There is a large difference in life expectancy for Alberta’s First Nations population in comparison to Alberta’s total provincial population. Life expectancy at birth in 2015 was 70.36 years for First Nations people – about 12 years shorter than 81.87 years for the total provincial population.

In comparison to Alberta’s total population, the First Nations population experiences an infant mortality rate that is more than one and a half times higher, a suicide rate that is five to seven times higher, a higher rate of diabetes, and significantly higher rates of arthritis, asthma, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

This is consistent with national results which indicate the health of Indigenous peoples is much worse than for Canadians as a whole. To improve the health status of a population, a broad range of factors need to be considered including health services, personal health practices and coping skills, and social factors such as housing and education.

Bearing in mind that the Liberal government has also admitted the RCMP has a racism problem, it would appear that our left-wing governments are starting to take steps to honouring their “government accountability” platform planks, something the Albertan NDP and the Canadian Liberals both campaigned on. Whereas the Conservatives were very much “nothing to see here folks,” we’ve now had two levels of government admit there are racialized gaps in at least two government systems. In this case, federal police and provincial healthcare.

Perhaps most impressively, the Albertan NDP stated in this report that the primary way to improve health outcomes isn’t just to expand healthcare, but also to expand social programs and infrastructure that urban or white rural populations enjoy. This costs money, which is probably why our Conservatives never wanted to admit we had a problem.

This report was brought to my attention by a business blog for Drawing Board Design, who stated in their post:

It is critical to realize that these statistics are only an alarm bell sounding for the rest of us living next to or among our indigenous neighbours. These numbers do not tell First Nations stories: tragic stories of children lost prematurely, stories of loved ones lost to suicide and to the social isolation of addiction and mental illness. They do not tell of the loss of an entire way of life and the effect that this has had on a community’s eroded sense of self and access to healthy, life-giving foods and exercise.

The fact that these preventable tragedies are happening in different communities occupying the same geographic space is unacceptable, and it is not only the imperative of our government to take action: as a Muslim convert born in Alberta, I am not only religiously implored to treat my neighbours well, care for them and cooperate with them, I am also forbidden from harming them and allowing others to harm or neglect them as well. Islam teaches us that it is incumbent upon everyone to ensure that our neighbours do not go hungry as we eat our fill – no matter who those neighbours might be. And an extension of this is that we simultaneously cannot accept our own privileged access to health foods and services, while our brothers and sisters are neglected. Food bank usage among non-indigenous Albertans alone increased more than 23% between 2014 and 2015: if we are going to be a strong Alberta, we are our strongest together and this starts by helping protect our most vulnerable populations.

So, we’ve admitted we got problems–now let’s see if our governments can make an impact by the next election cycle.



  1. dalemacdougall says

    I lived in Calgary from 1984-98 and read a great deal about the native communities in the area. One thing that stands out in my memory was the appalling cronyism and nepotism displayed by those in charge at many native communities. Money and programs directed there very often enriched the leaders and their friends while others were left without.

    There also seemed to be a fear among governments to say anything about this situation for fear of being called racist or condescending towards natives.

    I’ve been away for awhile now and would be interested to know if this situation has improved. Obviously native communities help but it would be good if that help actually got to the people who need it most.

  2. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Alberta Health: “Indigenous populations exhibit startlingly low life expectancy”

    Really? I think we have some people not paying attention. This seems more accurate:

    Alberta Health: “Indigenous populations exhibit unconscionably low life expectancy”