Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

Understanding Our Environment is Key to Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

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Community Well-being Index

Community Well-being Index

Well-Being Scores from 1981 to 2006
The socioeconomic landscape of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities differs by region, population composition, and over time. From 1981 and 2006, community well-being scores increased across Canada. But not all communities prospered; well-being scores in a large number of Aboriginal communities declined.1 Indeed, the gap between First Nations and non-Aboriginal communities has increased from 16 points in 2001 to 20 points in 2006 (Figure 1). Scores based on 2006 Census data put 96 First Nations communities among the lowest 100 Canadian communities.

Changes Over Time
CWB scores for income, education, housing, and labour force activity reveal much about changes over time (Figure 2). Since 1981 education scores have been increasing for all communities. Even though significantly greater numbers of non-Aboriginal people appear to have completed high school since 2001, this is partly due to the way data were collected for the 2006 Census and how education was defined in previous Census periods.2 Income scores have been increasing for all groups since 1981 as well, with the income for Inuit increasing at a faster pace since 2001. In contrast, housing scores have declined for both First Nations and Inuit communities since 2001, with the largest drop in Inuit communities (Figure 3). This decline is due to reductions in both housing quantity and quality in the harsh conditions of Canada’s north where many First Nations people and most Inuit live.

Distribution of Low Scores
There is large regional and local variation in CWB scores. While low-scoring communities can be found in most parts of Canada, the lowest CWB scores (less than 44) are found in the north (Figure 4). Inuit communities in Nunavik (northern Quebec) have some of the lowest CWB scores, as do those in central Nunavut. Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and northern Ontario all have high concentrations of low CWB scores for First Nations communities. In these provinces, communities with low CWB scores are not uniformly located in rural and remote settings. A large proportion of low-scoring First Nations communities are near densely populated areas, suggesting that differences are due to local service delivery, infrastructure, and community development rather than isolation.

  • 1. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. First Nation and Inuit Community Well-Being: Describing historical trends (1981-2006). Strategic Research and Analysis Directorate. Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada; 2010.
  • 2. Statistics Canada. 2006 Census Dictionary. Catalogue No. 92-556-X. Statistics Canada, Minister of Industry: Ottawa, ON; 2006.