A new report by the Canadian Paediatric Society says aboriginal children are at a much greater risk of becoming seriously injured or killed than other kids in Canada.
"Indigenous children are dying at a disproportionate rate … and a lot of these injuries are preventable," University of Toronto researcher Anna Banerji said.
Banerji’s work shows that while accident rates are falling for all Canadian children, aboriginal youth are still three or four times more likely to be killed by unintentional injuries than the national average.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for the group, with fires and drowning also high on the list.
Banerji says the reasons behind the discrepancy between the rates for aboriginal children and the Canadian average are complex.
The lack of health-care resources in remote communities contributes to the problem and researchers say aboriginal children who are injured are much less likely to receive rehabilitation or other resources after being released from hospital.
More education needed
The report notes that the legacy of residential schools and high rates of substance abuse are also factors that contribute to the high injury rates.
Banerji says better education programs — and more of them — aimed at younger children could help prevent injuries and deaths.
Karen Butler is an Edmonton mother who enrolled her young daughters in a program called Aboriginal Head Start.
The class prepares young kids for kindergarten while also teaching them about aboriginal culture and traditions.
“I grew up not knowing my culture. And as an adult I’ve struggled with that … and I wanted a chance for my children to grow into that.”
Butler says many aboriginal parents continue to struggle with challenges not faced by other groups but programs like Aboriginal Head Start can help the younger generation.
"A lot of aboriginal people live in poverty, dealing with overcrowding, housing that's substandard. All those things need to be dealt with," she said.
The Canadian Paediatric Society report recommends a national strategy to reduce the injury rates among aboriginal youth.
It also calls for more resources in remote communities and better tracking of injuries across the country.