The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

December 10, 2013 06:10 ET

Fraser Institute: Government Spending on Aboriginal People Hits All-time High

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwired - Dec. 10, 2013) - Governments spend more on Canada's aboriginal people than ever before, despite activist calls for more spending, finds a new study published today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

"Any debates over the 'proper' amount of taxpayer dollars spent on Aboriginal people should include existing spending levels, which are at historically elevated levels. Over the decades, governments have spent more and more on Aboriginal communities yet the situation in many of these communities remains dire," said Mark Milke, Fraser Institute senior fellow and author of Ever Higher: Government spending on Canada's Aboriginals since 1947.

In the study, Milke details Aboriginal-related spending in three federal departments and among the provinces over 65 years.

Federal government spending

  • Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) spent $7.9 billion in 2011/12 compared to $79 million in 1946/47.
  • AANDC spent $9,056 per Aboriginal person in 2011/12 compared to $922 in 1949/50.
  • Since 2007/08, Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC), spent an average of $242 million annually for on-reserve housing, which translated in 2011/12 to $479 per Aboriginal person compared to $51 per person for housing among non-Aboriginals.
  • Health Canada spending on Aboriginal people jumped to $2.4 billion in 2011/12 from $1.3 billion in 1994/95. These costs include $1.1 billion in supplementary benefits such as vision and dental care, which most non-Aboriginals pay for independently or through extra insurance. Health Canada spent $2,626 per Aboriginal person in 2011/12 compared to $2,055 in 1994/95.

Provincial government spending

  • Among the provinces, spending on Aboriginals rose to $711 million in 2011/12 from $42 million in 1993/94.
  • The provinces, combined, spent $819 per Aboriginal person in 2011/12 compared to $75 in 1993/94, an increase of 985 per cent.

"While it's important for Canadians and policymakers to question Aboriginal spending levels, perhaps the most important questions aren't about dollar amounts but rather about Aboriginal prosperity and the best way to achieve it," Milke said.

Because of the wide range of multi-level government spending over the decades, across multiple programs, departments and ministries, this study does not represent all government spending related to Aboriginals, but rather provides a snapshot of spending trends. The complete study is available for download as a free PDF at

Follow the Fraser Institute on Twitter - Like us on Facebook

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of 86 think-tanks. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit

Contact Information