Community Well-Being

Measuring Well-Being in First Nations Communities: The Community Well-Being (CWB) Index
test Measuring Well-Being in First Nations Communities: The Community Well-Being (CWB) Index

Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Population, 2001 Mapping: ©2000, Government of Canada with permission from Natural Resources Canada

This document has examined determinants of health for First Nations in Alberta. In 2004, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) developed the Community Well-Being Index comparing the average level of well-being of First Nations communities to other Canadian communities45.

The Community Well-Being Index is based on the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures quality of life in order to compare results from over 170 countries. In the early 1990s, Canada regularly ranked first in the world. In 200846, Canada ranked third in the world behind Iceland and Norway.

The Community Well-Being Index has four primary indicators47:

  • Education – measured by literacy standards (at least a Grade 9 education) and the attainment of at least a high school diploma
  • Labour force activity – measured by labour force participation (labour force participants divided by the total population) and employment among labour force participants (employed persons divided by labour force participants)
  • Income – defined as average total income (total income divided by total population)
  • Housing conditions – measured by housing quality (if major repairs are needed) and housing quantity (if the home is crowded, containing more than one person per room)

All of these indicators were reviewed earlier in this report using more recent data, mainly results from the 2006 Census. The advantage of the Community Well-Being Index is that it provides a high level view of the well-being of a community. The data were gathered from First Nations communities with an on-reserve population over 65 that participated in the 2001 Census. The map on the right provides the geographic representation for First Nations communities in Alberta.

Interestingly, there is no clear geographic delineation for the coding. Only two First Nations communities are identified as above average (Tsuu T’ina and Bigstone/ Desmarais).

Caution should be used in reviewing the results from Tsuu T’ina, as the 2001 Census identifies more than half of the people residing in Tsuu T’ina as not identifying themselves as North American Indian or as Aboriginal.

Average and below average rankings can be found across Alberta. In most provinces, isolation and remoteness would tend to lead to a lower ranking but not in Alberta where a number of isolated and remote communities have an average ranking. By the same token, proximity to a large urban centre usually leads to higher rankings, again that is not necessarily the case for First Nations communities in Alberta as a few communities in the greater Edmonton area had a below average rating.

Figure 70 shows the Community Well-Being Index for 43 First Nations communities. A number of First Nations communities are not included in the graph, as the information for the Index is based on completion of the 2001 Census which was not completed by three communities in Alberta and the information is not available for smaller communities (e.g., Kapawe’no, Sawridge, etc.).

Figure 71: Community Well-Being Index: A National Perspective for First Nations (2001)

Twelve First Nations communities in Alberta, or 27.9 per cent, are identified as below average. The lowest ranking for a First Nation community is 41 compared to 71 for a non-First Nation community, the town of Big Valley, Alberta. The “average” ranking was given to 29 First Nations communities, or 67.4 per cent of the communities assessed. Most towns and cities in Alberta receive an “above average” ranking, while only two First Nations communities received this ranking.

As with other socio-economic indicators, it is possible to compare the results on the Community Well-Being Index for First Nations communities across Canada. Figure 68 shows that the Prairie provinces are trailing the other regions. The results in Figure 71 are not very different than the results of Figure 39 (Page 34) which illustrates educational attainment for First Nations in Canada, showing the importance of education to well-being.

45“Measuring First Nations Well-Being”, Strategic Research and Analysis Directorate, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada website

46United Nations Development Programme website

47“Frequently Asked Questions: Measuring First Nations Well-Being”, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada