Canada measures vital signs

While Canada’s overall well-being is strong, a few areas like services for immigrants and the gap between rich and poor need to be addressed, a new report says.

In its first annual check-up of the country’s overall health, Community Foundations of Canada points out the nation’s strong points as well as its challenges.

Called “Vital Signs,” the report focuses on 10 measures of Canada’s quality of life, including learning, housing, work, health and wellness, culture and the environment.

On many measures, the country is thriving, the report says.

Almost half the nation’s citizens ages 15 or older have completed university degrees or have post-secondary certificates or diplomas, and a similar percentage volunteer their time in some capacity.

The overall unemployment rate of 6.3 percent in 2006 was the lowest in a generation, the study says, and both the property-crime and violent-crime rates have dropped significantly since the early 1990s.

On other fronts, however, the data are less encouraging.

The bulk of the country’s population growth is coming from immigration, yet the services and supports provided those newcomers is lacking.

Overall, two in 10 Canadians live in poverty, but immigrants are twice as likely to be poor, and they also are more likely to be unemployed.

The gap between the wealthy and the poor has been steady for the past 25 years, with the highest poverty rates in metro areas.

The country’s environment also is suffering, the report says, with greenhouse gas emissions on the rise and Canada ranking as one of the world’s largest per-capita producers of carbon dioxide.

Community Foundations of Canada released the report to provide funders, donors and community members with insights into the state of Canada.

Eleven local community foundations throughout Canada also have released “Vital Signs” reports for their specific geographic areas.

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