The disability rate for aboriginal peoples is more than double that of other Canadians, and in the 15-to-24 age group it’s three times higher, says Statistics Canada.

The statistics, based on a 1991 national aboriginal survey, show that 31 per cent of First Nations peoples reported some level of disability, compared to 15 per cent of Canadians. Statistics Canada said the problem is linked to poorer living conditions.

The 1991 survey found that native households were in poorer shape but 50 per cent were more crowded than homes of other Canadians. Twenty per cent of native homes needed major repairs, compared with a Canadian average of 8 per cent.

The Assembly of First Nations says the rate is much higher, pointing to a 1993 federal Indian Affairs report that found 42 per cent of native homes outside the Northwest Territories failed to meet basic standards.

The disability rate for the Inuit is 29 per cent. Non-Inuit natives on reserves had a 33-per-cent rate of disability.

But among the Inuit, hearing disabilities were highest, with a rate almost twice Canada’s adult population. Forty-four per cent of Inuit disabilities were related to hearing.

Inuit children have a high rate of chronic otitis media, a middle-ear disease. Adding to the problem is noise pollution from the earlier use of noisy snowmobiles, high-velocity rifles and loud machinery. Doctors said in one news report that the noise conditions and infection rates have improved in recent years.