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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Canada's Aboriginal population in 2017

The Aboriginal population could account for roughly 4.1% of Canada's population by 2017 when the nation celebrates its 150th anniversary, according to new population projections. This report is the result of a project initiated in 2004 by the Multiculturalism and Human Rights Program at the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Under scenarios considered for these projections, between 1.39 million and 1.43 million persons could belong to one of the three Aboriginal groups: North American Indian population, Métis and Inuit.

In 2001, the Aboriginal population of about 1,066,500 represented 3.4% of Canada's total population. (This figure, based on results of the 2001 Census, has been adjusted upwards to take into account factors such as net undercoverage.)

Previous censuses have shown that the Aboriginal population is growing much faster than the total population, a trend which will continue through to 2017. The Aboriginal population is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 1.8%, more than twice the rate of 0.7% for the general population.

The biggest contributing factor to the more rapid growth is fertility, as the current Aboriginal birth rate is about 1.5 times the overall Canadian rate.

According to the medium-growth scenario, the Inuit population will have the fastest rate of growth, about 2.3%, compared with 1.9% for the North American Indian population and 1.4% for the Métis.

By 2017, there would be 971,200 North American Indians, 380,500 Métis and 68,400 Inuit. The overall composition of the Aboriginal population would not change significantly. The majority, 68%, would be North American Indian; the Métis would represent 27%, and the Inuit about 5%.

The Aboriginal population is much younger than the total Canadian population, yet a trend toward aging is evident.

The median age of the Aboriginal population in 2001 was 24.7 years, which was about 12 years lower than that of the Canadian population. By 2017 it could reach 27.8 years but this would still be 13 years under the Canadian mark. (The median is the point at which one-half of the population is older and the other half is younger.)

The main cause of this trend is the increasing life expectancy and gradually declining fertility of the Aboriginal peoples.

The biggest challenge confronting the Aboriginal population by 2017 could be their large number of young adults aged 20 to 29 entering the labour market. This age group is projected to increase by over 40% to 242,000, more than four times the projected growth rate of 9% among the same age group in the general population.

At the other end of the age spectrum, the number of Aboriginal seniors aged 65 and older could double by 2017, although their share of the population would rise from only 4.0% to 6.5%.

The highest concentration of the Aboriginal population in 2001 was in the Prairies and in the North. This distribution is not expected to change during the next 12 years.

Provincially, Alberta may overtake British Columbia in 2017 as the province with the second largest Aboriginal population. Alberta, projected to have 232,000 Aboriginal people, would be just behind Ontario with 268,000.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 5131.

The publication Projections of the Aboriginal Populations, Canada, Provinces and Territories (91-547-XIE, free) is now available online. From the Our products and services page, under Browse our Internet publications, choose Free, then Population and demography.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Media Relations (613-951-4636;, Communications and Library Services Division.

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