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Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Métis and First Nations, 2006 Census

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The Daily

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Statistics Canada today releases the first analysis of data on Aboriginal peoples from the 2006 Census. This analysis is available today in an online document entitled Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Métis and First Nations, 2006 Census.

Aboriginal people surpass one-million mark

New data from the 2006 Census show that the number of people who identified themselves as an Aboriginal person has surpassed the one-million mark.

A total of 1,172,790 people reported Aboriginal identity, that is, North American Indian (hereafter referred to as First Nations people), Métis or Inuit. The census enumerated 976,305 Aboriginal people in 2001 and 799,010 in 1996.

In 2006, Aboriginal people accounted for 3.8% of the total population of Canada, an increase from 3.3% in 2001 and 2.8% in 1996.

The Aboriginal population has grown faster than the non-Aboriginal population. Between 1996 and 2006, it increased 45%, nearly six times faster than the 8% rate of growth for the non-Aboriginal population over the same period.

Of the three Aboriginal groups, the fastest gain in population between 1996 and 2006 occurred among those who identified themselves as Métis. Their numbers almost doubled (+91%) to an estimated 389,785. This growth rate was nearly three times as fast as the 29% increase in First Nations people, whose numbers reached 698,025. The number of people who identified themselves as Inuit increased 26% to 50,485.

Note to readers

This report focuses on the Aboriginal identity population. For more information, see How Statistics Canada Identifies Aboriginal Peoples, 2007 (12-592-XIE, free), now available from the Publications module of our web site.

Aboriginal identity refers to those persons who reported identifying with at least one Aboriginal group, that is, North American Indian, Métis or Inuit, and/or those who reported being a Treaty Indian or a Registered Indian, as defined by the Indian Act of Canada, and/or those who reported they were members of an Indian band or First Nation.

The Aboriginal identity population was counted the same way in 2006, 2001 and 1996, providing comparable data for three census years. However, some Indian reserves and settlements did not participate in the census as enumeration was not permitted, or it was interrupted before completion. In 2006, there were 22 incompletely enumerated Indian reserves, down from 30 in 2001 and 77 in 1996.

Therefore, data showing changes in percentages or proportions between 2006 and past census years have been adjusted to account for incompletely enumerated reserves.

Consequently, the share of the Aboriginal population who identify as Métis has grown steadily. In 2006, they accounted for one-third (33%) of Aboriginal people, up from 30% in 2001 and 26% in 1996. First Nations people accounted for the majority (60%) of Aboriginal people, while Inuit represented 4%.

Several factors may account for the growth of the Aboriginal population. These include demographic factors, such as high birth rates. In addition, more individuals are identifying themselves as an Aboriginal person, and there has also been a reduction in the number of incompletely enumerated Indian reserves since 1996.

Inuit population: Young and growing

Of the 1,172,790 people who identified themselves as an Aboriginal person in the 2006 Census, about 4%, or 50,485, reported that they were Inuit. This was a 26% increase from 40,220 in 1996.

Census data show that the Inuit population in Canada is much younger than the non-Aboriginal population and other Aboriginal groups, largely the result of a higher fertility rate for Inuit.

In 2006, the median age of the Inuit population was 22 years, compared with 40 years for non-Aboriginal people. Inuit were also younger than First Nations people, whose median age was 25 years, and Métis, whose median age was 30. (The median age is the point where exactly one-half of the population is older, and the other half is younger.)

Large percentages of Inuit are in the youngest age groups. In 2006, 12% of the Inuit population was 4 years old and under, more than twice the proportion of 5% among non-Aboriginal people. Similarly, 11% of Inuit were in the age group 5 to 9, compared with only 6% of non-Aboriginal people. While over one-half (56%) of all Inuit were aged 24 and under, about one in three non-Aboriginal people (31%) were in this age group.

According to the census, just over three-quarters of Inuit in Canada (78%), or about 40,000 people, lived in one of four regions within Inuit Nunaat. This is the Inuktitut expression for "Inuit homeland," a region stretching from Labrador to the Northwest Territories.

In 2006, 49% of all Inuit lived in Nunavut, 19% lived in Nunavik in northern Quebec, 6% lived in the Inuvialuit region in the Northwest Territories and 4% lived in Nunatsiavut in Labrador. An estimated 17% lived in urban centres and 5% in rural areas outside Inuit Nunaat.

The Inuktitut language was strongest in the region of Nunavik and Nunavut where more than 9 out of 10 Inuit could speak the language well enough to carry on a conversation. In contrast, the figures were 27% in Nunatsiavut and 20% in the Inuvialuit region.

Métis population: Outpacing growth of other Aboriginal groups

New data from the 2006 Census show that the Métis population is on the rise, outpacing the growth of the other Aboriginal groups, as well as that of the non-Aboriginal population, over the past decade.

In 2006, an estimated 389,785 people reported that they were Métis. This population has almost doubled (increasing by 91%) since 1996.

Although the Métis represented just 1% of the total population of Canada, they accounted for larger shares of the population in the West. In 2006, 9% of all people in the Northwest Territories reported they were Métis, followed by 6% in Manitoba, 5% in Saskatchewan and 3% in Alberta and Yukon Territory.

Close to 9 out of 10 people, about 87%, who identified themselves as Métis, lived in either the western provinces or Ontario. The census enumerated 85,500, or 22%, in Alberta; 73,605, or 19%, in Ontario; 71,805, or 18%, in Manitoba; 59,445, or 15%, in British Columbia; and 48,115, or 12%, in Saskatchewan.

In all parts of the country, the Métis were younger than non-Aboriginal people. In 2006, 25% of the Métis population was aged 14 and under, well above the proportion of 17% in the non-Aboriginal population. The proportion was highest in Saskatchewan, where children made up 29% of the Métis population.

Almost 7 out of 10 Métis (69%) lived in urban centres in 2006, up slightly from 67% in 1996. (Urban areas include large cities, or census metropolitan areas, and smaller urban centres.)

In 2006, urban Métis were twice as likely as urban non-Aboriginal people to live in smaller urban centres. An estimated 41% of urban Métis lived in cities with a population of less than 100,000, compared with 20% of their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

The remaining 59% of urban Métis lived in large census metropolitan areas with a population of at least 100,000. These percentages have changed little since 1996.

First Nations people: Diverse, fast-growing population

New data from the 2006 Census show that the North American Indian population has grown at a fast rate during the past decade.

An estimated 698,025 people identified themselves as North American Indian. They are referred to as "First Nations people" for the purposes of this report. There are 615 First Nations and 10 distinct First Nations language families in Canada. The First Nations population increased 29% between 1996 and 2006.

The majority of First Nations people are Status Indians, meaning they are registered under the Indian Act. The census enumerated 564,870 First Nations people who reported they were Registered Indians, 81% of the total First Nations people population. An estimated 133,155 were not registered under the Indian Act.

First Nations people comprised 60% of the 1,172,790 persons who identified themselves as an Aboriginal person in the census, and 2.2% of the total population of Canada.

A smaller proportion of First Nations people lived on reserve than off reserve. An estimated 40% lived on reserve, while the remaining 60% lived off reserve. The off-reserve proportion was up slightly from 58% in 1996.

The vast majority of the First Nations people living on reserve, 98% were Status Indians.

Censuses in both 1996 and 2006 found that about three-quarters (76%) of the off-reserve First Nations population lived in urban areas. (Urban areas include large cities, or census metropolitan areas, and smaller urban centres.)

Ontario and the western provinces combined accounted for an estimated 577,300 First Nations people, or 83% of this group's total population. About 158,395, or 23%, lived in Ontario; 129,580, or 19%, lived in British Columbia; 100,645, or 14%, in Manitoba; 97,275, or 14%, in Alberta; and 91,400, or 13%, in Saskatchewan.

Despite the large populations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, First Nations people there accounted for 3% or less of the respective provincial populations.

In both 2001 and 2006, about 29% of First Nations people who responded to the census said they could speak an Aboriginal language well enough to carry on a conversation. The figure was higher for First Nations people living on reserve (51%) than off reserve (12%).

The census recorded nearly 60 different Aboriginal languages spoken by First Nations people in Canada, grouped into distinct language families. These include Algonquian, Athapaskan, Siouan, Salish, Tsimshian, Wakashan, Iroquoian, Haida, Kutenai and Tlingit.

The Aboriginal language spoken by the largest number of First Nations people is Cree. An estimated 87,285 could carry on a conversation in Cree, followed by 30,255 who could speak Ojibway, 12,435 who spoke Oji-Cree and 11,080 who spoke Montagnais-Naskapi.

2006 Census sub-module

Also released today are various products and services available from the 2006 Census sub-module on our website. By clicking on the Release topics and dates link, then on Aboriginal peoples, users will find 2006 Census information on the Aboriginal peoples.

The information on this web page is organized into three broad categories: Data products, Analysis series, and Geography.

The Data products category presents the Aboriginal peoples data for a wide range of standard geographic areas.

Data are available through the Aboriginal peoples highlight tables, the Topic-based tabulations, the Profile release components, the 2006 Community Profiles, and the Census tract profiles.

As well, the Aboriginal population profile product (phase 1 released today), provides a specific statistical overview based on a number of variables and/or groups of variables for the Aboriginal identity population for various communities in Canada where the Aboriginal identity population is at least 250 persons.

Today's phase 1 release of the 2006 Aboriginal population profile includes data released up to, and including, the Aboriginal release. The final set (phase 2) will follow the last release of Income (2nd quarter 2008). The product, in total, will include about 200 data lines.

The Analysis series category presents the Aboriginal peoples analytical perspective report entitled Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Métis and First Nations , 2006 Census.

The Geography category presents maps containing Aboriginal data for standard geographic areas in Canada.

By using GeoSearch2006, an interactive mapping tool, users can find any area in Canada, as well as a corresponding map of the area with its population count. A large collection of supplementary geography reference material and maps is also available.

The next release of data from the 2006 Census, scheduled for March 4, 2008, will provide information on labour market activities, industry, occupation, education, language of work, place of work and mode of transportation.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3901.

For more information, please contact Media Relations (613-951-4636), Communications and Library Services Division.