This report examines the demographic and socio-economic characteristics
of the Aboriginal population residing in selected CMAs
over the 1981 to 2001 period. These are CMAs
where at least 7,000 Aboriginal people resided in 2001 or where the Aboriginal
population accounted for at least 5% of the total CMA
selected for the study include: Montréal, Ottawa–Hull (now
known as Ottawa–Gatineau), Toronto, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg,
Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Aboriginal people living in metropolitan areas are, overall, doing better
in 2001 than they were in 1981. Some of that improvement may have come
from those people in CMAs
who have changed their reporting from non-Aboriginal to Aboriginal identity
on their census forms over time. Nevertheless, huge challenges still face
urban Aboriginal peoples, especially those in western CMAs
and large gaps with their non-Aboriginal counterparts remain.
A broad holistic framework has been employed to guide the analysis. This
framework has been called the “Community Well-being Circle”
and is grounded in four major pillars: acquiring knowledge (or sometimes
referred to as “life long learning”); decent standard of living;
living long and healthy lives; and building better communities. This report
examines the demographic dynamics and composition of the Aboriginal population,
and then focuses on the first two pillars of the well-being circle.
This report is the eighth in a series that develops statistical measures
that shed light upon issues of importance for Canada’s largest cities.
These reports are intended to present facts which can then be available
for use by city planners and aid in policy assessments of what works to
create a healthy city. Interested readers are encouraged to look to the
remainder of the series on trends and conditions in CMAs
for detailed reports on Low income; Health; Immigration; Culture; Housing;
Labour Markets, business activity, and mobility; and Work and commuting.
- The Aboriginal population in these cities has grown dramatically over
the 20-year period. While a portion of that growth has been due to natural
increase (the difference between births and deaths) and to net migration,
other more recent contributors to that growth have been non-demographic
factors. These non-demographic factors include changes in the net undercoverage
of the population by the census over time and the more important factor
of “ethnic mobility”. The latter refers to people changing
how they report themselves on the census form, namely changing from
reporting a non-Aboriginal identity in one census to an Aboriginal identity
in another census. This phenomenon is not unique to Canada and has been
observed in the American, Australian, and New Zealand censuses among
their indigenous populations.
- The Aboriginal population in the selected CMAs
more than doubled in 20 years and in some cities quadrupled, such as
- It is a very young population, although urban Aboriginal birth rates
appear to be dropping. The largest age cohorts are in the 5-9 and 10-14
age groups as of 2001, indicating that these large age groups will be
entering young adulthood over the next 10 to 15 years. As they do, they
should be acquiring higher levels of schooling and entering into the
labour force in order to successfully compete in a diverse metropolitan
economy. At the same time, they will also be forming families and entering
the housing market.
- In the Prairie CMAs,
the Aboriginal populations were approaching 1 in 10 of the cities’
overall populations by 2001.
- While the extent of Aboriginal net migration to or from CMAs
represents a relatively minor contribution to overall Aboriginal population
growth in these CMAs,
another aspect of migration is the size of the in-flow compared to the
size of the out-flow. This has become known as the “churn effect”.
In the western CMAs
nearly one in five Aboriginal people either moved into or moved out
of those cities between 1996 and 2001.
- Among those who have moved into selected CMAs,
the Aboriginal Peoples Survey of 2001 found that 40% said they did so
for family-related reasons. Only Toronto and Calgary Aboriginal migrants
reported as high a percentage for work-related reasons.
- Mobility within the CMA
is also an important factor. From Thunder Bay through to Edmonton, at
least one in five Aboriginal people changed residences within their
own CMA in the year
prior to the 2001 Census, with Regina and Saskatoon showing the highest
percentages (nearly 40%) changing their residences within their respective
cities. Such mobility may impact service delivery agencies, school enrolments
and student progress in schools, as well as the housing situation of
- Although, the age structure of the Aboriginal population in these
CMAs is young,
as a result of increasing life expectancy and a declining birth rate,
the Aboriginal population is aging. While the share of Aboriginal seniors
is small, it has increased significantly over the 1981 to 2001 period,
and will likely continue to increase. Consequently, more Aboriginal-specific
programming for the older population may well be required in the coming
- The shares of Aboriginal youth acquiring higher levels of schooling
in the selected CMAs
have increased over the 20-year period.
- School attendance among Aboriginal youth in the 15-24 year age group
has increased substantially since 1981 and Aboriginal young adults aged
25-34 years, have seen their shares with post-secondary completions
- Increase in post-secondary completions has been much more dramatic
for Aboriginal females than for Aboriginal males, but both shares have
gone up in almost all CMAs
in the study. The exceptions were Aboriginal males in Regina and Edmonton.
- In 2001, Aboriginal young adults, living in many of the selected CMAs,
who completed their university degrees, had employment rates on par
with their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Regina and Saskatoon appear
to be the exceptions. At most other levels of schooling, employment
rates of Aboriginal young adults lag their non-Aboriginal counterparts
in most CMAs from
Sudbury westward, with the exception of Calgary.
Decent standard of living
- Overall employment rates have improved for Aboriginal people in most
CMAs, except Regina
in the primary labour force age group 25-54. However, the gap in employment
rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people did not change very
much over the 20-year period, with the exceptions of Winnipeg, Edmonton
and Sudbury, which saw the gaps close by 7 to 10 percentage points.
- Dependence on government transfer payments also decreased substantially
in all CMAs over
the 1980 to 2000 period.
- The percentage of the Aboriginal population earning $20,000 or more
declined over the 20 years, the corresponding share among non-Aboriginals
- The gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal median income from
employment sources closed in most CMAs
over the 20 year period. While there was a 281% growth in those Aboriginal
employment income earners making $40,000 or more, there was even larger
growth among those employed and earning less than $15,000.
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