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2001 Census Consultation Guide

Aboriginal Peoples

Recent Trends

3.7 % of the total population of Canada reported some Aboriginal origins in the 1991 Census, up from 2.8% in 1986; of these, just over half reported non-Aboriginal origins as well. (1991 Census)

Aboriginal peoples reporting North American Indian origins in the 1991 Census comprise the largest proportion of the Aboriginal population in Canada, followed by Métis, and then Inuit; each of these three broad groups contains a variety of diverse Aboriginal sub-groups with their own distinct characteristics, such as language, cultural practices, heritage, spiritual belief, contemporary concerns, and administration of programs and services. (1991 Census)

In 1996, an estimated 36% of the Registered Indian population were living in non-reserve urban areas and 5% were living in rural non-reserve areas. (Report on Projections of the Population With Aboriginal Identity, Canada, 1991-2016, January 1997)

Persons who identified themselves as Métis account for more than one in five Aboriginal people in Canada. (1991 Aboriginal Peoples Survey)

In 1991, two-thirds (65%) of Métis lived in urban centres, compared with only 48% of North American Indians and 22% of Inuit. (1991 Aboriginal Peoples Survey)

1996 Census of Population Questionnaires

Major Social Policy Issues for the 21st Century

Continued inequity. Aboriginal peoples are among the most disadvantaged groups in Canada. The 1991 Post-censal Aboriginal Peoples Survey indicates that they experience poorer health, lower levels of education, lower average incomes, and higher rates of unemployment, compared with the non-Aboriginal population. High incarceration levels and increasing youth suicide rates indicate the presence of serious social difficulties as well. How Canadian society addresses these inequities and assists in the social and cultural healing processes will be a priority issue for governments.

Large youth population. In 1991, nearly 38% of all Aboriginal people were under age 15 compared with 21% of Canada's total population. It will be a major challenge for young Aboriginal people to obtain the necessary skills to enter the labour market. Equally, ensuring that education, housing and employment are available for this group will be a major requirement over the next 10 years.

Urban residence. The 1991 Census indicated that over 40% of Registered and Treaty Indians were not living on reserves. Maintenance of cultural traditions, building a strong community off-reserve and meeting the social and economic needs of this growing population will be a significant issue for urban Aboriginal communities as well as municipalities and local governments.

Why This Information Is Collected

The census questions on Aboriginal and First Nation peoples provide information that is used to administer legislation and employment programs under the Indian Act of Canada and the Employment Equity Act.

Cultural survival and continuity. In 1991, about one-third of Aboriginal peoples aged five and over were able to carry on a conversation in an Aboriginal language. Recently, measures to recognize and encourage the use of Aboriginal languages have increased, with these languages being taught in schools and used in computer programs. Aboriginal languages are also recognized as official languages in the Northwest Territories. The continuity and vibrancy of these languages will be an important measure of on-going and long-term cultural survival.

Major Data Users
federal agencies and departments
provincial and territorial governments
first nations
aboriginal associations
business/private sector
social services agencies

Points for Discussion

Aboriginal Peoples Survey. In 1991, an Aboriginal peoples post-censal survey was conducted. This survey collected a wide range of social, economic and cultural information. Budget restrictions prevented the repeat of this survey in the 1996 Census. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended that this survey become a permanent feature of Statistics Canada's census data collection. Should an updated Aboriginal Peoples Survey be repeated in 2001 as a post-censal survey? Should a sample survey of Aboriginal peoples be conducted more frequently than once every 10 years?

Meeting the data needs of self-government. As Aboriginal peoples increasingly take over administering programs and services formerly delivered by non-Aboriginal government, there will be a need for more statistics on which to base planning decisions. Do the census and post-censal surveys meet the data needs of self-government? Are there gaps in the information currently provided for Aboriginal peoples?

Census counts for Aboriginal peoples. In 1996, four questions were aimed at identifying Aboriginal peoples: ethnic origin; Aboriginal identity, Band/First Nation and registration under the Indian Act of Canada. Is the census asking the most appropriate questions? Are suitable and culturally appropriate terms used? Should a question identifying the Aboriginal population be asked of all persons instead of including such a question only on the long form, which is answered by one in five households?

Improving the image of the census. Various First Nations communities have at times been unwilling to participate in the census. Such collection difficulties have led to gaps and weaknesses in the census data information base, yet the need for good statistical information seems to be a sufficient reason to encourage the participation of all Aboriginal peoples in the census. What measures could Statistics Canada take to facilitate and improve the participation of Aboriginal communities in the census? What would be needed to encourage the direct involvement of Aboriginals in the census process?

Nunavut, Métis settlements, and Aboriginal communities located in the Mid-North. The 1996 Census information will be available for the jurisdiction of Nunavut, and steps have been taken to ensure that Métis settlements and Mid-North, non-reserve locations can be identified on the census database. For 2001, what measures should be taken to improve the identification of geographic areas relevant to Aboriginal communities?

Comparison of the Census and Alternative Sources of Data

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Date Modified: 2001-04-17 Important Notices