Aboriginal population growth outpaces rest of Canada

They’re younger and their numbers are growing rapidly. They also are more likely to live with one parent and in crowded homes needing major…

They’re younger and their numbers are growing rapidly.

They also are more likely to live with one parent and in crowded homes needing major repairs.

Yukon aboriginal people are much younger on average than non-aboriginals, and will comprise an increasingly large chunk of the population in the next decade, according to new Statistics Canada numbers.

Census data shows the Canadian aboriginal population — now more than one million strong — is growing six times faster than non-aboriginals.

In the Yukon, 25 per cent — or 7,580 people — of the population self-identified as North American Indian, Métis or Inuit in 2006.

That’s a 23 per cent increase from a decade ago.

 “It’s a young population,” said Terresa Janz, senior social scientist at Statistics Canada in Ottawa.

“The median age of aboriginal people — the age where half the population is older and half is younger — is 27 compared to 40 for the non-aboriginal population.”

First Nation populations in the North tend to be younger than in the provinces, she added.

Projections made in 2005 estimated 40 per cent of people in their 20s will be aboriginal by 2017.

Aboriginal people are feeling more comfortable in asserting their heritage and identity than in past census years, and fewer reserves are missing from the data, said Statistics Canada.

That’s led to a total of 1,772,790 aboriginal people in Canada — about 3.8 per cent of the country’s population.

In 2001, the census counted 976,306 aboriginal people, up from 799,010 in 1996.

Between 1996 and 2006, the aboriginal population grew 45 per cent compared to an eight per cent growth rate for non-aboriginals.

Aboriginal people are now more likely to declare their heritage for a number of reasons, said Janz.

“Several political and legal milestones have occurred in the past decade,” she said.

“The Métis, for example, have won important court cases that have had an impact on their hunting and fishing rights. And the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People also released a report recognizing their rights.”

First Nation population increased 29 per cent over the same period.

There are 615 First Nations across the country, the majority of which are registered under the Indian Act.

About 6,300 people in the Yukon are First Nations.

Sixty per cent of First Nations lived off-reserve, and 76 per cent of those people lived in urban centres.

First Nation people on settlement land were defined as on-reserve, according to Statistics Canada.

The question of how ‘aboriginal’ is defined and how different communities, including self-governing First Nations, are defined for the next census is an ongoing discussion, said Janz.

Government and aboriginal organizations can use the new data to develop community specific policies, said Janz.

“Once you compare aboriginal and non-aboriginal, you can see the different needs in the communities,” she said.

“The aboriginal youth numbers relative to non-aboriginal we hope identify a need for programming.”

A fast-growing population brings with it a number of socio-economic problems.

The same census data shows First Nations people are five times more likely than non-aboriginals to live in crowded homes.

Fifteen per cent of aboriginal people lived in a crowded situation — defined as more than one person per room — compared to three per cent in the rest of the population.

In 1996, 33 per cent of the on-reserve population lived in a crowded home, but that number has improved slightly in all territories and provinces.

Aboriginal people are also four times more likely to live in a home in need of major repairs — 28 per cent of the population compared to seven per cent for non-aboriginals.

In the Yukon, 22 per cent of First Nations off-reserve lived in a home in need of major repairs, compared to 19 per cent in the Northwest Territories.

The need for major repairs was judged by the respondents, said Statistics Canada.

Nearly one third of all aboriginal children live with one parent, according to the census. Another seven per cent lived with a grandparent or another relative.

Slightly more than one-half of native children live with two parents, compared to 82 per cent of non-aboriginals.

The number of aboriginal seniors doubled between 1996 and 2006, but only represent five per cent of the total population, compared to 13 per cent for non-aboriginals.