The number of people who identify as Indigenous in Canada has grown almost twice as fast as the non-Indigenous population and now stands at 1.8 million – five per cent of the population – according to the newly released census.
From 2016 to 2021, the number of people identifying as Indigenous in Canada increased by 9.4 percent. During the same period, the non-native population grew by only 5.3 percent.
While that growth rate is high, it’s about half the growth rate of the locally identified population between 2011 and 2016, which was 18.9 percent.
According to the 2021 census, rapid growth rates are high birth rates and changes over time in answering census questions.
“In general, respondents identify as indigenous over time,” the census said.
“The reasons why people identify as Indigenous can be related to social factors and external factors such as changes in laws or court rulings.”
Statistics Canada notes that because of the difficulties in collecting census data on First Nations and other indigenous communities, some caution should be exercised in comparing census years.
The census also found that the indigenous population is smaller than the non-indigenous population.
One in six Indigenous people aged 15 to 64 – or 17.2 per cent of working-age Indigenous people – are aged 55 to 64, compared to 22 per cent of the non-Indigenous population in the same group.
“In 2021 the median age of Indigenous people is 33.6 years, while the non-Indigenous population is 41.8 years,” the census said.
Inuit are the youngest of the three indigenous population groups, with an average age of 28.9 years. First Nations people reported an average age of 32.5 years, while Métis people reported an average age of 35.9.
The local population also has an above average percentage of children. Children aged 14 and under make up 25.4 percent of the indigenous population, while children make up only 16 percent of the non-indigenous population.
Children in foster care
According to the 2021 census, 3.2 per cent of Indigenous children in Canada are in foster care, compared to just 0.2 per cent of non-Indigenous children in Canada.
Indigenous children make up more than half of all children in foster care, at 53.8 per cent, although they represent just 7.7 per cent of children aged 14 and under in Canada.
Despite efforts by the federal government to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in foster care, the number of Indigenous children in foster care has remained nearly unchanged since 2016.
Of the 459,210 Indigenous children aged 14 and under, 14.2 per cent lived with at least one grandparent, compared to just 8.9 per cent of non-Indigenous children. More than a third, or 35.8 percent of Indigenous children live in a single-parent household, compared to 56 percent who live in a two-parent household.
Although down slightly from the 2016 census, the number of Indigenous people living in homes in need of major repairs was almost three times higher than non-Indigenous Canadians in 2021.
Nearly one in six Indigenous people, or 16.4 percent, lived in an area in need of major repairs, a 2.7 percent decline from 2016. The number of non-native Canadians living in households requiring major work stands at 5.7. percent.
The number of indigenous people living in slums has not decreased in all indigenous groups over the past five years.
The number of First Nations living in housing in need of major repairs declined by almost four per cent, while the number of Métis living in housing in repair declined by only 1.2 per cent and the number of Inuit living in deficient housing was unchanged.
The census found that 17.1 per cent of Indigenous people live in overcrowded housing, compared to just 9.4 per cent of non-Indigenous Canadians. More than 40 per cent of Inuit live in overcrowded housing, compared with 21.4 per cent of First Nations and 7.9 per cent of Métis.
Although Indigenous people are more likely to live in overcrowded housing compared to the non-Indigenous population, the gap between the two groups has narrowed from 9.5 per cent in 2016 to 7.8 per cent in 2021.
Low income households
For the first time, low-income data was collected for all geographic regions of the country, including northern regions and reserves, revealing that 18.8 percent of Indigenous people live in a low-income household, compared to just 10.7 percent of non-Indigenous Canadians.
Although still high, the number of Indigenous people living in a low-income household has fallen dramatically since the last census, from 28.1 percent to 18.8 percent, a rate of decline largely influenced by actions by the federal government.
“The downward trend in lower incomes was observed across Canada and was largely driven by government transfers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the census said.
Although their numbers are declining overall, 24.6 percent of Indigenous children age 14 and under will live in a low-income household in 2021. The comparable rate for non-Indigenous children was 11.1 per cent.
The census recorded more than 600 First Nations, 50 Inuit communities and more than 70 indigenous languages among “several groups that represent Métis nationality”.
According to the census, from 2016 to 2021, the number of natives who could hold a conversation in the indigenous language decreased by 4.3 percent.
This decline is attributed to an 8.1 percent drop in the number of Indigenous people learning a first language in childhood.
The census found that while the number of native speakers of indigenous languages declined, the number of indigenous people who learned to speak the indigenous language increased by 7 percent during the same period.
2021 Census Highlights on Indigenous Populations in Canada:
There are 624,220 Métis living in Canada, an increase of 6.3 percent since 2016.
There are 70,545 Inuit living in Canada.
There are 1,048,405 First Nations living in Canada.
There will be 801,045 indigenous people living in large urban centers, a 12.5 percent increase from 2016 to 2021.
The total native population is 8.2 years younger than the non-native population.
Natives were more likely than non-Natives to live in a dwelling that required major repairs (16.4 percent compared to 5.7 percent) or lived in overcrowded homes (17.1 percent compared to 9.4 percent).
Nearly one in five Indigenous people in Canada (18.8 percent) live in a low-income household. That’s down about 10 percentage points from 2016, but the decline is driven by government transfers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Statistics Canada.