News / Ottawa

Canada's Indigenous population growing but in need of better housing

Canada's Indigenous population has grown 42 per cent in last decade

Indigenous children play in the water filled ditches in the northern Ontario First Nations reserve in Attawapiskat, Ont., on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Indigenous children play in the water filled ditches in the northern Ontario First Nations reserve in Attawapiskat, Ont., on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canada’s Indigenous population is growing, younger than the rest of the country and more likely to live in substandard housing.

There are nearly 1.7 million people in Canada who identified as Indigenous with 977.000 First Nations people, 587,000 Metis and 65,000 Inuit. They represent 4.9 per cent of the Canadian population, nearly double where it was two decades ago.

Statistics Canada released the new numbers as part of census Wednesday morning, showing the Indigenous population grew 42 per cent in the last decade.

Sadly many Indigenous Canadians are living in substandard or crowded housing.  

“One in five of Aboriginal people lived in a house that required major repairs compared to six per cent of the population at large,” said Statistics Canada analyst Thomas Anderson.

That number is highest among the Inuit and lowest among the Metis. Indigenous people are also more likely to live in housing in need of major repair if they’re living on reserve.

Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott said she’s pleased to see Indigenous communities are growing, but acknowledged the problem.  

"It accentuates that we urgently have to address the very real socioeconomic gaps that exist, including the huge gap in access to decent housing."

She said the government is working hard on the issue.

“We've made great progress so far. At latest count, there's something like 8,800 homes that have now been built or are in the process of restoration and renovation."

Longer life expectancy, higher birth rates and more people identifying with their Indigenous heritage are all part of the population surge, but the agency isn’t clear which factor is the main driver.

“It’s hard to disentangle it. There is both these natural causes, higher rates of fertility, and changes in self reported identification,” said Anderson.

He said the population growth is happening in every part of the country and among all Indigenous people.

“There is growth within the Aboriginal population sort of everywhere. There is growth in the north, in the south. There is growth on reserve and off reserve, there is growth in cities and in rural areas.”

The average age of Indigenous people is 32.1 years old, which is almost a decade younger than the non-Indigenous population. If current trends continue it’s estimated there could be as many as 2.5 million Indigenous Canadians by 2036.

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