News / Winnipeg

Census data shows Canadian Indigenous population young and rapidly growing

Winnipeg has the largest Métis population in Canada, and the second highest Aboriginal population in a census metropolitan area at 12.2 per cent.

A young demonstrator champions diversity at a march outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

in Winnipeg. New census data signals strong growth in the Indigenous population, partly due to birth rates and longevity, and partly self-reporting. File / Metro Order this photo

A young demonstrator champions diversity at a march outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Canada’s rapidly growing Indigenous population—reflected in a fresh batch of census data—could be a catalyst for change, a Winnipeg activist says.

From 2006 to 2016, Canada’s Indigenous population grew 42.5 per cent—more than four times the growth rate of the non-Indigenous population over the same time-frame, Statistics Canada data said Wednesday. The population is significantly younger than the non-Indigenous population, with proportionally more youth and fewer seniors.

Winnipeg has the largest Métis population in Canada, and the second highest Aboriginal population in a census metropolitan area at 12.2 per cent.

“Having a young population means we can capitalize on the many benefits that come from youth,” said the founder of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, Michael Redhead Champagne. It means more Indigenous people in politics, media and as educators, he said.

Two main factors have contributed to the growing Indigenous population, Statistics Canada said.

The first is natural growth—increased life expectancy and relatively high fertility rates. The second is a shift in self-reported identification.

“Put simply, more people are newly identifying as Aboriginal on the census—a continuation of a trend over time,” Statistics Canada said.

In the past decade, there’s been an increase in awareness of Indigenous culture, said Champagne.

“I think it’s become a lot safer in 2017 to say, ‘I am Indigenous,’ than ever before in Canadian history.”

He hopes this census data will signal to government leaders and policy makers that listening to youth is more important now than ever, especially as more young Indigenous people are able to vote.

“If we look at the number of kids in care, the amount of kids in care being Indigenous, it also paints a picture of the challenges that young Indigenous people need to face,” he said.

Provincial data shows that over the past decade there’s been an 85 per cent increase in the number of children in care, adding up to 11,000 kids—90 per cent of which are Indigenous.

Another challenge identified in the census data is that one in five Indigenous people lived in a house that required major repairs, compared to six per cent of the population at large.

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