Aboriginal population soaring, getting younger: survey
Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013 9:20AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 8, 2013 7:22PM EDT
Canada’s Aboriginal population is soaring, having grown 20 per cent between 2006 and 2011, and is also much younger than the country’s non-Aboriginal population, according to new data released Wednesday.
The Aboriginal population increased by 232,385 people, according to the National Household Survey, a voluntary questionnaire that replaced the mandatory Long-Form Census.
Meanwhile, Canada’s non-Aboriginal population grew by 5.2 per cent.
According to the NHS, more than 1.4 million people identified as Aboriginal in 2011, about 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population. In the 2006 Census, Aboriginals accounted for 3.8 per cent of the overall population.
Paul Maxim, an expert in Aboriginal demographics at Western University in London, Ont., said two factors are responsible for the rise.
“The first element is, of course, the fact that birth rates in the Aboriginal population are somewhat higher than the rest of the Canadian population,” Maxim told CTV News Channel. “That doesn’t account for the substantial increase, however. The big increase is due to what we call definitional things. People are basically identifying more and more as Aboriginal.”
Maxim said that in particular, it is “people of mixed heritage who are increasingly self-identifying” as Aboriginal.
According to the NHS, First Nations populations grew by 22 per cent, the Metis population grew by 16.3 per cent and the Inuit population grew by 18.1 per cent.
The largest number of Aboriginal people live in Ontario, while they make up the largest share of the population in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
While a baby boom is not entirely responsible for the growing Aboriginal population, it is much younger than the non-Aboriginal population.
According to the survey, children aged 14 and under made up 28 per cent of the total Aboriginal population. In contrast, children aged 14 and under make up 16.5 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population.
The report, issued by Statistics Canada, noted that in addition to higher fertility rates, the figures are also due in part to shorter life expectancy among the Aboriginal population.
Unlike their non-Aboriginal counterparts, Aboriginal children are more likely to live in a single-parent household or be in foster care.
The NHS data reveal that nearly one-half of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under live in a two-parent home, compared to three-quarters of non-Aboriginal children. About 34 per cent of Aboriginal children live in a single-parent home, compared to just over 17 per cent of non-Aboriginal children.
Of children aged 14 and under in foster care, nearly half, 48.1 per cent, were Aboriginal.
Despite a growing population, only 17 per cent of Aboriginals said they could speak an Aboriginal language, down from 21 per cent in the 2006 census.
Maxim said those figures are similar to those in immigrant populations, where subsequent generations commonly lose their parents’ and grandparents’ mother tongue.
“When you look at immigrants to Canada, the second generation immigrants, less than half tend to speak their parents’ language,” Maxim said. “And when you get into third generation it often goes down to 10 to 15 per cent.”
Maxim noted that the challenge facing Aboriginal groups when it comes to language is that smaller communities tend to have just a few members who can speak the language, whereas language tends to thrive in larger Aboriginal groups.