Indigenous population growing rapidly

The Indigenous population in Canada continues to rapidly outpace the growth of the rest of the country while Indigenous languages are showing a strong resurgence, according to census data released by Statistics Canada.

The data paints a picture of a young and growing Indigenous population — First Nation, Inuit and Métis — which is increasingly learning Indigenous languages and is reshaping the face of Western Canada.

Between 2006 and 2016, the self-identified Indigenous population grew by 42.5 per cent — from 1,172,790 to 1,673, 785. This represented a growth rate four times the rest of the population, according to Stats Can. The agency is projecting the Indigenous population to hit 2.5 million within the next two decades.

While a longer life expectancy and high fertility rates played factors, an increase of people self-identifying as Indigenous— particularly as Métis and non-status First Nation — propelled the continued growth rate in the population, said Johanne Denis, director general of Stats Can’s social and demographic statistics.

At 587,545, the Métis population is the fasting-growing sub-segment of the Indigenous population, rising to 51 per cent of the total over the last 10 years. The status and non-status First Nation population grew to 977,230, increasing by 39 per cent between 2006 and 2016, and the Inuit population rose to 65,025, a change of 29.1 per cent over the same time span.

Children under the age of four comprise a larger portion of the Indigenous population than children in the non-Indigenous population. The census data found that Indigenous children under age four accounted for 8.7 per cent of the population while seniors aged 65 and over made up  7.3 per cent, up from 4.8 per cent in 2006. In the non-Indigenous population, seniors  accounted for a higher proportion than children under the age of four at 16.3 per cent to 5.3 per cent in 2016.

The data revealed the Inuit had the youngest population with those 14 years of age and younger making 33 per cent of the total, First Nations came next with 29.2 per cent and Métis at 22.3 per cent.

The rate of growth in the total Indigenous population is projected to substantially alter the make-up of two Western provinces in particular: Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Stats Can projects the Indigenous population will make up between 18.5 per cent and 22.7 per cent of the total population in Saskatchewan and between 17.6 per cent and 21.3 per cent in Manitoba.

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