Population projections by Aboriginal identity in Canada

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2006 to 2031

All growth scenarios considered, the Aboriginal identity population in Canada could be between 1.7 million and 2.2 million by 2031, representing between 4.0% and 5.3% of the total population.

The average annual growth rate of the Aboriginal identity population as a whole during this period would be between 1.1% and 2.2%, compared with 1.0% for the non-Aboriginal population.

In 2006, an estimated 1.3 million people reported an Aboriginal identity. These populations accounted for 3.9% of the Canadian population.

Among them, 785,000 were North American Indians, 404,000 were Métis and 53,000 were Inuit.

All scenarios also show that the population of the three Aboriginal identity groups (First Nations / North American Indians, Métis and Inuit) would remain younger than the non-Aboriginal population by 2031.

The median age of Aboriginal people would rise from 27 years in 2006 to between 35 and 37 in 2031. The youngest Aboriginal population group would still be the Inuit and the oldest would still be the Métis. In comparison, the median age of the non-Aboriginal population in 2031 would be around 43 years.

North American Indians

By 2031, North American Indians would continue to have the largest population among the Aboriginal identity population. Their numbers would range between 1.1 million and 1.2 million. Between 2006 and 2031, the average annual growth rate of the North American Indian population would be between 1.2% and 1.9%.

Despite the aging of the population, the North American Indian population in 2031 would continue to be younger than the Métis population and the non-Aboriginal population. It would, however, be older than the Inuit population.

The median age of North American Indians was 25 in 2006. By 2031, it would be between 33 and 35.

Métis

In 2006, the estimated number of Métis was 404,000. This population almost doubled between 1996 and 2006. A large part of this growth was because many people changed the way they reported their Aboriginal identity in Canadian censuses during that period.

Note to readers

This release presents new population projections by age, sex and region for Aboriginal identity populations up to 2031. "Aboriginal identity" refers to self-reported Aboriginal groups (First Nations / North American Indians, Métis and Inuit) in Canadian censuses.

The projections were prepared by Statistics Canada using the Demosim model, with the support of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada in a research and development context, as well as Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Canadian Heritage and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

This report presents the main results of five projection scenarios, all based on 2006 Census data adjusted for net undercoverage. These projections represent an attempt to establish plausible long-term scenarios based on assumptions of fertility, life expectancy, migration, and change of self-reported Aboriginal identity through an individual's lifetime.

Change in self-reported Aboriginal identity through an individual's lifetime is a phenomenon that has contributed to the growth of the Aboriginal identity population, especially the Métis.

In the coming years, the Métis population would continue to grow, but there is uncertainty about how fast this growth might occur. The growth rate of the Métis population will depend to a large extent on whether this population continues to experience net gains related to the phenomenon of changes in self-reported Aboriginal identity through an individual's lifetime.

Under scenarios where the Métis population continues to benefit from net gains resulting from changes in self-identification as observed between 1996 and 2006, it would increase to more than 850,000 people in 2031. The Métis population would be the fastest growing of the Aboriginal populations, with an average annual growth rate of about 3.1%.

However, under scenarios where the Métis population stops benefiting from net gains resulting from changes in self-identification, it would reach about 500,000 people by 2031. The Métis population would grow at the slowest pace of the three Aboriginal groups, with an average increase of 0.9% per year.

According to all the projection scenarios, the Métis population would age in the coming years. Its median age, which was 29 years in 2006, could reach about 39 by 2031. The vast majority of Métis would still live in the Western provinces and Ontario.

Inuit

In 2006, about 53,000 people identified themselves as Inuit. By 2031, this population could be between 73,000 and 77,000. The Inuit population would grow at an average annual rate of between 1.3% and 1.5% from 2006 to 2031 solely by natural increase, which is births minus deaths.

Throughout this period, the natural increase of the Inuit population would be the highest of all Aboriginal identity groups, regardless of the projection scenario.

In 2006, the Inuit were the youngest Aboriginal identity group, with a median age of 22 years. By 2031, the Inuit population would have aged, but it would still be the youngest Aboriginal identity group. The median age of the Inuit population would be between 31 and 32.

By 2031, the vast majority of the Inuit population would still live on the Inuit homelands, also called Inuit Nunangat, which include the Inuvialuit region of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunatsiavut (Labrador) and Nunavik (northern Quebec).

Provincial, territorial and metropolitan area projections

Provincially, Saskatchewan and Manitoba would have the largest proportions of Aboriginal people by 2031.

Between 21% and 24% of the population of Saskatchewan and between 18% and 21% of the population of Manitoba would have an Aboriginal identity in 2031. The proportion was close to 16% in each of these provinces in 2006.

Aboriginal people would continue to make up a large proportion of the population of the territories in 2031: about 22% in Yukon, 52% in the Northwest Territories and 86% in Nunavut, compared with 26%, 52% and 85% respectively, in 2006.

Between 36% and 40% of Aboriginal people would live in a census metropolitan area in 2031, compared with nearly three-quarters of non-Aboriginal people. About 34% of Aboriginal people were living in a census metropolitan area in 2006.

Among census metropolitan areas, the proportion of Aboriginal people could vary between less than 1% and 15%. In 2031, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Greater Sudbury, Saskatoon and Regina would have the largest proportions while Toronto would have the smallest proportion.

The publication Population Projections by Aboriginal Identity in Canada,  2006 to 2031 (91-552-X, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116; infostats@statcan.gc.ca), Communications Division.

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (613-951-2320), Demography Division.