Edmonton-area Indigenous population continues to grow, Statistics Canada says

The Edmonton-area Aboriginal population continues to grow at one of the highest rates in Canada, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

Recently released figures also show that Indigenous people living in Alberta earn less on average than non-Indigenous people and that Indigenous people are more likely than non-Indigenous people to live in inadequate housing.

“Our band members are band members wherever they reside,” said George Arcand Jr., Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. Edmonton is in Treaty 6 territory.

“If I have members who live in Edmonton, we have a responsibility to try to make sure their way of life is maintained and that we can speak on their behalf as well.”

Statistics Canada recently released more data from the 2021 Census of Population which, in part, focused on Indigenous Peoples – people who identify as First Nations, Métis and/or Inuk, Status or Treaty Indians, and /or those who are members of a First Nation or Indian band.

In 2021, about 87,600 Indigenous people lived in the Edmonton census metropolitan area, an increase of about 11,400 – or 15% – from 2016.

Aboriginal people now make up about 6.2% of the approximately 1.42 million people living in the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area, which is made up of 34 communities including Edmonton, Strathcona County, St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Parkland County, Fort Saskatchewan, Beaumont and Sturgeon County.

In 2016, Indigenous people made up approximately 5.8% of the region’s population.

A growing number of Indigenous people moving to Edmonton may be due, at least in part, to economic opportunity, said Arcand Jr., who is also chief of the Alexander First Nation, about 45 kilometers northwest of the city. .

Some people, however, could be closer to better services for things like mental health, he added.

The City of Edmonton expects the Indigenous population to continue to grow as more people move to urban centers to pursue education, employment and access various services and amenities, a doorman said. city ​​spokesperson to CBC News.

The city is focused on strengthening its relationship with Indigenous peoples, the spokesperson added.

Only Winnipeg has a higher urban Aboriginal population than Edmonton. In 2021, approximately 102,000 Indigenous people lived in Manitoba’s Capital Metropolitan Area, up more than 9,200 from 2016. The total population of the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area is approximately 835,000.

The second fastest growing urban Indigenous population in Canada between 2016 and 2021 was Montreal. Nearly 46,100 Indigenous people lived in the Montreal area in 2021, an increase of about 11,300—about 30%—from 2016. Nearly 4.3 million people live in the Montreal metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, about 7,000 more Indigenous people lived in the Calgary area last year compared to 2016. The Calgary metropolitan area, which is made up of nine communities and has a population of about 1.48 million inhabitants, had the fourth highest Indigenous population in the country in 2021, at 48,600.

Aboriginal population growth in Alberta

Alberta’s Aboriginal population has grown twice as fast as the province’s total population over the past five years.

Alberta’s population has grown by 5% in five years, from about 3.98 million people living in private households in 2016 to about 4.18 million people in 2021.

The number of Aboriginal people in the province increased by 10% over the same period, from 258,600 to 284,500.

Aboriginal people make up nearly seven percent of Alberta’s total population.

Most Aboriginal people in Alberta, which has the third largest Aboriginal population in Canada, identify as First Nations or Métis. About one percent – about 2,950 people – identify as Inuk, the data shows.

Alberta’s total population and the Indigenous population each grew more slowly from 2016 to 2021 than in previous census periods. But the latest figures show the continuation of a trend that has been going on for years.

Cora Voyageur, a sociology professor at the University of Calgary, listed several reasons why the number of Aboriginal people has grown at a faster rate than the total population, such as higher birth rates and people living longer.

But Voyageur, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in northeastern Alberta, said part of the increase may be due to more people finding out they are Métis or opening up about their identity.

“For a very long time, and even now to some extent…life can be more difficult if you’re an Indigenous person in Canada, because of racism,” she said.

About one in five Métis in Canada lives in Alberta. The number of Métis in Alberta has nearly doubled since 2001, the data shows.

Income, housing gaps

The average Indigenous person living in Alberta brings home thousands of dollars more than in 2016, but they still earn significantly less than the average non-Indigenous Albertan.

The median after-tax income of non-Indigenous Albertans was about $40,800 after tax in 2021, up about $2,200 from 2016.

For all Indigenous people in Alberta, the median after-tax income in 2021 was $34,400, up about $6,500 from 2016.

The disparity is even greater for Indigenous people living on-reserve in Alberta, whose median after-tax income in 2021 was $26,400, an increase of about $9,350 from five years ago.

In addition, the proportion of Aboriginal people in Alberta who are considered low income is double that of non-Aboriginal people.

Families and individuals meet Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoffs if they spend at least 20 percentage points or more of their after-tax income than average on food, shelter and clothing. The thresholds vary depending on family size and the size of the community in which they live.

The data shows that 17.1% of Indigenous people in the province have low after-tax income, compared to 8.6% of non-Indigenous Albertans.

(Radio Canada)

It’s a similar story when it comes to housing.

The federal government national occupation standard sets out the criteria that determine whether a household is considered suitable accommodation, such as a maximum of two people per room. The standard, along with other parameters, is used to help determine if a household is in core housing need.

In 2021, nearly 16% of Indigenous people in Alberta lived in housing deemed unsuitable — overcrowded — compared to about 8% of non-Indigenous people, according to Statistics Canada.

Nearly one in three Aboriginal people in Alberta live in homes that need minor repairs, such as missing or loose floor tiles, bricks or shingles, or faulty steps or siding.

About 15% of Indigenous people in the province live in a home that needs major repairs, such as faulty plumbing or electrical wiring and structural repairs to walls, floors or ceilings.

By comparison, about one in four non-Aboriginal Albertans live in a home in need of minor repairs and nearly 5% live in a home in need of major repairs.

Some of the overcrowded housing could be due to family structure, Voyageur said, as it’s not uncommon for multiple generations to live under one roof.

“You’re less likely to have a nuclear family in the Indigenous community than in mainstream society,” she said.

Multigenerational households could also be linked to the cost of living, she added. Grandparents, for example, could take care of the children while the parents are at work.

But the lack of on-reserve housing could also play a role, Voyageur said.

“There are very long waiting lists for homes on the reservation,” she said, adding that there were few, if any, apartment complexes on many reservations – although others are under construction.

Arcand Jr. said Alexander First Nation is currently about 300 to 350 homes short.

“Our ability to provide adequate housing for all of our residents is always a challenge – and we will continue to face it over time,” he said.

As the First Nation gets more resources and business opportunities, it will build more infrastructure, he said.

In the meantime, however, as more people leave First Nations to settle in municipalities like Edmonton, Arcand Jr. says it’s crucial that Indigenous people be involved in finding solutions to problems such as as poverty and housing.

Including Indigenous leaders and communities could encourage a different way of doing things, he said.

He added that the Government of Alberta and the City of Edmonton seem open to such conversations.

The City of Edmonton is committed to addressing housing need and homelessness issues faced by Indigenous people in the city, a spokesperson said.

There has been collaboration with Indigenous peoples and organizations on multiple projects and initiatives, such as the creation of an Indigenous Affordable Housing Strategy, the spokesperson said.

The city has also identified “significant funding opportunities” for Indigenous affordable housing projects at the federal and provincial levels, the spokesperson said.