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Report looks at urban Native population in Canada

The number of Natives living in urban areas more than doubled -- and in some cases tripled -- over the past twenty years, according to a report from Statistics Canada released on Thursday.

Based the 2001 Census, the last one conducted in the country, more and more Natives are moving off reserves. Nearly 3 out of every 10, or 28 percent, lived in an urban area, defined as a city with a population of more than 100,000.

Focusing on 11 urban areas where the Native population was at least 7,000 or where Natives made up at least five percent of the total population, Statistics Canada sought to draw a picture of the social and economic status of First Nations people. The data showed that while several gains were made, some disparities remain.

"Aboriginal people living in the nation's largest metropolitan centres were faring better overall in 2001 than they were two decades earlier," the report stated. "Nevertheless, these Aboriginal urban dwellers still faced many challenges, especially those living in urban centres in the western provinces, where large gaps remained with their non-Aboriginal counterparts."

The 11 areas examined were spread across the country. They were: Montral, Ottawa, Toronto, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

According to Statistics Canada, these cities experienced a surge in the number of Natives. "Between 1981 and 2001, the Aboriginal population more than doubled in most centres, and in many cases more than tripled. This large population growth can be attributed to demographic factors such as fertility, mortality and migration," the report stated. "Another major factor has been the increased tendency for people to identify themselves as Aboriginal."

The most dramatic increase occurred in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The Native population increased there almost five-fold from about4,200頠to more than�20,000, the report said.

Among Native adults in these 11 areas, employment also increased, according to the data. Winnipeg, Manitoba, saw the biggest increase -- from 53 percent employment in 1981 to 65 percent employment in 2001. In Edmonton, Alberta, the rate rose from 60 percent to 68 percent, while in Sudbury, Ontario the rate rose from 56 percent to 63 percent.

Every other urban saw gains, the report stated, except for Regina, Saskatchewan. Native employment there fell from 59 percent to 55 percent.

Educational levels among urban Natives improved, according to the data. Between one-half and two-thirds of Native youth attended school in 2001, up from only one-third to one-half in 1981, the report stated. Post-secondary education levels also rose slightly.

Despite the gains, income among urban Natives continued to trail their counterparts. Natives in five of the 11 areas had median incomes between $16,000 and $19,000, below the national average of about $23,000. Natives in the six other cities did break the $20,000 level.

Native children were also more likely to live single-parent homes, Statistics Canada reported. The rate ranged from between 14 percent and 32 percent across the 11 areas.

"However, in the western centres alone, the proportion of all Aboriginal households that were headed by a lone-parent was at least double that of their non-Aboriginal counterparts," the report stated.

In the western cities of Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon, over one-half of Native children lived in single-parent homes. This was more than twice the rate among non-Native children in these three areas.

Urban Natives are also more likely to be poor and live in low-income parts of cities, according to the data. "Their low-income rate was 42 percent compared with about 17 percent among other Canadians," the report said.

Overall, the Native population on and off reserves has increased dramatically. From 1996 to 2001, the Native population grew by 22 percent, outpacing the rest of the nation seven-fold.

Since 1901, the Native population has increased ten times, compared to a six-fold increase for the total population.

Get the Report:
Study: Aboriginal people living in metropolitan areas (Statistics Canada June 2005)

Relevant Links:
Statistics Canada -