Canada's Indigenous population rises 40 percent in a decade

Indigenous population grows four times faster than general population and is expected to surpass 2.5 million by 2036

Canada’s Indigenous population has grown by more than 40 percent in the last decade, according to government data released on Wednesday, making them the country’s fastest growing demographic.

In 2016, there were 1,673,785 Indigenous people in Canada, accounting for 4.9 percent of the total population, up from 3.8 percent in 2006 and 2.8 percent in 1996, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.

First Nations, Metis and Inuit people — which Stats Can refers to as Aboriginal people — has grown by 42.5 percent since 2006, the agency reported.

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The data underlines the importance of settling land claims, improving education and work opportunities for Aboriginals and building more housing for a growing demographic that is making up an increasingly large share of Canada’s population.

Median personal income for Indigenous people is $25,526, compared with $34,604 for the rest of the country, while nearly one-quarter of Indigenous people in Canada live below Statistics Canada’s poverty threshold.

The population is expected to surpass 2.5 million by 2036, StatsCan predicts, citing two main factors: natural growth from increased life expectancy and high fertility rates, and more people newly identifying as Indigenous.

The growth is causing strains in many remote reserves, as the population grows faster than the housing stock, meaning several families are often forced to share a single home.

The on-reserve population has grown by 12.8 percent while the off-reserve population increased by more than 49 percent.

The data also suggests Indigenous people are connecting more with their culture today than they did 10 years ago.

The number of people speaking an Indigenous language rose by 3.1 percent between 2006 and 2016. The data suggests people are learning an Aboriginal language as a second language.

The newly released data also show that Canada is becoming more ethnically and culturally diverse. Census figures show more than 21 percent of Canadians report being or having been an immigrant or permanent resident, the highest level of immigration since 1921.