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2006 Census: Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Métis and First Nations, 2006 Census: Highlights

  • In 2006, the number of people who identified themselves as an Aboriginal person, that is, North American Indian (First Nations people), Métis and Inuit, surpassed the one-million mark, reaching 1,172,790.
  • The past decade has seen a large increase in the Aboriginal population. Between 1996 and 2006, it grew by 45%, nearly six times faster than the 8% rate of increase for the non-Aboriginal population.
  • In 2006, Aboriginal people, First Nations, Métis and Inuit, accounted for almost 4% of the total population of Canada. Internationally, the share of Aboriginal people in Canada's population is second to New Zealand where the Maori accounted for 15% of the population. Indigenous people made up just 2% of the population of Australia and of the United States.
  • Of the three Aboriginal groups in Canada, the Métis experienced the greatest increase in the past decade. Their number grew 91%, reaching 389,785 people in 2006. This was more than three times as fast as the 29% increase in First Nations people, whose number reached 698,025. The Inuit increased 26%, to 50,485.
  • Although eight in 10 Aboriginal people live in Ontario and the western provinces, the fastest increase in the past decade occurred east of Manitoba. The Aboriginal population grew 95% in Nova Scotia, 67% in New Brunswick, 65% in Newfoundland and Labrador, 53% in Quebec and 68% in Ontario. In the western provinces, the fastest growth was observed in Manitoba (36%).
  • Aboriginal people in Canada are increasingly urban. In 2006, 54% lived in urban areas (including large cities or census metropolitan areas and smaller urban centres), up from 50% in 1996. In 2006, Winnipeg was home to the largest urban Aboriginal population (68,380). Edmonton, with 52,100, had the second largest number of Aboriginal people. Vancouver ranked third, with 40,310. Toronto (26,575), Calgary (26,575), Saskatoon (21,535) and Regina (17,105), were also home to relatively large numbers of urban Aboriginal people.
  • The Aboriginal population is younger than the non-Aboriginal population. Almost half (48%) of the Aboriginal population consists of children and youth aged 24 and under, compared with 31% of the non-Aboriginal population.
  • Over the past decade, the share of Aboriginal people living in crowded homes has declined. In 2006, 11% of Aboriginal people lived in homes with more than one person per room, down from 17% in 1996. At the same time, nearly one in four lived in homes requiring major repairs in 2006, unchanged from 1996.
  • Overall, Aboriginal people were almost four times as likely as non-Aboriginal people to live in a crowded dwelling. They were three times as likely to live in a home in need of major repairs.


  • In 2006, there were 50,485 Inuit in Canada. The Inuit population increased much more rapidly (26%) between 1996 and 2006 than the non-Aboriginal population (8%).
  • The Inuit population is much younger that the non-Aboriginal population. The median age for Inuit in 2006 was 22 years, compared with 40 years for non-Aboriginal people. This difference is largely the result of a higher fertility rate for Inuit women.
  • The majority of Inuit (78%) lived in Inuit Nunaat. This is the Inuktitut expression for 'Inuit homeland' consisting of four regions across the Arctic. In 2006, 49% of the total Inuit population in Canada lived in Nunavut, 19% in Nunavik in northern Quebec, 6% in the Inuvialuit region of the Northwest Territories, and 4% in Nunatsiavut in northern Labrador.
  • Nunavik had the fastest growing Inuit population. Between 1996 and 2006, the number of Inuit living in this region grew by 25% with a 20% increase for Nunavut. In the Nunatsiavut region, the population increased by 3% while the Inuit population in the Inuvialuit region of the Northwest Territories declined by 3% over the decade.
  • Despite a reduction in crowding, three out of ten Inuit live in crowded homes. In 2006, 31% of Inuit lived in crowded conditions, down from 36% in 1996. In contrast, 3% of the non-Aboriginal population in Canada lived in crowded conditions in 2006. Nearly half (49%) of Inuit in Nunavik lived in crowded dwellings.
  • In 2006, about 14,000 Inuit in Canada, (28%) of the total, reported living in homes requiring major repairs. This was four times higher than non-Aboriginal people (7%). In Inuit Nunaat, the figure was 31% for Inuit, a proportion that increased from 19% in 1996.
  • While the Inuktitut language remains strong overall (69% of Inuit could speak Inuktitut), knowledge and use are declining. Inuit are less likely to speak it as their main language at home – 50% in 2006 down from 58% in 1996. In addition, smaller percentages of Inuit are reporting Inuktitut as their mother tongue and a declining percentage can speak it well enough to have a conversation.


  • The Métis were the fastest growing Aboriginal group in Canada, increasing by 91% since 1996 to reach 389,785 in 2006. This was more than 11 times the rate of increase for the non-Aboriginal population (8%).
  • In 2006, 87% of all Métis lived in the West and in Ontario. An estimated 7% of the Métis lived in Quebec, 5% in Atlantic Canada and the remainder lived in one of the three Territories.
  • About four-fifths (80%) of the increase in the number of Métis over the last decade were accounted for by the four provinces with large Métis populations: Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.
  • In 2006, nearly seven out of 10 Métis (69%) lived in urban areas, up slightly from 67% in 1996. (Urban areas include large cities, or census metropolitan areas, and smaller urban centres.)
  • The census enumerated 40,980 Métis living in Winnipeg in 2006, the largest Métis population of all census metropolitan areas. They accounted for 6% of Winnipeg's total population.
  • Overall, there was a decrease in the share of Métis living in crowded homes or in homes needing repairs since 1996. However, crowded housing and homes in need of major repairs were most common among rural Métis living in the Prairie provinces.
  • Older Métis are more likely to speak an Aboriginal language. An estimated 12% of Métis aged 75 and older were able to converse in an Aboriginal language, compared with 9% of those aged 65 to 74 and 6% of people aged 45 to 64. Less than 3% of Métis aged 44 and under spoke an Aboriginal language.
  • The most commonly spoken Aboriginal language among Métis is Cree. In 2006, 9,360 Métis could carry on a conversation in Cree, an Algonquian language.

First Nations people

  • An estimated 698,025 people identified themselves as North American Indians, also referred to as 'First Nations people' (both status and non-status Indians). The First Nations population increased 29% between 1996 and 2006, 3.5 times the increase of 8% for the non-Aboriginal population.
  • A smaller proportion of First Nations people lived on reserve than off reserve. An estimated 40% lived on reserve, while the remaining 60% lived off reserve in 2006. The off-reserve proportion was up slightly from 58% in 1996.
  • Censuses in both 1996 and 2006 found that about three out of every four people in the off-reserve First Nations population lived in urban areas.
  • The Prairie provinces were home to young First Nations populations. The median age of First Nations people in Saskatchewan was 20 years, compared with 21 in Manitoba and 23 in Alberta. On the other hand, the median age in Ontario was 28 years and in Quebec, 30 years.
  • First Nations people were five times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to live in crowded homes, defined as more than one person per room. Crowding was especially common on reserves, where just over one-quarter (26%) lived in crowded conditions, down from one-third (33%) in 1996.
  • First Nations people were four times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to live in dwellings requiring major repairs. In 2006, 28% of First Nations people lived in a home in need of major repairs, compared with just 7% of the non-Aboriginal population. The poor condition of dwellings was especially common on reserves, where about 44% of First Nations people lived in a home requiring major repairs.
  • The census recorded over 60 different Aboriginal languages spoken by First Nations people in Canada, grouped into distinct language families. These include Algonquian, Athapascan, Siouan, Salish, Tsimshian, Wakashan, Iroquoian, Haida, Kutenai and Tlingit.
  • In both 2001 and 2006, about 29% of First Nations people who responded to the census said they could speak an Aboriginal language well enough to carry on a conversation. The figure was higher for First Nations people living on reserve (51%) than off reserve (12%).
  • One in four First Nations people (25%) reported that they had an Aboriginal mother tongue in 2006, about the same proportion as in 2001. However, more First Nations people could speak an Aboriginal language than reported an Aboriginal language as a mother tongue. This may be attributed to First Nations people who have learned an Aboriginal language as a second language.
  • The Aboriginal language spoken by the largest number of First Nations people is Cree. In 2006, an estimated 87,285 could carry on a conversation in Cree, followed by 30,255 who could speak Ojibway, 12,435 who spoke Oji-Cree and 11,080 who spoke Montagnais-Naskapi.

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