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Of the 1,172,790 people who identified themselves as an Aboriginal person in the 2006 Census, about 4%, or 50,485, reported that they were Inuit.1
This was a 26% increase from 40,220 in 1996. In contrast, between 1996 and 2006, the non-Aboriginal population grew at a much slower pace, increasing about 8%.
Census data show that the Inuit population in Canada is much younger than the non-Aboriginal population and other Aboriginal groups.
In 2006, the median age of the Inuit population was 22 years, compared with 40 years for non-Aboriginal people. Inuit were also younger than First Nations people, whose median age was 25 years, and Métis, whose median age was 30. (The median age is the point where exactly one-half of the population is older, and the other half is younger).
Large percentages of Inuit are in the youngest age groups. In 2006, 12% of the Inuit population was aged 4 and under, more than twice the proportion of 5% among non-Aboriginal people. Similarly, 11% of Inuit were aged 5 to 9, compared with only 6% of non-Aboriginal people. While over one-half (56%) of all Inuit were aged 24 and under, about one in three non-Aboriginal people (31%) were in this age group.
The potential implications of a young, growing Inuit population are numerous. These include a possible increased demand for housing stock and for schooling at all levels, including preschool. There may also be a greater demand for skills training as young Inuit adults make the transition from school to work in the wage and traditional Inuit economies.
A growing percentage of the Inuit population is made up of seniors aged 65 and over. However, it remains small compared with the non-Aboriginal population; only 4% of the Inuit population consisted of seniors, compared with 13% of the non-Aboriginal population. This is partly due to the higher fertility rate for Inuit women, resulting in a larger cohort of younger people.
However, lower life expectancy also has an impact. In 2001, the estimated life expectancy for Inuit was 63 years for men and 72 years for women.2 For the total Canadian population, life expectancy for men was 77 years and 82 years for women.3
Table 6 Age distribution and median age of the Inuit and non-Aboriginal populations, Canada, 2006
According to the census, just over three-quarters of Inuit in Canada (78%), or about 40,000 people, lived in one of four regions within Inuit Nunaat. This is the Inuktitut expression for 'Inuit homeland,' a region stretching from Labrador to the Northwest Territories (see Inuit Nunaat text box). Inuit Nunaat is comprised of four regions:
Territory of Nunavut: The 2006 Census enumerated 24,635 Inuit in this region, which has both the largest land mass and biggest Inuit population. These people accounted for nearly one-half (49%) of the total Inuit population in Canada. Nunavut's Inuit population increased 20% between 19964 and 2006.
Nunavik: This region in northern Quebec was home to 9,565 Inuit, or 19% of the total Inuit population. Nunavik had the fastest growing Inuit population, a 25% gain since 1996.
Inuvialuit region: This region in the Northwest Territories had a population of 3,115 Inuit, accounting for 6% of all Inuit nationally. The Inuvialuit region was the only one to register a decline in population (-3%) since 1996.
Nunatsiavut: This region in northern Labrador had a population of 2,160 Inuit, or 4% of the total Inuit population. It increased 3% since 1996.
Inuit made up the majority of the population in all four regions. They accounted for 90% of the total population in Nunavik, 89% in Nunatsiavut, 84% in Nunavut and 55% in the Inuvialuit region.
Figure 3 Distribution of the Inuit population, regions, 2006
'Inuit Nunaat' is the Inuktitut expression for 'Inuit homeland,' an expanse comprising more than one-third of Canada's land mass, extending from northern Labrador to the Northwest Territories. Inuit have inhabited this vast region, in what is now known as Canada, for 5,000 years. In recent years, four Inuit land claims have been signed across Inuit Nunaat.
While Inuit in each of these regions share a common culture and many traditions, each region is, at the same time, distinct. For example, traditions can sometimes vary and there is much linguistic and geographic diversity from one region (and sometimes from one community within the same region) to the next. These four regions are:
Nunatsiavut: This is the most easterly region, encompassing five communities along the northern coast of Labrador. The word 'Nunatsiavut' means 'our beautiful land' in Inuktitut. This region was created through the 2005 Labrador Inuit Land Claim Agreement and includes about 72,500 square kilometres of land and the adjacent ocean zone.
Nunavik: This region in northern Quebec was established through the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. This was the first modern land claims agreement in Canada, signed in 1975. Nunavik covers 660,000 square kilometres of land. More recently, the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement has given Nunavimmiut (Inuit of Nunavik) ownership of many of the islands off the coast of Nunavik.
Nunavut: The 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement led to the creation of the territory of Nunavut in 1999. It was formed out of the eastern part of the Northwest Territories. This agreement is the largest land claim settlement negotiated between a state and Aboriginal people in the world. The territory spans 2 million square kilometres. There are three main regions within Nunavut: Qikiqtaaluk, Kivalliq and Kitikmeot.
Inuvialuit region: In 1984, the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA) was signed, giving ownership to 90,650 square kilometres of land in the Northwest Territories to the Inuvialuit (Inuit of the western Arctic). The IFA lists six Inuvialuit communities, five within and one outside the Settlement Region. For the purposes of this report, all six Inuvialuit communities have been included.
There are 52 communities5 with large Inuit populations across Inuit Nunaat. Because of a lack of road access, these remote communities can, for the most part, be accessed only by air year round and by sea during the summer months. Most communities are small; well over one-third (38%) have a total population of fewer than 500 people. About 29% have between 500 and 999 people, while 33% have 1,000 or more.
Reference map: Inuit Nunaat: comprised of four Inuit regions (PDF)
Nunavut and Nunavik were home to the youngest Inuit populations. The median age for Inuit in these two regions was 20 years, followed by 24 years in the Inuvialuit region and 26 years in Nunatsiavut.
In both Nunavut and Nunavik, 13% of all Inuit were aged 4 and under, compared to 8% of those in Nunatsiavut and 10% in the Inuvialuit region. Seniors accounted for 3% of all Inuit in Nunavut and Nunavik, while they represented 5% in the other two regions.
Table 7 Age distribution and median age of the Inuit population, regions, 2006
While most Inuit live in Inuit Nunaat, a growing percentage lives in other parts of Canada, and in particular, southern urban centres. In 2006, 22% of Inuit lived outside Inuit Nunaat, up from 17% in 1996.
The 2006 Census enumerated 8,395 Inuit who lived in urban centres outside Inuit Nunaat, up about 60% from 5,235 in 1996. In 2006, they represented 17% of the total Inuit population, an increase from 13% a decade earlier. An additional 5% of all Inuit lived in rural areas outside Inuit Nunaat.
In 2006, the urban centres outside Inuit Nunaat with the largest Inuit populations were Ottawa ‑ Gatineau, 725; Yellowknife, 640; Edmonton, 590; Montréal, 570; and Winnipeg, 355.
Table 8 Size and growth of the Inuit population, Canada and regions, 1996 and 2006