Chapter 6 Aboriginal peoples
Note to reader: Further to the 2011 Census content consultation, Statistics Canada's Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division met with Aboriginal groups, provincial, territorial and federal governments to discuss the Aboriginal identification questions in the winter, spring and early summer of 2007. A summary of the results from these regional discussions is provided later in this chapter. Some organizations and individuals contributed feedback through both the regional discussions and the 2011 Census content consultations. Consequently, comments obtained from people who participated in the two processes may be included in the chapter below as well as in the summary that follows.
During the 2011 Census content consultation round, 80 comments were submitted on the questions pertaining to Aboriginal peoples1 Of these, the primary focus was the change in terminology being contemplated for the 2011 Census. Given the possible impacts of the proposed modification, participants emphasized the need to consider Aboriginal interests, ensure a good understanding of the population and examine the implications to legislation and policy.
First Nations / North American Indian • Thirty comments centred on the proposed change in terminology from ‘North American Indian' to ‘First Nations.' More than two-thirds of the observations endorsed the change. A number of participants considered ‘First Nations' more appropriate or thought it was commonly recognized and used. As well, it was reported the term ‘Indian' elicits some sensitivity or can be confusing for respondents who have ties to India. A transition period combining both terms was recommended. Options put forth included ‘First Nations / North American Indian' and ‘First Nations (North American Indian).'
Some provincial and federal government departments and agencies conveyed concern about the change in terminology. The need to maintain consistency in the definition and safeguard historical comparability was stressed because of the impact on research, program and policy areas. As well, it was suggested ‘North American Indian' had a broader connotation than ‘First Nations' which could affect results.
Status and land claims • The subjects of Aboriginal status and land claims yielded 12 comments. The results from the question on ‘Treaty Indian or Registered Indian' are used by some researchers to define status. A few participants recommended modifying the current compound ‘Yes, Treaty Indian or Registered Indian' response option. By offering separate response opportunities (i.e., ‘Yes, Treaty Indian' and ‘Yes, Registered Indian'), it was felt there would be less confusion and data quality would be improved. Other points of interest included adding a specific question confirming Status or Non-Status and asking respondents whether they are beneficiaries of land claim agreements.
Use of ‘Eskimo' • Statistics Canada is considering the removal of ‘Eskimo' for the 2011 Census. This proposed modification received support during consultation. The reference is thought to be derogatory by some. It could also lead to confusion, because it is associated with a group in Alaska. It was thought that Inuit was well understood by the population and aligns with today's reality. The only concern noted about the elimination of ‘Eskimo' was that members of the older population still identify with the term.
Other comments on the Aboriginal peoples content include the following:
- introduce the Aboriginal identity question on the 2A questionnaire (also known as the short form) to better capture the Aboriginal population
- ensure the terminology is consistent with other Statistics Canada surveys (e.g., Labour Force Survey).
Aboriginal peoples content • While there appears to be no consensus on the appropriate terminology for Aboriginal peoples or the existence of a universal term for Aboriginality, it was affirmed that the existing census questions attest to the multidimensional nature of Aboriginal affiliation in Canada.
The decision to include new questions and modify or eliminate existing census content takes into account a number of factors, such as consultation feedback, support to legislation, program and policy needs, data quality, costs, historical comparability, respondent burden, privacy, operational considerations and alternative data sources.
The new terminology tested well in the fall 2007 qualitative testing. The Aboriginal questions for the May 2008 content test included the term ‘First Nations (North American Indian)'. A statement informing respondents that ‘First Nations (North American Indian)' comprises Status and Non-Status Indians was added. As well, the reference to ‘Eskimo' was removed and replaced with the expression ‘Inuk (Inuit).' ‘Inuk' is the singular form of ‘Inuit.'
In the Registered / Treaty Indian status question, the terminology ‘Status Indian (Registered or Treaty)' was introduced. Finally, in the Band / First Nation membership question, the previous reference to the ‘Musqueam' First Nation as an example was dropped.
Aboriginal peoples content on the census is used for evaluating and monitoring federal legislation, policies and programs including:
- Aboriginal Business Canada Program
- Aboriginal Human Resources Development Strategy
- Indian Act
Source: Statistics Canada, Catalogue No. 92-379-XIE, 2001 Census Handbook.
Questions 18, 20 and 21 on the 2006 Census questionnaire (see Appendix 3) relate to the content on Aboriginal peoples.
Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division led a project to review Aboriginal identification questions used in Statistics Canada's Census of population and surveys to produce data about Aboriginal populations. As a first step in the review process, regional discussions were held with more than 350 users of Aboriginal data in over 40 locations across Canada during the winter, spring and early summer of 2007. As well, meetings were held with representatives of several provincial and federal departments and with national Aboriginal organizations.
Participants were provided with a document that allowed them to make notes and were given the option of submitting written feedback in addition to the discussion. Those who were unable to attend in person provided feedback on this form electronically. Feedback was focused on Statistics Canada data, collection methods and questions used on surveys and the census to identify the Aboriginal population.
The main issue identified by the participants was the need to have accurate data counts of First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations separately to support decision making and planning. Concerns about data quality, undercoverage, wording of questions and comparability over time were presented. There was frequent mention that the questions need to be clarified and that they should be more reflective of Inuit and Métis populations as well as those of First Nations. Participants suggested that an Aboriginal identity question should be included on the census short form (2A questionnaire) in order to get a better count of the Aboriginal population.
The question on Aboriginal identity was reportedly the most important for analysis and policy needs. Issues were raised with the terminology, notably the use of ‘North American Indian', ‘Eskimo', and ‘Aboriginal'. Potential problems with identification were raised because some Aboriginal people may not identify with the designations in the census. Participants also cautioned against changes that could affect comparability. Inuit respondents explained that the term ‘Inuit' is plural and that the questionnaire should use the term ‘Inuk' to properly refer to an individual. Some participants requested a clear definition of Métis on the census questionnaire. It was also suggested that a response category for Non-Status Indians should be included.
The Indian band/First Nation question was looked at from the three main perspectives: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. First Nations participants pointed out that ‘Indian Band' and ‘First Nation' do not have the same meaning as the question implies. Furthermore, with the modified Indian Act, bands can choose their own membership codes, and those people who regained their status through Bill C-31 often do not have band membership. Inuit groups recommended asking if respondents are beneficiaries of one of the four Northern land claim agreements, and if so, which one. Several participants also wanted to see a Métis perspective in this question.
For the Registered / Treaty Indian question, participants pointed out that this question should offer separate response categories for “Registered Indian” and “Treaty Indian”. It was also noted that it would be more logical if this question preceded the previous question on the census questionnaire. Finally, some participants mentioned that with self-government agreements being signed, more First Nations would no longer be included under the Indian Act and asked how this would affect reporting for this question and the preceding one.
Readers interested in a more complete account of these discussions should refer to the Report on Regional Discussions on Aboriginal Identification Questions (See Appendix 3).
- The content consultation guide specified the terminology for Aboriginal peoples was being examined for 2011. Consultation participants were asked their views on the proposed 2011 Census content changes.
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