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First Nations dancers participate in the 32nd annual Squamish Nation Youth Powwow, in West Vancouver on July 14, 2019.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

The Indigenous population in Canada continues to grow faster than the non-Indigenous population, but at a slower rate than in previous years, according to the latest census data from Statistics Canada.

There are 1.8 million Indigenous people, according to the new data released on Wednesday, an increase from 4.9 to 5 per cent since 2016. It’s growth of 9.4 per cent from 2016, but in the previous census, the reported growth was 18.9 per cent, almost double 2021′s number.

The census data also show the number of children in foster care remains disproportionately high compared to the non-Indigenous population, while housing conditions on and off-reserve and in cities continue to be disproportionately substandard. The agency said the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to collect data in some communities, but the 2021 census is still its most detailed picture of First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations.

Natural growth and response mobility are the two main reasons for the growing Indigenous population, StatsCan says. Natural growth relates to higher birth rates and increased life spans while response mobility refers to individuals who may not have previously identified as Indigenous but are now more likely to do so. This is in part due to personal reasons, modern treaties and agreements, changes to legislation, court cases and broader societal factors.

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StatsCan said determining how much of the increase is from people likely to self-identify as Indigenous is a matter for further study.

The overall Indigenous population is also younger than the non-Indigenous population by an average of 8.2 years, the data show. Inuit are among the youngest Indigenous groups, followed by First Nations.

Age and gender distribution of Indigenous

and non-Indigenous populations

in Canada, 2021

Per cent

Inuit

First Nations

Métis

Non-Indigenous

Age

Women+

Men+

100+

95 to 99

90 to 94

85 to 89

80 to 84

75 to 79

70 to 74

65 to 69

60 to 64

55 to 59

50 to 54

45 to 49

40 to 44

35 to 39

30 to 34

25 to 29

20 to 24

15 to 19

10 to 14

5 to 9

0 to 4

12%

4

0

4

12%

8

0

8

The category “Men+” includes men (and/or boys), as well as some non-binary persons. The category “Women+” includes women (and/or girls), as well as some non-binary persons.

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Age and gender distribution of Indigenous

and non-Indigenous populations

in Canada, 2021

Per cent

First Nations

Métis

Inuit

Non-Indigenous

Age

Women+

Men+

100+

95 to 99

90 to 94

85 to 89

80 to 84

75 to 79

70 to 74

65 to 69

60 to 64

55 to 59

50 to 54

45 to 49

40 to 44

35 to 39

30 to 34

25 to 29

20 to 24

15 to 19

10 to 14

5 to 9

0 to 4

12%

4

0

4

12%

8

0

8

The category “Men+” includes men (and/or boys), as well as some non-binary persons. The category “Women+” includes women (and/or girls), as well as some non-binary persons.

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Age and gender distribution of Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Canada, 2021

Per cent

First Nations

Métis

Inuit

Non-Indigenous

Age

Women+

Men+

100+

95 to 99

90 to 94

85 to 89

80 to 84

75 to 79

70 to 74

65 to 69

60 to 64

55 to 59

50 to 54

Inuit among youngest populations in Canada, with one-third aged 14 years and younger

45 to 49

40 to 44

35 to 39

30 to 34

25 to 29

20 to 24

15 to 19

10 to 14

5 to 9

0 to 4

12%

10

6

4

0

2

4

6

10

12%

8

2

0

8

The category “Men+” includes men (and/or boys), as well as some non-binary persons.

The category “Women+” includes women (and/or girls), as well as some non-binary persons.

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Christopher Penney, director of Statscan’s Centre for Indigenous Statistics and Partnership, said the agency also sees differences between the growth rates of the three main Indigenous groups.

While the overall First Nations population grew 9.7 per cent from 2016, growth was slower for First Nations, with registered or treaty Indian Status at 4.1 per cent compared to non-Status or non-registered Treaty Indians, at 27.2 per cent growth since 2016. It’s also the first time the First Nations population has topped one million, calculated at 1,048,405 in 2021.

The Métis population grew by 6.3 per cent over the five-year period, while the Inuit population grew by 8.5 per cent, with more than two-thirds of the 70,545 Inuit living in their homeland of Inuit Nunangat.

The Inuit population outside Inuit Nunangat grew faster than the population within (+23.6 per cent versus +2.9 per cent).

There was a slight increase in the number of Indigenous children in foster care, from 52.2 per cent in 2016 to 53.8 per cent in 2021, still representing more than half of all children in care. Nationally, Indigenous children accounted for 7.7 per cent of all children 14 years of age and younger.

More than 3 per cent of Indigenous children living in private households in 2021 were in foster care compared to 0.2 per cent of non-Indigenous children. Manitoba has one of the highest rates of Indigenous children in care, about 90 per cent of approximately 10,000 foster children.

On housing, Indigenous people continue to be more likely to live in substandard dwellings than the non-Indigenous population – at a rate three times higher for Indigenous people living in homes in need of major repairs, although overall it is a slight decrease since 2016.

The 2021 data indicate almost one in six Indigenous people, 16.4 per cent, lived in a dwelling that needed major repairs, a rate almost three times higher than the non-Indigenous population, at 5.7 per cent.

More Inuit live with inadequate housing than First Nations and Métis – making up 26.2 per cent of the Indigenous population in homes needing major repairs and 40.1 per cent of those living in crowded conditions. First Nations account for 19.7 per cent of the Indigenous population, while Métis living in homes requiring major repairs sit at 10 per cent. Among First Nations, the 2021 data indicate the rate is higher on-reserve.

StatsCan says this is in part because of barriers that include high costs and limited access to building materials and supplies in remote, northern communities. Additionally, the agency says the Indian Act’s prohibition on using private property as collateral on-reserve makes it difficult to access financing to buy, renovate or repair housing.