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Aboriginal Voices in Canadian Cities – Setting the Context

By: Ted Norris, Urban Aboriginal Convenor for We Are Cities 

The voices of Aboriginal people in our cities are diverse and plentiful. This first instalment presents a brief overview of the Aboriginal / Indigenous reality in the urban setting.

In 2011, Canada’s Aboriginal population was over 1.4 million. This figure represents a significant increase from 2006- making it the fastest-growing segment of the Canadian population. According to Statistics Canada, the Aboriginal identity population grew by 20% between 2006 and 2011, compared to only 5% for the non-Aboriginal population. These rates show that the Aboriginal population increased at 4 times faster than the mainstream population.

It is also the youngest - amongst the Aboriginal population, 46% of individuals are under age 25, compared to 29% for the rest of the Canadian population.

Recent statistics also reveal a compelling trend: more and more Aboriginal people are living in urban areas. In fact, almost 60% of Aboriginal people live in urban areas. Cities, such as Winnipeg (78,420), Edmonton (61,765), Vancouver (52,375), Toronto (36,995), Calgary (33,370), Ottawa-Gatineau (30,570), Montreal (26,280), Saskatoon (23,895) and Regina (19,785) have the largest Aboriginal populations. 

Many urban Aboriginal people face difficult socio-economic challenges such as those related to housing, education and employment. However, the burgeoning Aboriginal Arts and Culture scene and movements such as “Idle No More” point to a rising confidence and self-determination in addition to the resurgence of political awareness and activity amongst Aboriginal people of all ages.

As we roll out Urban Aboriginal roundtables across Canada in the next few months, I expect some amazing ideas and stories in the context of the We Are Cities initiative and I look forward to sharing these with you.