Preliminary Census Numbers Reflect Growing First Nations Population

Statistics Canada has released preliminary data showing skyrocketing aboriginal population.

When preliminary census data from the 2011 count were released earlier this year, people like Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Jesse Simon were not surprised.

"We're an exploding population," he told CBC News, alluding to the five percent increase in Elsipogtog population since the last census was taken in 2006. "We are growing five times faster than the national average. I think First Nations across Canada are generally growing three times faster. We've hit the million mark.”

And, although CBC News said the recent data counted 2,000 Elsipogtog members on the First Nation reserve in New Brunswick, Simon said the actual count is more like 3,200. Moreover, 60 percent of them are under age 30.

Census data released earlier this year from the count taken in 2011 show similar jumps in aboriginal population throughout Canada. Over on the opposite coast from New Brunswick, the Cowichan First Nations on Vancouver Island are also growing, Postmedia News reported, up 30 percent since 2006. Officials in that community were also expecting population increases.

"The increase in on-reserve population as well as total membership comes as no surprise to me," Cowichan Tribes Chief Harvey Alphonse told Postmedia News in February. "At last glance of our membership data showed more than 50 per cent of our members are 26 and under. Also, according to census, the Indian nation population is the fastest growing across Canada."

Besides a high birth rate’s contribution—the fastest-growing segment of the population are people under 25—a court decision restoring status to Indian women who had lost it by marrying non-Natives increased the population by changing who got counted, Postmedia News said.

“Historically the Indian act recognized non-Indian women who marry Cowichan men as Cowichan status Indians, while in the reverse, Cowichan women who married non-Indian men lost their Indian status,” Alphonse said. “Thankfully this is changing.”

The McIver court decision that restored status to such Indian women also allows their children to receive full Cowichan status, Alphonse explained.

The latest census was conducted throughout 2011, and preliminary figures were released in February 2012. Final figures will be released over the next two years, including definitive aboriginal numbers next year, according to Statistics Canada.