Section 1: Introduction to Indigenous Peoples


In 2016, there were more than 1.67 million Indigenous people in Canada, representing 4.9 per cent of the total population, up from 3.8 per cent in 2006.

Canadian and Indigenous Peoples population, 2016 Census

Table 1.1 Canadian and Indigenous Peoples Population[1]
Group Population* Percentage of total Indigenous population Percentage of total* Canadian population Percentage increase since 2006
Total Canadians 35,151,728
Total Indigenous Peoples 1,673,785 4.9% 42.5%
First Nations 977,230 58.4% 2.8% 39.3%
Métis 587,545 35.1% 1.7% 51.2%
Inuit 65,025 3.9% 0.2% 29.1%

In 2016, almost 900,000 Indigenous people lived in urban areas with a population of 30,000 or more, accounting for more than half (51.8 per cent) of Indigenous people in Canada.

Where Indigenous Peoples in Canada live

The largest First Nations population is in Ontario (236,680), followed by British Columbia (172,520) and Alberta (136,585).

According to the 2011 Census, First Nations people living in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta accounted for less than 4 per cent of the total provincial populations. However, First Nations people accounted for 32.7 per cent of the total population of the Northwest Territories, 19.8 per cent of the total population of Yukon, and about 10 per cent of the population of Manitoba and that of Saskatchewan. In Nunavut, First Nations people account for 0.34 per cent of the population.

In Quebec, nearly three-quarters (72.0 per cent) of First Nations people with registered Indian status lived on reserve, the highest proportion among the provinces. This was followed by New Brunswick (68.8 per cent) and Nova Scotia (68.0) per cent). In Ontario, 37.0 per cent of First Nations people with registered Indian status lived on a reserve, the second lowest proportion among the provinces after Newfoundland and Labrador (35.1 per cent).

Métis people live in every province and territory in the country, but in 2016 the majority lived in Ontario (120,585) and the western provinces (351,020). But the Métis population is growing fastest in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

The majority of Inuit live in Nunavut (30,135), followed by Nunavik (11,800), Inuvialuit (3,110), and Nunatsiavut (2,285). Another 17,690 Inuit live outside of Inuit Nunangat, many in urban centres in southern Canada, including Ottawa, Edmonton, and Montreal. Ottawa-Gatineau had the largest Inuit population.

Where Urban Indigenous peoples live

In 2016, Winnipeg had the largest Urban Indigenous population, followed by Edmonton and Vancouver. But Indigenous people account for a much larger proportion (around 35 per cent in the 2006 Census) of the population of several smaller cities in the western provinces, including Prince Rupert, Prince Albert, and Thompson.

Table 1.2 Urban Indigenous Populations, 2016 Census
 City First Nations Métis Inuit Total
Winnipeg 38,700 52,130 315 91,145
Edmonton 33,880 39,435 1,115 74,430
Vancouver 35,770 23,425 405 59,600
Toronto 27,805 15,245 690 43,740
Calgary 17,955 22,220 440 40,615
Ottawa-Gatineau 17,790 17,155 1,280 36,225
Montreal 16,130 15,455 975 32,560


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Pulling Together: Foundations Guide Copyright © 2018 by Kory Wilson and Colleen Hodgson (MNBC), Kory Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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