Winnipeg's Indigenous population less segregated but still in poor housing: Statistics Canada

As Winnipeg's Indigenous population continues to grow, the city is also becoming less segregated, says a new report from Statistics Canada.

Winnipeg had the largest Indigenous population in Canada in 2016 census

People who identify as Indigenous are more integrated with the non-Indigenous population in Winnipeg, says Statistics Canada. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

As Winnipeg's Indigenous population continues to grow, the city is also becoming less segregated, says a new report from Statistics Canada.

Income and housing conditions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people living in the city also have improved in the past two decades but remain far below everyone else, says a Statistics Canada report that looked at data from the 1996, 2006 and 2016 censuses.

"About 31 per cent of Indigenous people in Winnipeg are under the low-income threshold, compared to 13 per cent of the non-Indigenous population," said Thomas Anderson, a researcher with the Centre for Indigenous Statistics and Partnerships at Statistics Canada.

Meanwhile, 13 per cent of the Indigenous population in Winnipeg lives in a dwelling in need of major repairs, compared to seven per cent for everyone else, he said.

The numbers are similar across the country. Roughly one in 10 Indigenous people living in an urban area in 2016 (11 per cent) lived in housing that was in need of major repairs, the report says.

That is an improvement from 2006, when the statistic was 14 per cent. It was just six per cent for the non-Indigenous population in both years.

The aim of the report was to explore the characteristics of First Nations people, Métis and Inuit living in urban areas — specifically how and where they live in comparison with the non-Indigenous population.

In 2016, the Indigenous people made up 4.9 per cent of the total population in Canada. In Winnipeg, which had the largest Indigenous population (92,310), the percentage was 12.1.

In terms of segregation, Statistics Canada uses an index called dissimilarity. It uses a number to measure the extent to which one population group lives apart from another in any given city.

Across every one of the 49 census metropolitan areas measured by Statistics Canada, the dissimilarity dropped from 1996 to 2016, which means the Indigenous population is becoming more geographically integrated with the non-Indigenous population, Anderson said.

In 1996, there were nine cities with a dissimilarity index score of 0.4 or higher: Quebec City, Saint John, Montreal, Sherbrooke, Saskatoon, Toronto, Moncton, Hamilton and Winnipeg.

Twenty years later there were none.

Winnipeg's dissimilarity index dropped from 0.4 in 1996 to 0.25 in 2016.

Anderson said it's difficult to pinpoint why the numbers have improved so much. The study reports the data but contains no analysis of it.

"There could be a couple of factors at play. It could be a case of residential mobility, so people moving from one neighbourhood into another and becoming more evenly dispersed over the city," he said. 

Or it could be that over time, more people are identifying as First Nations, Métis or Inuit on the census questionnaire, Anderson said.

The lowest index scores were in Grande Prairie (0.1), Medicine Hat (0.11) and Moncton (0.11). 

Although those are smaller cities, the study found there was no clear relationship between the number of Indigenous people living in a city and the index score of that city.

Toronto had the highest index score at 0.36, even though Indigenous people only made up 0.8 per cent of that city's population — the lowest figure among the cities in the study.

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