Winnipeg Indigenous population highest in Canada again: StatsCan

Winnipeg again has the largest urban Indigenous population of any city across the country, according to the latest from Statistics Canada.

2021 census suggests over 102,000 First Nations, Métis, Inuit in city — a rise from 92,800 in 2016 census

Isaac Richard, 21, left, and Dreydon Bunn, 20, volunteer for Indigenous-led Winnipeg street patrols, including Sabe Peace Walkers. The 2021 Statistics Canada census data, out Wednesday, suggests Winnipeg again holds the title of the largest Indigenous population in an urban centre. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Winnipeg again has the largest urban Indigenous population of any city across the country, according to the latest from Statistics Canada.

Data out Wednesday, gathered in the 2021 census, pegged the city population of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people at over 102,000, a rise from about 92,800 in 2016. The urban centre with the next highest was Edmonton at 87,600, followed by Vancouver.

For Isaac Richard, 21, from Sandy Bay First Nation, being involved with local Indigenous-led street patrols that help keep the growing population safe is important.

"It gives them hope, it shows that people care about them and ... shows that our Indigenous people are still growing and thriving in this world," said Richard, who volunteers with patrol groups Sabe Peace Walkers and Community 204.

The census also suggests Canada's Indigenous population has increased 9.4 per cent since 2016 — nearly double the rise in the general population, which stood at 5.3 per cent in 2021.

The national Indigenous population is also over eight years younger on average than the non-Indigenous population.

The report also says the younger population nationally is more likely to be in the care of child and family services. Richard said many his age are still dealing with the consequences of that.

"A lot of us are troubled because we've either grew up in bad homes or we've grown up in foster care all their lives," he said. "With community, we see our people in the street, with helping them like that, and it kind of helps us bring out who we are."

Despite the growth, the census data does also suggest the Indigenous growth rate is slowing; it was 18.9 per cent in the last census.

Manitoba had a total of 237,190 Indigenous people in its population, the fourth-highest among the provinces, according to the report. But at 18.1 per cent of its overall population, Manitoba also had the highest percentage of Indigenous people of any province.

At over 96,700, Manitoba has the fourth-largest Métis population.

And the province also has the third-largest First Nations population — at more than 121,400 — behind B.C. and Ontario. Nearly half of those First Nations people in Manitoba live on reserve, which is the highest percentage west of Quebec.

Dreydon Bunn has roots in Sagkeeng First Nation and was born in Winnipeg and lives downtown. Like Richard, he too volunteers with Indigenous-led street patrols.

As part of that younger generation that continues to grow at a faster rate than the general population, Bunn, 20, said he is encouraged by the relationships he is making with other young people in the Indigenous community when on patrol.

"I love it … we get to experience everything that's out there and we get to kind of relate to the stories and our background and with our relatives," he said. 

"Even at the age of 20, I feel like I am still learning from people who are younger than me so every day is kind of like a school day."

With files from Stephanie Cram