More Quebecers identifying as Indigenous, 2016 census figures show

Quebec has the lowest percentage of Indigenous people of any province or territory in Canada, however, with more people identifying as Indigenous than ever before, those numbers are growing, Statistics Canada finds.

Latest from Statistics Canada shows Quebec's Indigenous population is young and growing

10-month-old Josh-Terry Petawabano takes part in a walking-out ceremony with his grandfather Lawrence Petawabano on National Aboriginal Day in Mistissini, Que., on June 21, 2017. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

Quebec has the lowest percentage of Indigenous people of any province or territory in Canada, however, with more people identifying as Indigenous than ever before, those numbers are growing.

The province saw a 37.5 per cent increase of people who identified as First Nations between 2006 and 2016, according to the latest data released by Statistics Canada. 

Quebec also saw the country's highest growth when it comes to people who identify as Métis.

In 2016, 149.2 per cent more people identified as Métis compared to 2006.

Nunavik, the Inuit territory in northern Quebec, also registered the highest population increase among Canada's Inuit, up 23.3 per cent since 2006.

Among the country's Inuit population living outside the recognized Inuit territory of Nunangat — that is, those not living in Nunavut, Nunavik, Nanatsiavut or Inuvialuit — a little more than one in 10 live in Quebec.

Higher enrolment, schools at capacity

The Kativik School Board said it has witnessed a steady increase in the number of children enrolling at its 17 elementary and high schools across Nunavik over the past years.

"We see it very clearly," said Kativik's communications co-ordinator, Jade Duchesneau-Bernier.
Around 240 students, like Anthony Kaitak, centre, attend Ikusik Secondary School in Salluit, Que. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

For the 2016-17 school year alone, there are 200 new students across the 14 communities, stretching the capacity of existing schools. 

"We've had to use libraries as classrooms," said Duchesneau-Bernier.

Among other projects, the board is hoping to build a new high school in Inukjuak, Que. 

Right now, students from kindergarten to secondary five all go to the same school.

Inuktitut preserved in Nunavik

Nunavik has the highest population of Inuit who have retained Inuktut in Canada, with 99.2 per cent of Inuit reporting they are fluent in their native language, according to the 2016 census.

Inuktut is the term for all Inuit languages, Inuktitut being by far the most spoken of the three.

At the Kativik School Board, classes are taught in Inuktitut as a first language from kindergarten to grade three.

It then continues as the second-language instruction up to secondary five, said Duchesneau-Bernier.

"They have 45 minutes of Inuktitut a few times a week."
About 350 students from grade four to secondary five attend Jaanimmarik School in Kuujjuaq, Que. (Catou Mackinnon/CBC)

More self-identification, younger population

Statistics Canada says the surge in the Indigenous population in Quebec can be attributed to the fact that more people identified as Indigenous in the 2016 census compared to previous years — a trend that continues.

The growth can also be explained by a greater life expectancy and high fertility rates.

Quebec towns where the Indigenous population changed significantly since 2011:

  • Causapscal — 975 per cent. 
  • Kipawa — 950 per cent.
  • Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine — 583.3 per cent.
  • Saint-Augustin — 500 per cent.
  • Percé — 455.6 per cent.
  • Kazabazua — 450 per cent.
  • Port-Daniel–Gascons — 400 per cent. 
  • Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc — 377.8 per cent.
  • Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac — 328.6 per cent.

In 2016, the average age of an Indigenous Canadian was 32.1 years, nearly a decade younger than the average age of a non-Indigenous Canadian, which is 40.9 years.

About a third of the Indigenous population is under the age of 14, while 6.4 per cent are over 65.

Quebec compared to Canada

Overall, Quebec is the province with the lowest percentage of Indigenous people, at 1.2 per cent of its total population, compared to 2.8 per cent for all of Canada.

Of the 1,673,785 Indigenous people in Canada, 9.5 per cent live in Quebec. 

That breaks down as follows:

  • Indigenous: 182,890.
  • First Nations: 92,655.
  • Métis: 69,360.
  • Inuit: 13,945.
  • Other Indigenous identifiers: 6,930.
  • Total population of Quebec: 7,965,450.