Saskatchewan

Reserve population grew 16%, census says

Saskatchewan's First Nations reserves saw a big population jump over the last five years, according to the 2011 federal census.

Saskatchewan's First Nations reserves saw a big population jump over the last five years, according to the 2011 federal census.

The on-reserve population increased to 55,692 from the 48,115 recorded in 2006 — about a 16 per cent increase.

While the numbers don't include off-reserve band members, the jump is more than twice that for Saskatchewan as a whole (6.7 per cent).

However, it's not clear how much of the rising on-reserve numbers are due to real growth versus increased participation in the census.

Following the 2006 census, some First Nations said the count missed a lot of their members.

This time, the Whitecap Dakota First Nation near Saskatoon took steps to make sure they got an accurate count, Chief Darcy Bear said.

"We believe that information is very important for future planning. And so we had to make sure all of our members got involved with the census," Bear said.

The band sent out reminders in its weekly newsletter and followed that up with door-to-door visits to urge people to fill out their census forms.

The result was that the census found Whitecap's on-reserve population was 351, compared to 235 in 2006 — a 49 per cent increase.

Saskatchewan's top 10 reserves ranked by population saw double digit growth.

However, some smaller reserves lost population, including The Key (down 24 per cent), Neekaneet (down 26 per cent) and Flying Dust (down 18 per cent).

Bear said in the case of Whitecap, which is home to a major casino and has just completed a new housing project, the higher numbers clearly reflect real growth.

In fact, he says, the population has probably gone up another 25 per cent since the 2011 census.

Bear said he wants the community to do its own census to make sure the population count is always up to date.

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