While there has been a noticeable exodus over the last five years due to the faltering economy in Prince Rupert, one demographic has seen a slight increase in that period, with the promise of a trend to continue into the future.
Statistics released by Statistics Canada on Monday outlined how there was a 12.5 percent drop in Prince Rupert’s population after the last census, but a slight increase in those that identify themselves of First Nations ancestry.
Statistics from the 2006 census show that First Nations residents now make up 35 per cent of the city’s population of 13,392, giving Prince Rupert one of the highest First Nations populations for urban areas in Canada.
The Statistics Canada website features a comprehensive report on the number crunching, with a variety of topics to explore.
For the local picture, The Daily News provided some background on the numbers released Monday by Statistics Canada, the details made for the front page story in Tuesday’s paper.
CITY'S ABORIGINAL POPULATION YOUTHFUL, GROWING: CENSUS
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
While Prince Rupert's overall population dropped 12.5 per cent between the 2001 and 2006 census, its aboriginal population grew slightly.
According to data released today by Statistics Canada, the number of people identifying themselves as aboriginal in the 2006 census was 4,660 out of a total population of 13,392 - or 34 per cent.
This compares to 4,625 who identified themselves as aboriginal out of a population of 15,190 in 2001, or 30 per cent in the 2001 census.
By comparison, Terrace has an aboriginal population of 2,900 in 2006 or 16 per cent and Williams Lake, 2,155 or 12 per cent.
The statistics are hardly surprising, given the Prince Rupert area has been home to the Tsimshian people for as many as the past 10,000 years, and is a hub community close to traditional Haida and Nisga'a territory.
According to statistics released today, Canada’s native population has topped the million mark for the first time in the latest census, with more than half the country’s 1.2 million aboriginals living off reserve.
Prince Rupert was listed as having one of the highest aboriginal populations in the country.
Of those who identified themselves as aboriginal, 1,980 were male and 2, 500 female, while 4,015 identified themselves as North American Indian and 185 identified themselves as Metis.
The median age of the city’s aboriginal population is young 28.5 compared to the general population which has a median age of 38.5, according to data released earlier this year.
Those who identify themselves as aboriginal aren’t living as long as the general population. Senior citizens overall make up 10.5 per cent of the 2006 census population, while that statistics drops to 7.8 per cent among the aboriginal population.
However, there is a strong young aboriginal population (those under the age of 14. Twenty eight per cent of Prince Rupert’ s aboriginal population is under the age of 14 compared to an average 20.2 for the overall population.
Nationally, 54 per cent of those who consider themselves North American Indian, Metis or Inuit live in or near urban areas, according to the 2006 national survey.
This represents a 50 per cent increase of city-living aboriginals during the last decade, say figures released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.
But analysts say what appears to be an increasing unbanization of Canada’s aboriginal population does not mean reserves are emptying. On the contrary, there has been net migration back to First Nations during the last 40 years.
Overall, the aboriginal share of Canada’s population – 3.8 per cent ranks second in the world to New Zealand. The Maori people account for 15 per cent of New Zealand’s total, while indigenous people represent a two-percent share in the U. S. and Australia.
An estimated 698,025 people identified themselves as North American Indian in the 2006 census- a number lower than the 763,555 people counted in the Indian Registry as of Dec. 31, 2006. This is in part because 22 First Nations, including Canada’s largest Mohawk communities, shunned the census process.
Those reserves report births and deaths regularly through the federal Indian Registry and are generally suspicious of how census date might be used.
The most recent census finds that the proportion of status Indians living on reserve has held steady at about 45 per cent. The Indian Registry, by contrast, tells a different story.
It says there were 615 bands in Canada as of Dec. 31, 2006, with 763,555 members. Most of that total – 404,117 – lived on reserves, while 335,109 lived off reserve and 24,329 were on Crown land. The discrepancy between the registry and the census is explained in part by the First Nations who refused to take part in the national survey.
But the registry is also a more static reflection of birth, marriage and death, says Jane Badets of Statistics Canada. The census is a five-year snapshot of where aboriginal people primarily live, she added.