Fact Sheet - Urban Aboriginal population in Canada

The Aboriginal population in Canada is the fastest-growing segment of the Canadian population. In recent decades, the number of Aboriginal people living in Canada's urban centres has grown substantially. The fact sheet below provides details from the 2006 census on the urban Aboriginal population in Canada.

According to 2006 Census, more than half (623,470) of the 1,172,790 people identifying themselves as members of at least one of Canada's Aboriginal groups, that is, North American Indian, Métis or Inuit, resided in urban areas.  Of this urban Aboriginal population, almost 34% (213,945) lived in five cities: Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

Rate of population growth

Over the last 25 years, the urban Aboriginal population in Canada has been growing steadily.  In some cases, particularly in the larger cities, the Aboriginal population has more than doubled.  For example, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Aboriginal population reached nearly 68,000 or 10% of the population – more than four times higher than it was 25 years earlier.

This rapid rate of growth can be attributed to a number of common demographic factors, such as: fertility, mobility and migration.  Another important factor is what is referred to as “ethnic mobility”, i.e., an increasing tendency for people to identify themselves as Aboriginal, who may not have done so in previous censuses.

A socio-economic overview

The urban Aboriginal population in Canada is very young.  In 2006, 28% of the urban Aboriginal population was under 15 years old compared to 17% of the Non- Aboriginal population.

Canada's urban Aboriginal population is also very mobile.  One in four urban Aboriginal people were living in a different residence one year prior to the 2006 Census, by moving within the same city or moving from a different community, like a First Nation Reserve or another urban or rural area.   This high rate of mobility creates some challenges for accessing and providing services, particularly services like education, employment training and housing.

In 2006, more Aboriginal women than men resided in urban areas, while the reverse was true on First Nation Reserves.  Women have tended to leave the reserves for family-related and housing reasons.  Many are single parents moving with their children.  Nearly one in four families are lone-parent families.  Too often, these families are living in difficult conditions.  While the percentage of urban Aboriginal children in low income families declined between 2001 and 2006, the percentage of such children was still more than twice that of Non-Aboriginal children in low income families.

Socio-economic indicators such as school attendance, post-secondary completion and employment are improving for Canada's urban Aboriginal population.   For example, over the last twenty years, a growing number of Aboriginal people have completed post-secondary education.  This is important because the statistics indicate that the employment gap between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people in urban areas disappears for those who have completed post-secondary education, especially university.  However, the pace of improvement has not been high enough, and the gap in university education continued to grow between the Aboriginal population and non-Aboriginal population over the 2001-06 period.


Selected Indicators Urban Areas
< 100.000 Population
Urban Areas
100.000+ Population
Aboriginal Identity
Aboriginal Identity
2001 2006 2001 2006 2001 2006 2001 2006
% of population aged 15-19
< high school
26% 19% 18% 14% 24% 18% 14% 16%
% of population aged 25-44 with university degree 5% 7% 14 % 16% 10% 13% 28% 33%
Unemployment rate 18.4% 12.7% 8.2 % 6.6% 18.5% 10.6% 8.1% 6.1%
Average total income (all sources) $20,552 $26,134 $27,046 $32,331 $21,499 $27,029 $31,956 $37,594
Average employment (full time) income $35,469 $41,406 $39,716 $46,204 $34,714 $41,861 $45,973 $54,267
% receiving government transfer payments 18.8% 16.5% 14.8% 14.3% 16.4% 15.0% 10.0% 9.6%
Incidence of low income before tax among "economic families" 33.8% 25.5% 11.2% 9.2% 37.0% 31.2% 14.3% 13.8%
Incidence of low income before tax among unattached individuals 56.9% 50.1% 37.7% 34.6% 57.7% 58.4% 39.5% 38.7%
% of children under age 15 in low income families 43.1% 36.2% 17.4% 15.3% 50.0% 44.8% 20.6% 20.5%
Lone parent families as a % of all Census families 25% 23% 16% 16% 27% 24% 17% 17%


Age & Gender Distribution of the Urban Aboriginal & Non-Aboriginal Populations, Canada, 2006

Age & Gender Distribution of the Urban Aboriginal & Non-Aboriginal Populations, Canada, 2006