There are more Metis in Canada than ever before, says the newest census data.
Figures released Tuesday by Statistics Canada show the Metis population comprises more than 51 per cent of the country’s Indigenous people.
But that doesn’t mean there are more Metis babies.
Stats Can says it means more people are self-identifying as members of the Metis Nation.
Something that rankles the leader of the Manitoba Metis Federation.
“That’s the weakness of census Canada asking this question,” said David Chartrand, president of the MMF.
“We’re writing a letter to census Canada on that issue.”
Stats Can says the self-identified Indigenous population grew by 42.5 per cent – or four times that of the rest of the population- since 2006. That reflects a jump to 1,673,785 from 1,172,790.
At that rate, the Indigenous population is projected to hit 2.5 million by 2040.
Yet, self-identifying as Metis or non-status First Nation doesn’t make one a member of the Metis Nation, said Chartrand. Although he allowed that’s a fact people continue to debate.
“We are very concerned these numbers are misconstrued,” he said from Santiago, Chile where is attending an international Indigenous conference. “Mixed blood is far different than a citizen of the Metis Nation.”
The province of Manitoba is considered the ancestral homeland of the Metis in Canada. The census shows the Metis population has remained relatively stable on the Prairies at around 400,000, with Alberta registering the highest at 19.5 per cent of the
But it reports a jump in Ontario to 120,585 – something Chartrand disputes.
“I can guarantee there are not even 100,000 members of the Metis Nation in Ontario. Only a small part of the homeland is in Ontario. I guarantee it.”
In total, the census shows Indigenous people make up 4.9 per cent of the country’s population.
It also shows more Indigenous people are living off-reserve – nearly 49.1 per cent – and more than half of those living in Western Canada.
The data says the highest number of First Nations people live in Ontario.
The long form Stats Can census – the first in 10 years – found the Inuit population continues to grow. It also identified a baby boom not matched in the non-Indigenous population.
For example, children under the age of four account for 8.7 per cent of the Indigenous population.
The Inuit has the youngest population with 33 per cent aged 14 and under.
Stats Can learned more of those children under four are in foster care. Namely 4,300 Indigenous children.
But children’s advocate Cindy Blackstock said that’s not enough information.
“It’s difficult to know what’s happening with First Nations children because we have no national data collection system like the United States and Australia.”
Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, said it’s important to know the number of children in care, how long they’ve been there and why they’re there in the first place.
Especially at this young age.
“These are kids under four, which is such a critical age for children’s development. That sets the building blocks for future trajectory: brain and body and language development for children.
“This is highly problematic to me,” Blackstock added from her office in Ottawa. “If kids are our national treasure and we don’t even know how many kids are in care. It’s hard to do good policy and be accountable to these children and their families.”
First Nations children comprise 41.4 per cent of children under four in foster care, followed by Metis children at 6.7 per cent, and Inuit children at two per cent.
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