HALIFAX, NS - Nova Scotia’s Aboriginal population has doubled in the last 10 years, the most significant increase in the country.
According to new census data released on Wednesday, there was an increase of 113.5 per cent in individuals identifying as Aboriginal between 2006 and 2016. In Halifax the number tripled. The total provincial population increase for that period was only one per cent.
In Nova Scotia, Aboriginal people represent 5.7 per cent of the population – higher than the national figure of 4.9 per cent. Nationwide, the portion of the population identifying as Aboriginal increased by 42.5 per cent between 2006 and 2016.
The data also shows that those identifying as Aboriginal in the province are notably younger than the rest of the population, consistent with the trend across Canada. In Nova Scotia, the average age of the Aboriginal population is 35.1 years, compared to 44 for the non-Aboriginal population. In Halifax it was 33.7 compared to 40.8.
Statistics Canada also released data on housing conditions, which revealed that 16 per cent of Aboriginals in Nova Scotia lived in a dwelling that was in need of major repairs, compared to eight per cent of the non-Aboriginal population.
According to Vivian O’Donnell, an analyst with Statistics Canada, there are a number of contributing factors to the increase in the Aboriginal population over the past decade.
Higher birth rates among Aboriginal Canadians and longer life expectancies likely helped drive the natural increase in the province as reflected in the age breakdown of the population, as well as a small number of people migrating to the province, O’Donnell said.
“When you see this level of growth you are talking most likely about an increase in people selfidentifying,” she said.
This is especially true with the province’s Métis population, which has tripled to 23,310 since 2016, now making up 45 per cent of those in Nova Scotia who identify as Aboriginal.
Mary Lou Parker, grand chief of the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation Nova Scotia, said membership is growing every day. She credits a change in attitudes surrounding the Métis and Aboriginal people with an increase in individuals wanting to reclaim and learn about their heritage.
“People are finally becoming aware, not to be ashamed of who they are,” she said. “They’re embracing who they are.”