Data Sources and Limitations

In reviewing the information in this report,
it is important to note:

  • As no data source is perfect, the best available information was used.
  • As much as possible the data are specific to First Nations in Alberta.
  • All data are comparable to allow for quick identification of where issues may merge or diverge between First Nations and the general population of Alberta. Many data sources were used to create this report, most of which were publicly available, however, a small number of graphs relied on access to internal databases or custom tabulations.
  • A significant portion of the information gathered for this report relies on self-reported data gathered through surveys or the Census. The data provide information on a wide range of topics (e.g. education, employment, income, health) that may not be otherwise available, however, self-reported data are subject to potential bias. In some cases, the bias may lead to under-reporting (e.g. individuals tend to under-report weight and over-report their height leading to lower and therefore more positive BMI results) and over-reporting (e.g. individuals may report health conditions without having received a diagnosis by the appropriate health professional).

Statistics Canada – Census

Statistics Canada undertakes a census of the Canadian population every five years, which all Canadians are required by law to complete. The most recent results available are for 2006, although information derived from the 2001 Census was also used for the Community Well-Being Index section.

There are two census questionnaires. The majority of respondents (80 per cent) are required to complete the short-form questionnaire that gathers basic demographic data, while the long-form is required to be completed by one in five households.

Beyond providing basic demographic data, the long-form questionnaire gathers additional information including ethnicity, income, labour force activity and housing. All on-reserve residents are requested to complete the long-form questionnaire; in many cases, canvassers are used to gather the information.

The 2006 Census provides a wealth of information that can easily be accessed, but as with many datasets, it has a few limitations:

  • Most First Nations communities in Alberta participated in the 2006 Census; the only exceptions were Little Buffalo (Lubicon), Saddle Lake and Tsuu T’ina.
  • Many individuals who would normally reside on-reserve in Enoch were temporarily relocated when the census was undertaken and this led to concerns over quality of the data therefore only basic population information is available for this community.
  • To maintain privacy and to prevent individual identification, some data for smaller communities are publicly available are therefore not included in this report.

Statistics Canada –– Surveys

Statistics Canada conducts a number of surveys on a regular basis including the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), the Canadian Addictions Survey (CAS) and the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS). While these surveys provided useful information regarding Albertans and Canadians, the information regarding First Nations in Alberta was limited. For example, the Canadian Community Health Survey provides information for Aboriginal individuals at the Canadian and provincial levels, but does not provide First Nations-specific data. In addition, the Canadian Addictions Survey does not include any ethnicity questions and the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey provides results for urban First Nations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan only.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

The Indian registry from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) provides key demographic data, however, with the following limitations:

  • Delays in reporting births and deaths.
  • Residence is usually reported to INAC at life events (e.g. at the birth or death of individual), so individuals may move off/on-reserve and this information may not be captured.
  • May not accurately reflect the on-reserve population level in a given community as only the registered First Nations are included.

INAC – Alberta Region provided access to some internal data related to specific program areas such as income support and children in care. While the administrative data are not comparable, it provides
insights into some of the determinants of health.

Assembly of First Nations

Results from the 2002-2003 First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS) provided data for comparison with the Canadian Community Health Survey and the Canadian Addictions Survey. As the 2002-2003 RHS was completed by only nine communities in Alberta, the national results were used rather than the provincial ones.