Population Growth

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has developed projection models for the population growth of registered Indians. It forecasts that the number of registered Indians in Canada will grow from 764,300 in 2004 to 1,069,600 in 202966. Figure 6 illustrates INAC’s projections for the Canadian registered Indian population in 2029, which will remain much younger than the Canadian population, but will be aging nonetheless. Its youngest cohort, under the age of 25, will be important, but not as significant as it is today, and will have a much larger cohort of elderly individuals (65 and over).

Figure 07: Registered First Nations Population Alberta Region (1982-2007)
Figure 08: Alberta Population (1981 - 2006)

The First Nations population in Alberta is much younger than the Alberta population and is growing rapidly. The rapid growth is not solely due to a high birth rate as it is also fuelled by the increasing number of individuals who identify as First Nations.

The First Nations population has been growing rapidly. Figure 7 shows that the number of First Nations living in Alberta has more than doubled in the past 25 years. INAC projects that by 2029, the number of Indians registered to Alberta bands will increase to more than 157,8007.

A marked increase is also noted between the 1996 and 2006 Censuses, indicating the First Nations population grew by 32.1 per cent in Alberta, increasing slightly faster than the national First Nations population, which grew by 29.1 per cent.

This significant increase8,[9] in the number of people who identify as “Native American Indian” in the census cannot simply be explained by a natural population increase10.

Rather, the increase is largely due to ethnic mobility.

Ethnic mobility explains population growth through social factors. For example, a number of policy and legal decisions, such as Bill C-31, has had a significant impact on both the individuals identifying as “American Indian” in the census as well as the increase of registered Indians in the Indian Registry. Furthermore, an increasing number of individuals are identifying themselves as First Nations including children of mixed unions.

The 2006 Census indicates that many First Nations live in Alberta’s two largest cities––22,440 in Edmonton and 10,875 in Calgary.

In examining population growth, it is also important to look at the provincial context. Figure 8 demonstrates the rapid increase in population in Alberta, especially between 1996-2006. In 2006, Alberta recorded the fastest population growth among Canadian provinces, surpassing British Columbia as the favoured destination for migrants within Canada. Alberta also counted two of the six fastest growing metropolitan economies in Canada––Edmonton and Calgary.

6Steffler, J. “Registered Indian Population, Household and Family Projections, 2004-2029”, Strength in Numbers Conference, hosted by Statistics Canada


8Guimond, E. and Robitaille, N. “Aboriginal Populations in Canadian Cities: What’s Behind the Spectacular Growth?”, Strength in Numbers Conference,
hosted by Statistics Canada, 2008

9Guimond, E. “Fuzzy Definitions and Population Explosion: Changing Identities of Aboriginal Groups in Canada”, Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal Peoples,
Policy Research Initiative, 2003

10The natural increase is obtained by subtracting the lowest crude death rate from the highest crude birth rate and it cannot in theory exceed the maximum crude birth rate of 5.5%.