Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada
Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

1. Concepts and variables

1.1 Census Concepts

1.1.1 Aboriginal ancestry

1.1.2 Aboriginal identity (single question)

1.1.3 Member of an Indian band or First Nation

1.1.4 Registered Indian or Treaty Indian

1.2 Derived concepts

1.2.1 Aboriginal identity (derived)

1.2.2 Other possible derived concepts

1.3 Geographic concept – 'On reserve'

1. Concepts and variables

There are various ways to define the Aboriginal population based on the four related questions asked in the census [Aboriginal ancestry (ethnic origin); Aboriginal identity; member of an Indian band/First Nation; Registered or Treaty Indian] depending on the focus and the requirements of the data user.

The definitions of census terms, variables and concepts are presented here and appear in the 2006 Census Dictionary – (Catalogue no. 92-566-XWE). Users should refer to the 2006 Census Dictionary for full definitions and additional remarks related to any concepts, such as information on direct and derived variables and their respective universe.

1.1 Census concepts

The four questions used on the census to identify Aboriginal peoples yield different concepts for defining different Aboriginal populations. Four commonly used concepts include:

  • Aboriginal ancestry
  • Aboriginal identity
  • Band or First Nation membership
  • Registered Indian status

The population counts from the 2006 Census using the different definitions are shown below.

Canada

Aboriginal ancestry1
Aboriginal identity2
Band or First Nation membership
Registered Indian status
1,678,200
1,172,790
620,340
623,780


1.1.1 Aboriginal ancestry

Aboriginal ancestry refers to those persons who reported at least one Aboriginal ancestry (North American Indian, Métis or Inuit) to the ethnic origin question (Question 17). 'Ethnic origin' refers to the ethnic or cultural origins of the respondent's ancestors, an ancestor being usually more distant than a grandparent.

Information on the ethnic origins of the population has been collected in all but two national censuses since Confederation in 1867. Comparability of the ethnic origin data from the 2006 Census with previous censuses has been affected by several factors, including changes in the question format, wording, examples, instructions and data processing, as well as by the social environment at the time of the census. Changes in Aboriginal participation in the census over time may also affect comparability.

1.1.2 Aboriginal identity (single question)

Aboriginal identity refers to those persons who reported identifying with at least one Aboriginal group, that is, North American Indian, Métis or Inuit. Prior to the 1996 Census, counts for Aboriginal persons were arrived at using the ethnic origin question. The 1996 Census included a question on the individual's Aboriginal identity.

The 2006 Census Aboriginal identity question is the same as the one used in 1996 and 2001.

Caution should be exercised in analyzing trends for Aboriginal peoples based on previous census data. Over time, patterns in Aboriginal self-identification have changed. In recent years, a growing number of people who had not previously identified with an Aboriginal group are now doing so. Changes in the participation of First Nations people living on reserve in the census over time also affect historical comparison.

1.1.3 Member of an Indian band or First Nation

Member of an Indian band or First Nation refers to those persons who reported being a member of an Indian band or a First Nation of Canada. In 1991, band membership was a subcomponent of Question 16 on Registered Indian status.

In the first part of this question, respondents were asked about registration status, while the second part of the question dealt with band membership. In 1996, one direct question was developed to collect data on band/First Nation membership.

Many Indian bands choose to be referred to as a First Nation and have changed their band name to reflect this. Also, with the 1985 amendment to the Indian Act of Canada (commonly referred to as Bill C-31), many Indian bands exercised the right to establish their own membership code, whereby it was not always necessary for a band member to be a Registered Indian according to the Indian Act.

The 2006 Census question is the same as the one used in 1996 and 2001.

1.1.4  Registered Indian or Treaty Indian

Registered Indian or Treaty Indian refers to those persons who reported they were registered under the Indian Act of Canada. Treaty Indians are persons who are registered under the Indian Act and can prove descent from a band that signed a treaty. Although there was a question in the 1991 Census on registration status, the layout of the 1996 question was somewhat different. In 1991, Question 16 on Registered Indians had two components. In the first part of the question, respondents were asked about their registration status, while the second part of the question dealt with band membership. The question used in 1996 asked only for registration or treaty status, while band membership was dealt with in a separate question.

Additionally, the wording of the question, starting in 1996, differs slightly from the one in previous censuses. Prior to 1996, the term 'treaty' was not included in the question. It was added in 1996 at the request of individuals from the Western provinces, where the term is more widely used.

The 2006 Census question is the same as the one used in 1996 and 2001.

1.2 Derived concepts

1.2.1  Aboriginal Identity (derived)

The derived Aboriginal identity concept refers to those persons who reported identifying with at least one Aboriginal group, that is, North American Indian, Métis or Inuit, and/or those who reported being a Treaty Indian or a Registered Indian, as defined by the Indian Act of Canada, and/or those who reported they were members of an Indian band or First Nation. The Aboriginal identity population is derived from 3 questions (Questions 18, 20 and 21).

Included in the derived Aboriginal identity population are the following (see also Figure 1):

Total Aboriginal identity population

'North American Indian' response only

'Métis' response only

'Inuit' response only

Multiple Aboriginal responses

Aboriginal responses not included elsewhere (includes those who reported themselves as being Registered or Treaty Indians and/or band members without reporting Aboriginal identity).

1.2.2 Other possible derived concepts

It is possible to derive other definitions of the Aboriginal population using different combinations of the census questions. For example, the information from Question 18 on Aboriginal identity and Question 21 on Treaty/Registered Indian status can be used to derive the First Nations (North American Indian) identity population with Registered Indian status.

Other examples are:

  • First Nations (North American Indian) identity population without Registered Indian status (non-status)
  • First Nations (North American Indian) identity population with Indian band membership
  • Registered Indian population with Indian band membership.

Users can define their population of interest according to their information and data needs and purposes for which the data are used.

1.3  Geographic concept – 'On reserve'

Census subdivision (CSD) types associated with 'on reserve' population

The 'on reserve' population is a derived census variable that is captured by using the census subdivision (CSD) type according to criteria established by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).

The 'on reserve' population includes all people living in any of eight CSD types legally affiliated with First Nations or Indian bands (described below), as well as selected CSDs of various other types that are northern communities in Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon which have large concentrations of Registered Indians. 'On Reserve' includes legally defined Indian reserves, Indian settlements, other land types created by the ratification of Self-Government Agreements and other northern communities affiliated with First Nations, according to the criteria established by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Census subdivision (CSD) is the general term for municipalities (as determined by provincial/territorial legislation) or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes (e.g., Indian reserves, Indian settlements and unorganized territories).

Users should refer to the 2006 Census Dictionary for more information on census subdivision types associated with the 'on reserve' population as well as other geographic concepts. Census subdivision CSD)

previous gif   Previous page | Table of contents | Next page  next gif