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2006 Census: A decade of comparable data on Aboriginal Peoples

Aboriginal identity concept

Three questions form the core of the data included in the January 15, 2008 Aboriginal release: Aboriginal Identity (Question 18), Indian Band/First Nation Member (Question 20), and Registered Indian Status (Question 21). The identical questions were asked in 2006, 2001 and 1996 providing comparable data for three census years.

The Aboriginal identity population refers to individuals who said they were North American Indian, Métis or Inuit, and/or were a Treaty Indian or Registered Indian as defined by the Indian Act, and/or were members of an Indian band or First Nation.

Aboriginal ancestry concept

Ethnic origin or ancestry refers to the ethnic or cultural origin of a person's ancestors, an ancestor being usually more distant than a grandparent. In the census, if a person reports at least one Aboriginal ancestry response, the person is counted in the Aboriginal ancestry population.

Comparing Aboriginal census data over time

Any comparison of Aboriginal data across census years must adjust for incompletely enumerated reserves and settlements. Some Indian reserves and settlements did not participate in the census as enumeration was not permitted, or it was interrupted before completion. In 2006, there were 22 incompletely enumerated reserves, down from 30 in 2001 and 77 in 1996.

Why census counts differ from Indian Register Counts

The number of Registered Indians recorded by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's Indian Register differs from Statistics Canada's census counts of Registered Indians. This is because the two data sources do not count Registered Indians in the same way or for the same purpose. The Indian Register is an administrative database, while the census is a statistical survey.

The census is a snapshot of the population on Census Day. It counts individuals at the place they consider to be their usual residence, where they have spent the majority of the past year, or, if they have no other usual place of residence, where they were on Census Day — May 16, 2006. For example, individuals who are affiliated with a specific Indian band on the Indian Registry may have a usual place of residence elsewhere, such as Winnipeg, Calgary or Prince Albert.

The Indian Register includes all Registered Indians, including those living outside Canada and those in institutions. It is updated by registering events such as births, deaths, status changes, adoption, etc. In contrast, the census does not collect information about Registered Indian status from institutional residents.