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Lesson 5 - The First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples of Canada

This lesson was written by The Critical Thinking Consortium with editorial input and subject matter expertise from Statistics Canada's Education Outreach Program and Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.


Learners will create population pyramids illustrating the growth of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations in Canada. Aboriginal populations include Inuit, Métis and First Nations on and off reserve. Then learners will examine the graphs to draw inferences about the needs of a young and growing Aboriginal population. Finally, learners will use statistical evidence to validate statements regarding the growth of Aboriginal populations.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

Intermediate, secondary – Grades 7 to 12
Social studies, Geography, Aboriginal studies, History


Learners will demonstrate:

  • understanding of various causes of demographic shifts
  • ability to create and interpret various population graphs
  • ability to draw inferences from statistical data
  • ability to effectively assess the validity of statements and generalizations using statistical data
  • ability to effectively support decisions and develop plausible conclusions with appropriate evidence.


Classroom instructions

Learners will focus on two key areas:

  • identifying key demographic trends associated with the Aboriginal population of Canada;
  • analysing the living conditions and quality of life of the Aboriginal population of Canada.

Activity 1: Create population pyramids

Provide each learner with a copy of the following:

  • Handout 1(a): Population pyramid – Aboriginal population of Canada
  • Handout 1(b): Population pyramid – Non-Aboriginal population of Canada
  • Handout 3: Population data.

Showing Handout 2: Sample population pyramid as an example, inform learners that they will create two pyramid graphs of various age groups – one graph of the Aboriginal population and one of the non-Aboriginal population in Canada. They will plot the information found on Handout 3 on their graphs.

Encourage learners to label their graphs as follows:

  • horizontal axis: 'number of people'
  • vertical axis: 'age groups'
  • left side of graph: 'males'
  • right side of graph: 'females.'

Provide the following guidelines to learners who need assistance in creating the scale for the horizontal axis:

  • Using a ruler, extend the horizontal axis of the graph exactly 13cm left and right from the vertical axis, so that the total length of the horizontal axis is 26cm.
  • Divide the horizontal axis into 1 cm segments. Label the intersection of the horizontal and vertical axes '0.'
  • For the Aboriginal population pyramid, create segments of 5,000 to the right and left of '0.' Continue labeling in 5000 increments so that each side ends at 60,000.
  • For the non-Aboriginal population pyramid, create segments of 100,000 to the right and left of '0.' Continue labeling in 100,000 increments so that each side ends at 1,300,000.

Encourage learners who have access to computers with spreadsheet software to use the following procedures:

  1. Organize the population data from Handout 3 into age groups.
  2. Create two columns and put data for 'males' on the left, and for 'females' on the right.
  3. Change the 'male' numbers to negative numbers.
  4. Using the software's graphing function, select the horizontal bar graph option.

Alternatively, ask learners to create Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population pyramids that illustrate the percentage of the total Canadian population that each age group represents. They could calculate these percentages using a total Canadian population figure of 31,612,880.

After creating both population pyramids, ask learners to examine the general shape of each one. Invite them to consider what they might infer from the shape of each graph by asking questions such as the following:

  • 'What is the most notable difference between the shapes of the two population pyramids?' Learners might indicate that the shape of the non-Aboriginal population pyramid is associated with an older population while the shape of the Aboriginal population pyramid reflects a very young population.
  • 'What factors might contribute to the difference between the two pyramids?' Learners might indicate that the difference between the pyramids could be attributed to non-Aboriginal peoples having fewer children.

Provide each learner with a copy of Handout 4: Population pyramids – First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Ask them to compare the Aboriginal population pyramid that they created with pyramids for each of the three Aboriginal groups. Ask them: 'What are the differences between the various Aboriginal pyramids?'

Assess learner responses using Evaluation rubric 1: Assessing the graphs.

Activity 2: Identify the needs

Organize learners into teams of two or three and provide each learner with a copy of Handout 5: Needs of a growing population. Focusing on the age of Canada's Inuit, Métis and First Nations populations (see Handout 4), invite learners to think of the needs posed by a young and growing population – both social needs (housing, education, health care) and economic needs, (employment and business). The questions in the left-hand column of the chart can guide learners in identifying these needs. For example, learners might note under the 'social' dimension that 'access to basic education programs for all youth' is a need associated with a young and growing population. Remind learners to provide at least one piece of supporting evidence/data for each identified need.

Supporting evidence can be found in Handout 3 from the previous activity, as well as in the sources of Census data

The Daily, January 15, 2008: Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Métis and First Nations, 2006 Census

Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Métis and First Nations, 2006 Census:
- Highlights
- Findings

Learners could use the following criteria to assess the significance of needs:

  • Breadth: How widely felt is the need? Do many people in a population require the need or is it only a small segment of the population?
  • Depth: How deeply will the absence of this need impact people's lives? Will meeting the need impact people's lives in a profound or meaningful way?
  • Duration: How long would effects be felt if the need goes unmet? How long would effects be felt if the need was met?

To extend this activity, you could ask learners to examine the shape of the population pyramid for Canada's non-Aboriginal population (see Handout 2). Invite learners to consider the following questions:

  • What unique needs are created by the demographic changes in the non-Aboriginal population?
  • Are there any examples of where the needs of an aging population might be satisfied by addressing the needs of a growing population?

For additional activities and information on the needs of Canada's aging population, refer to the lesson on Canada's Aging Population.

Assess learner responses using Evaluation rubric 2: Assessing the evidence and effects of change.

Activity 3: Validate statements

Begin the activity by encouraging learners to think of possible uses for statistical data. Learners might indicate that statistics could be used as measurements or to support arguments or opinions. Inform learners that statistical data can also be used to assess the accuracy of statements from the media.

As an example, invite learners to consider the statement: 'The quality of life of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in Canada has improved drastically since 2002.' Ask learners to identify two pieces of statistical data from the links below to determine whether or not the statement is accurate:

Organize learners into teams and provide each learner with a copy of Handout 6: Assessing the accuracy of statements. Instruct learners to assess the accuracy of the example statement found on the handout 'The number of people with knowledge of an Aboriginal language is steadily decreasing.' Encourage learners to use census data from the following link:

The statement is inaccurate since 'the number of people who had knowledge of an Aboriginal language increased from 50% of all age groups in 2001 to 51% in 2006.'

Encourage learners to identify headlines, titles, or quotes from media sources that do not have explicit statistical support.

Direct learners to record three additional statements and their sources in the left-hand column of the chart. Ask them to use following steps to evaluate each statement:

  • record the statement and source in the left-hand column of the chart
  • identify and record statistics from census sources that support or contradict the statement
  • indicate the accuracy of the statement
  • explain how the statistics support or contradict the statement.

Guide learners to follow the same strategy used in the sample statements to assess the accuracy of three additional statements.

Invite learners to share their selected statements and assessments with the class. Guide the class in creating five statements that accurately describe various dimensions of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations, such as population growth, language use and living conditions. These statements should include census data.

Assess learner responses using the Evaluation rubric 3: Assessing statement validation.