Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021
Indigenous ancestry

Release date: November 17, 2021Updated on: October 26, 2022


Indigenous ancestry refers to whether a person has ancestry associated with the Indigenous peoples of Canada, that is, First Nations (North American Indian), Métis, and/or Inuit. Aboriginal peoples (referred to here as Indigenous peoples) of Canada are defined in the Constitution Act, 1982, Section 35 (2) as including the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada. The term 'Aboriginal' has been replaced with the updated term of 'Indigenous' when referring to individuals who identify themselves as First Nations people, Métis and/or Inuit. Ancestry refers to the ethnic or cultural origins of the person's ancestors, an ancestor being usually more distant than a grandparent. A person can have more than one ethnic or cultural origin.

Statistical unit(s)


Reported in

2021 and 2016 (25% sample); 2011Footnote 1 (30% sample); 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986 and 1981 (20% sample). For availability prior to 1981, please refer to Appendix 2.1.

Reported for

Population in private households

Question number(s)

Direct variable: Question 23


Information on Indigenous ancestry is collected in Question 23 on ethnic or cultural origins. Respondents were asked to specify as many origins (ancestries) as applicable. Four lines were provided for write‑in responses, and up to six origins (ancestries) were retained.


The ethnic or cultural origins question was included on both the 2021 Census 2A‑L and 2A‑R questionnaires. Households in remote, northern and First Nations communities were enumerated with the 2021 2A‑R questionnaire.

On both the 2A‑L and 2A‑R questionnaires, the ethnic or cultural origins question asked "What were the ethnic or cultural origins of this person's ancestors?"

In addition, on the 2A‑L questionnaire and the electronic version of the 2A‑R questionnaire, the following note was provided.

Ancestors may have Indigenous origins, or origins that refer to different countries, or other origins that may not refer to different countries.

For examples of ethnic or cultural origins, see Examples of ethnic or cultural origins.

On the paper version of the 2A‑R questionnaire, the instructions and the list of examples were different.

Ancestors may have:

For additional examples of ethnic or cultural origins, see Examples of ethnic or cultural origins.

The following additional instructions on how to complete the 2021 ethnic or cultural origins question were provided to respondents via a help button accessed in the electronic questionnaire.

This question refers to the ethnic or cultural origin or origins of a person's ancestors. Other than Indigenous persons, most people can trace their origins to their ancestors who first came to this continent. Ancestry should not be confused with citizenship, nationality or language.

For all persons, report the specific ethnic or cultural origin or origins of their ancestors.

For examples, refer to the list of ethnic or cultural origins. If applicable, you may report an ethnic or cultural origin that is not on the list of examples.

For persons with South Asian origins, report a specific origin or origins. Do not report "Indian." Instead, report "Indian (India)" or a specific South Asian origin, such as "Punjabi" or "Tamil."

For persons with North American Indigenous or Aboriginal ancestry, report a specific origin or origins. Do not report "Aboriginal," "Indigenous," "Native" or "Indian." Instead, report "First Nations," "North American Indian," "Métis," "Inuit," or a specific First Nations origin, such as "Cree" or "Mi'kmaq."

For persons with Indigenous or Aboriginal ancestry from outside North America, report a specific origin or origins. Do not report "Aboriginal," "Indigenous," "Native" or "Indian." Instead, report "Central or South American Indigenous" or a specific Indigenous origin, such as "Arawak" or "Maya."

Users should be aware that the estimates associated with this variable are more affected than most by the incomplete enumeration of certain reserves and settlements in the Census of Population.

For additional information on the collection and dissemination of Indigenous data, including incompletely enumerated reserves and settlements, refer to the Indigenous Peoples Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2021 and the Indigenous Peoples Technical Report, Census of Population, 2021.


Related 2021 data products

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