Evidence of meeting #34 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was métis.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jane Badets  Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada
Dan Beavon  Director, Research and Analysis Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Eric Guimond  Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Cathy Connors  Manager, Aboriginal Surveys, Statistics Canada

June 16th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

I call to order meeting number 34 of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

We had decided that we would have Statistics Canada and Indian Affairs come before us today. We're going to start with Statistics Canada and then go on to the Department of Indian Affairs.

First of all, I hear that congratulations are in order for one of our colleagues on this committee. Mr. Chris Warkentin and his wife have just had a baby girl, so that's why he's not in today. We're very happy for him.

I know that some members are waiting to speak on Tsawwassen and Bill C-34, so that's why some of them aren't here. I think some members will be coming and going, so no offence, but we have some rotating members who are on the speaking list.

I think we'll start with Ms. Badets. Go ahead.

3:35 p.m.

Jane Badets Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

I'd like to thank the committee and the chair for inviting Statistics Canada here today to present results from the 2006 census on aboriginal people, that is, first nations, Métis, and Inuit.

I'm here with my colleague Cathy Connors, who is the assistant director of the aboriginal statistics program at Statistics Canada. We will be pleased to answer your questions at the end of this presentation.

I'm just following the overheads. I'm on number two. The presentation today will cover the following topics: the growth and diversity of the aboriginal population, based on 2006 results--where they live, their age structure. The census is a rich source of information on aboriginal languages and languages in general, so I'll present some information on that topic. As well, I will cover housing conditions, some information on education and labour force characteristics of the aboriginal population, and conclude with what further data Statistics Canada will be making available this coming year.

There is certainly far too much information available from the census on these topics to present to you in the short time I have available. So the objective for this afternoon is that I present mean trends to illustrate some key findings. Much of this information is now available for researchers and users of the data to explore these topics in greater depth.

Before presenting the data trends, I would like to talk first about concepts. Statistics Canada has four concepts for identifying aboriginal people that relate to specific questions on the census questionnaire. The first concept is aboriginal ancestry, which comes from the ethnic origin question that asks, “What were the ethnic or cultural origins of this person's ancestors?” Secondly, aboriginal identity is a question that asks, “Is this person an aboriginal person, that is, North American Indian, Métis, or Inuit?” Third is whether a person is a treaty or registered Indian as defined by the Indian Act of Canada. And the final question is whether a person is a member of an Indian band or first nation.

Users of census data can use different concepts or a combination of these concepts, depending on their information or program needs. For this presentation I will focus primarily on aboriginal identity. This includes people who said they were an aboriginal person and/or a registered Indian and/or a member of an Indian band or first nation.

The aboriginal identity concept meets the data needs of a vast number of data users across Canada, based on extensive consultations we do with governments, aboriginal organizations, and other data users for each census. It is based on self-identification, has been asked consistently since the 1996 census, and covers the three aboriginal groups mentioned in the Canadian Constitution.

The census is the most comprehensive source of demographic and socio-economic information on aboriginal peoples in Canada. It provides information on the specific aboriginal groups or for communities across Canada and allows for comparisons with the non-aboriginal population.

The data from the census are subjected to many processes and verification to meet Statistics Canada's high standards in regard to data quality. Despite all efforts, some people are missed by the census. For example, in 2001 it was estimated the census missed about 3% of the total population.

In terms of coverage of Indian reserves and settlements in 2006, there were 22 of what we call “incompletely enumerated reserves” for which no census data are available. This is down from 30 in 2001 and 77 in 1996.

So while we've seen improvement in the coverage in this aspect, there are data quality issues for some individual reserves.

Data for communities such as first nations cannot be released for two main reasons. One reason is that the population of the community or reserve is too small to release for confidentiality reasons. The second reason is that the data for that community do not meet quality standards, which are applied to all community-level data from the census.

We are currently working with our colleagues at Indian and Northern Affairs and other partners to better understand the data quality that we do have for individual reserves.

I should also note that in this presentation I'm going to show you data. I'm going to show you changes in percentages and proportions between censuses, which have been accounted to adjust for these incompletely enumerated reserves where we have no data. That is to say, we only include those reserves, for example, that participated in both the 2001 and the 2006 censuses when I make those comparisons between these two time periods.

In 2006, 1.2 million people reported having an aboriginal identity—that is the short pink line on the graph—compared with 1.7 million who reported aboriginal ancestry. That's the long blue line. There has been a steady increase of people reporting either aboriginal ancestry or aboriginal identity over time in the census. These increases in recent years can be attributed to demographic factors, one example being higher birth rates, and to non-demographic factors, for example, increased numbers deciding to identify as aboriginal. It could also be the result of changes in the way we ask questions.

We recognize that the aboriginal population is diverse and that their conditions vary by region and by group. We will provide, where possible, group-specific information.

There were close to 700,000 first nations people in Canada in 2006, accounting for 60% of the aboriginal population.

I should note at this point that I'm going to be using the terms “first nations” and “North American Indian” interchangeably.

The largest group was first nations or North American Indians reporting as registered or treaty Indians—about 565,000. First nations or North American Indians who did not report as registered or treaty Indians numbered around 133,000. The second largest group was the Métis, at around 390,000, and they accounted for about a third of the total aboriginal population in 2006. The Inuit were around 50,000, and they represented 4% of the aboriginal population. The remainder, 34,000, were people who reported more than one aboriginal group or other aboriginal responses.

Of the three aboriginal groups, the largest increase in population between 2001 and 2006 was observed for the Métis, with a growth rate of 33%. The increase in Métis can be attributed to demographic factors, but it is more likely due to increased numbers self-identifying as Métis. The second highest growth rate, 28%, was with the first nations or North American Indian population who did not report as registered Indians. The Inuit grew by 12%. Finally, the first nations reporting as registered Indians grew by 12%. In comparison, the non-aboriginal population grew at a much lower rate during this five-year period.

As of 2001, the vast majority of aboriginal people live in Ontario and the west. Although the largest number live in Ontario, they made up a small share of the provincial population at 2%. On the other hand, aboriginal people made up 85% of Nunavut's population, mostly Inuit; one-half in NWT; 25% in the Yukon; and 15% each in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Half of all aboriginal people lived in urban areas in 2006. Winnipeg was home to the largest aboriginal population, which, at just over 68,000 people, accounted for one in ten Winnipeggers. Edmonton had the next largest aboriginal population. Aboriginal people made up a larger share of the population of several smaller urban centres, especially in the west, in such places as Prince Albert, Saskatchewan; Thompson, Manitoba; and Prince Rupert, B.C. One-third of the population in each of these centres was aboriginal.

Like the total aboriginal population, most first nations people live in Ontario and the west. However, they made up 3% or less of the populations of Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, respectively. First nations people accounted for three out of ten people in NWT, two out of ten in Yukon, and one out of ten in each of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The proportion of the population living on-reserve in 2006 varied by census concept from 43% for the total population who identified as North American Indian, what we're referring to as first nations, to 54% who reported first nations or North American single ancestry. Depending on the program or information need, users may wish to use these different concepts, or a combination of these concepts, to look at the on-reserve population.

If you were looking at how the proportions changed over time, you would need to take into account the incompletely enumerated reserves for each census. If you did this and compared the 1996 and 2006 censuses, then the proportion of first nations identity population living on-reserve in 2006 would be 40%.

Like the first nations population, most of the people who identified as Métis live in the west and in Ontario. Between 2001 and 2006, the Métis population grew fastest in Alberta, at 22%, followed by Ontario at 19% and Manitoba at 18%. These growth rates could be due to people deciding to self-identify as Métis, rather than to purely demographic factors.

In terms of the Inuit population, three-quarters, or 78%, lived in one of the four regions within Inuit Nunaat--“Nunaat” being the Inuktitut expression for “homeland”--that stretches from Labrador to the Northwest Territories.

In 2006 about half the Inuit lived in Nunavut; 19% in Nunavik; 6% in the Inuvialuit region; 4% in Nunatsiavut; 5% in rural areas outside Inuit Nunaat; and 17% in urban areas outside Inuit Nunaat.

In terms of the age structure, the aboriginal population is still a much younger population than the non-aboriginal population. This is shown, in slide 14, within this age/sex pyramid. In 2006 half of aboriginal people were under age 25, as compared with about one-third of the non-aboriginal population. Another way to look at this is by median age--that is, the point at which half the population is older and half the population is younger. The median age of the total aboriginal population was 27 years in 2006, as compared with 40 years for the non-aboriginal population. By group, the median age for first nations was 25 years, 30 years for Métis, and 22 years for Inuit.

With regard to languages, the census recorded more than 60 first nations languages spoken in Canada. In both 2001 and 2006, about 30% of first nations people in Canada could carry on a conversation in a first nations language. It was higher on-reserve than off-reserve, at 51% versus 12%.

The Inuit language, Inuktitut, was the strongest of the aboriginal languages despite some decline in its use. Around two-thirds of Inuit reported Inuktitut as their mother tongue in 2006. About half spoke it regularly at home, and about seven out of ten reported being able to speak the language.

The next three to four slides touch briefly on housing conditions, education, and labour force.

In terms of housing conditions, despite some improvements over the past decade, Inuit, most of whom live in the north, and first nations people on-reserve live in some of the most crowded conditions in the country. “Crowded” is defined in the census as more than one person per room. And by “room” we mean the main rooms in the dwelling.

Another housing indicator is the extent that people report living in a home needing major repairs. In general, a higher proportion of aboriginal groups reported living in a home in need of major repairs than was the case with the non-aboriginal population. Inuit and first nations people on-reserve are more likely to report living in a home in need of major repairs. Unlike crowding, the need for major repairs has not improved for these two groups over the past decade.

From the census we also collect information on levels of schooling. This graph provides an overview of selected educational levels for both the aboriginal population and non-aboriginal population aged 25 to 64. Compared with the non-aboriginal population, there was a considerable gap between the proportion of the aboriginal population with university credentials, 8% versus 23%. On the other hand, a slightly higher proportion of aboriginal people had an apprenticeship or trade certificate than the non-aboriginal population, 14% versus 12%. Of course, this information can be looked at in more depth along different aboriginal groups.

Finally, in terms of the employment situation at the time of the census, 2006 showed slight gains in the employment rate for all aboriginal groups, but there still remains a gap with the employment rates of non-aboriginal people. First nations on-reserve and the Inuit had the lowest employment rates in 2001 and in 2006, compared with other aboriginal groups and the non-aboriginal population.

That concludes my presentation. There will be further information coming out on the aboriginal people this coming year. In the fall of 2008 we will be releasing the results of two aboriginal surveys that were conducted following the 2006 census. Both surveys collected information on first nations living off-reserve, Métis, and the Inuit. The Aboriginal Children's Survey is a new survey that collects information on children aged zero to five. The Aboriginal Peoples Survey will provide information on children aged six to 14, and the population aged 15 and over. As well, in the fall, data will be released from the Labour Force Survey, for the first time providing national data on the labour market conditions of the aboriginal population, excluding reserves.

That concludes my presentation. Thank you.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

Thank you very much.

I believe Mr. Beavon is giving the next presentation.

3:50 p.m.

Dan Beavon Director, Research and Analysis Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

I'd like to thank the standing committee for the opportunity to appear.

I'm Dan Beavon, and I'm the director of strategic research and analysis at Indian Affairs. I have a group of about 24 researchers, who are probably the heaviest users of aboriginal data, including census data, in Canada. Our group has published, I think, in the last five years at least seven books in the academic press and dozens of articles in different peer-reviewed journals, as well as dozens of studies that we put up on our Internet site as well.

I'm going to turn the presentation over to Eric Guimond. He is one of my senior researchers, and a demographer. He is also a former Statistics Canada employee and probably understands the census data better than anyone else in Canada.

I'll turn it over to Eric.

3:50 p.m.

Eric Guimond Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

I will be speaking to you in French.

Like Dan, I would like to begin by thanking you for inviting us to join our colleagues from Statistics Canada to talk about the 2006 census.

My presentation will certainly complement that of Ms. Badets. We will provide some brief updates, and highlight some aspects of her presentation. I will also present a quick update of our analyses of the main products available. With regard to those products, you have—or at least most of you have—seen them as part of a presentation we made here some two years ago.

The first point I would like to draw to your attention was already raised by my director. We are extremely big users of census data. There is a very simple reason for that: the census is the sole source of comparable data for aboriginal populations in Canada. Since the 1996 census, the quality of figures provided by Statistics Canada is superior to the quality from years past, and that makes it possible for us to monitor the living conditions of aboriginal populations far more effectively.

With regard to the 2006 data, analyses underway in our units include the growth of aboriginal populations in urban areas, as well as migration and mobility. I will give you an overview of the results obtained to date.The results of analyses on educational levels and housing conditions will be provided later. I would also like to mention the human development index, and the community welfare index, which we spoke of at length during our first visit.

We always have to look at definitions. As my colleague pointed out, there are several ways of defining aboriginal populations on the basis of the census. Nowadays, most federal departments, as well as Statistics Canada, agree on a definition that I would call a hybrid definition. It uses three indicators: whether a person is a registered Indian, whether the person has an aboriginal identity, and whether the person belongs to an Indian band or first nation.

The figures published by Indian Affairs and Statistics Canada differ in their distribution. By this, I mean distribution respecting groups within the aboriginal population. The total number published by Indian Affairs is the same as that published by Statistics Canada—1.172 million individuals. Statistics Canada divides them into three groups: first nations, Métis and Inuit. Indian Affairs divides the larger group as follows: status Indians, non-status Indians, Métis and Inuit. That makes it possible for us to monitor the living conditions of aboriginal groups in much greater detail.

The definitions selected can have major repercussions on how data are interpreted, and following the initial interpretation, how the same data are interpreted by non-experts. On the next slide, I will show you an example of the impact the choice of definition can have. On January 15, Statistics Canada published the initial figures on the aboriginal populations from the census of aboriginal populations, and indicated that 40% of first nations people resided on an Indian reserve in 2006. That is the bar you see on the left of the graph. So 40% of first nations people lived on reserve, and 60% lived off reserve. That estimate includes a non-status Indian population, almost all of whom—97%—lives off reserve. For the 40% in question, there was some confusion in the media, and some aboriginal organizations, and without any doubt among some percentage of the population. What do those figures mean?

We noted that, in the media—among other places—figures were interpreted as indicating a mass exodus from Indian reserves. Yet, as I said it at my last visit, and as the new 2006 census data indicate, there is no mass exodus from Indian reserves. People are not leaving Indian communities in large numbers to live in the cities. Those three circles you see on the diagram indicate the migration numbers for 2001 to 2006. In reserves, there is a positive influx of over 6,000 individuals. That means 6,000 more people moved into the reserve than the number of people who moved out of the reserve.

People interpret the spectacular growth in the number of urban aboriginals as being a reflection of mass migration away from the reserves. But if we look at the number of migrants more closely, we see that migration accounts for only 5% of the growth in urban aboriginal populations.

This may seem like a low and somewhat unimportant figure, and again seem like something that concerns researchers who spend too long locked in their cubicles. However, it remains that poor interpretation of the reasons for urban growth, the attribution of urban growth to mass migration from the reserves, would mean that policy formulated would be geared to the wrong thing. The policies would be geared to an erroneous interpretation and circumstances that in fact do not exist.

We have to be careful of the way we interpret urban growth. It is not linked to migration. As Ms. Badets says on the following page, among Métis in particular, the primary component of the urban aboriginal population explosion is due to changes in self-reporting of ethnic identity from one census to another.

Between 1996 and 2006, the urban aboriginal population increased by 59%. That increase is much higher than the increase in the non-aboriginal population, which is only 13%. Many people immediately interpret that as meaning that urban aboriginals have many more children than non-aboriginals. The birth rate among aboriginals is indeed higher, but as I said earlier, the determining factor in the growth observed is a change in self-reporting of ethnic identity. In fact, the more detailed analyses I have already published at Statistics Canada show that, for Métis, almost two-thirds of population growth between 1986 and 1996—and we could even say from 1986 to 2001—are due to changes in self-reporting.

As I was saying, earlier, the misinterpretation of urban population growth could result in over-emphasis of migration from Indian reserves to cities. It might also lead to pressures for a policy shift away from first nations and Inuit communities. Using the community wellness index, it has been recognized that those are amongst the most socio-economically disadvantaged communities in Canada. Misinterpretation of the urban population growth could therefore have a significant impact on policy orientation. That is why I am so insistent on the importance of definitions.

Regarding the quality of data, my colleague has pointed out that there has been a very significant improvement in what we call collective participation, participation by communities. The number of communities who refused to participate dropped from 77 in 1996 to 22 in 2006.

However, individual coverage remains a significant challenge. With regard to small communities and the quality of information, we have no specific information for 166 Indian reserves, a number that represents a significant percentage of all reserves. However, those 166 Indian communities account for 67% of the Indian communities with which there are data issues. Indian reserves are therefore significantly over-represented in comparison with all communities for which there are data quality issues.

With regard to carrying out the census, the Department of Indian Affairs has been a financial partner for a long time now. For the 2006-2010 cycle, our department is providing $1.2 million a year. Negotiations for the next cycle will soon begin. With regard to the dissemination of analyses I spoke of at the beginning of this presentation, this fall there will be a detailed presentation on urban population growth, migration and mobility, as well as on the human development index. Lastly, in the winter of 2009, we will tackle the community wellness index, and produce far more detailed analyses on educational levels and housing conditions. All those analyses will be presented at our next conference on aboriginal policy research, which is to take place in March 2009.

Thank you for your attention. I would be happy to take your questions in either French or English, as you prefer.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

Thank you very much.

I don't think I'm going to try to ask you questions in my mother tongue, because I don't think anyone will understand me.

4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

But thank you for the offer.

As I said earlier, quite a few of our Liberal members are missing today because they're in the chamber waiting to speak on a bill. But we have Mr. Mark Eyking sitting in for some of our members, so we'll start off with him.

If you have any time left over, I'll ask one question at the end.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm glad to be here today, and I'm glad to have the presenters who are here today, because they are very fitting to my concerns.

You often mention a focus on the native population in western Canada. I represent the largest aboriginal community in eastern Canada; it's the Mi'kmaq community of Eskasoni. Eskasoni is expanding quite fast. It has a considerable population; I think it's heading for 10,000 in the next few years. I have three other native communities in my riding, but when you look at Eskasoni, it is pretty well a snapshot of what's happening across the country, with the opportunities and challenges they're facing.

Whenever I visit the chief and the council there, the first thing they bring up is the problem they're having with the increase in their population and how the services and housing are not meeting the increase in their population.

So I have two questions. The first one would probably be to Statistics Canada, and it would be about all of Canada. Do you have any numbers that would say how many inhabitants there are per dwelling, on average, across Canada in native communities? And how does that compare with non-native communities? That would be my first question.

And my second question, I guess, would go to Indian and Northern Affairs. It seems to me that they are failing to react to this, though they've known for years how fast this population is increasing. They would seem to be failing to react to this growing population in providing adequate housing—and not only adequate housing, but also the services like water and sewage that are needed to accommodate that adequate housing.

Those are my two questions.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

Thank you.

I forgot to remind the questioners that it's a seven-minute round for this one.

Ms. Badets.

4:05 p.m.

Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jane Badets

I'll just answer your first question. I don't know if I have that right offhand, as it is something that we would have to provide. But what we did show was the percentage living in what we call crowded dwellings, that is, dwellings with more than one person per the main rooms in a household—and that is for across Canada and compared with non-aboriginal housing.

So you can see that first nations on-reserve are more likely to live in crowded conditions—although there have been some improvements in that area. Now, it may vary across regions, and we recognize that, and the census data could provide you with that. But the figure was about 3% for the non-aboriginal population. For first nations on-reserve, it was 33% in 1996, down to 26% in 2006.

So that gives you a sense of the gaps there.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

So 26% are overcrowded?

4:05 p.m.

Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jane Badets

Yes. And you can look at that with census data. You can look at it by region or by community as well.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

And of course, compared with non-aboriginal, I mean—

4:05 p.m.

Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jane Badets

The non-aboriginal is 3%.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

That's 3%, okay. So there's quite a difference.

4:05 p.m.

Director, Research and Analysis Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Dan Beavon

I don't know if we can fully respond to your question, because we're probably not the most appropriate persons from our department to do so. On the research side, we're the ones who try to speak truth to power. We're the group that does the population projections, which we then provide to the program and policy people to address these issues you've raised.

More recently, in addition to doing the demand side, we've been working on the supply side in terms of forecast. And Eric has been working with CMHC on developing models of the demand for housing.

I don't know if Eric wants to add something to that on the CMHC research that he's been doing.

4:05 p.m.

Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Eric Guimond

Yes, it's extensive research on housing needs, covering all aboriginal groups, both on- and off-reserve. It's been a project long in development—for well over two years, because of the extent of the data that need to be covered and analyzed. And it's also done in partnership with our housing folks at INAC.

So we have, right now, some draft reports in hand that we hope to be able to circulate in early fall.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

But that's research. I'm not trying to be smart here, but I could almost tell you what the research is going to give you, and it's almost what Statistics Canada already has of what's needed out there.

In conjunction with the research, is the department...? You mentioned Canada Mortgage and Housing. Does it have enough funds available in its budget to meet what Indian and Northern Affairs is looking for? Is it the right partner?

I know these questions might be a bit sensitive, and you probably can't answer them, but I'm not too excited about hearing more research is going to be done. I'm looking for somebody right now to change what's happening, to get ahead of this curve.

4:05 p.m.

Senior Research Manager, Research and Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Eric Guimond

You're referring to the supply side. As my director points out, we're not the best people to answer that question.

But on the demand side, the literature was pretty silent in terms of the detailed information that was required to handle family doubling, overcrowding, and population growth. I agree with you that things could be researched to death, but that was the missing piece in this particular area. In terms of work that needs to be done, this was acknowledged by the national aboriginal organizations about two years ago when the project started.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Okay, Madam Chair.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

Thank you very much.

I have about 40 seconds.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I'm sorry.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

That's okay.

I'm very interested in what you identified as self-identifying aboriginal people, especially the Métis. I had a friend who was first nations and was married to a non-aboriginal. She told me that her son had self-identified as a Métis because he was of a mixed marriage. That made me think this might be one of the reasons you have a 33% growth in the Métis identity.

I just wondered whether there were some definitions in the self-identity part of the survey in terms of the category you would fall under.

4:10 p.m.

Director, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

Jane Badets

That's a good point, and we do hear that.

We do quite extensive consultations and we do, certainly, qualitative.... We do testing leading up to each census as well, just to check the validity of this and how people respond.

In general, self-identification is a little bit fluid, and we know that. We do not have a definition of Métis on the questionnaire. There's no real consensus of what a Métis is, so it is left to the judgment of the individual.

We've just finished a series of what we call regional discussions with aboriginal organizations and aboriginal people across the country on the questions leading up to the 2011 census. So we are looking at, not so much for the Métis, certainly giving some more indication on that question--for example, how status or non-status are supposed to respond. That's something we've heard; people are not quite sure. That's something we take into account. We certainly look at each census and try to adjust as we can. But unfortunately there is no universally accepted definition for the Métis.