Methodological Overview:

The methodology used to generate the data for the 2011 Aboriginal Urban Demographic Project is based on using four main data sources: 1. The 2011 Census Data, 2. Semi-custom tabulations of the 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey and 4. the Community Well-being Index.  The overviews provides useful information that describes the population as well as information on income, housing, education, labour market activity, mobility patterns and language and traditional activities of Urban Aboriginal people in Canada. It is intended to provide a quick access point for analyzed data for academics, government and private industry. It is helpful for community research and information, as well as for communities to use in proposal submissions, to identify new areas of development for programming and to better understand the population they work with, and to use this data in a more applied way. For a complete overview of the Aboriginal People’s Survey (APS) please visit Statistics Canada at

Interpreting Results

Random Rounding:

Statistics Canada applies a confidentiality procedure of random rounding to all Census data to avoid the possibility of associating statistical data with any identifiable individual. With this method all data, including totals and margins are randomly rounded either up or down to a multiple of “5” or in some cases “10”. As a result, the sum of a set of data may not add to the total, and percentages, which are calculated on rounded figures, do not necessarily add to 100%. The impact of this procedure is particularly noticeable on small counts. In effect, small numbers may lose their precision, and percentages calculated based on these numbers may not represent the proportion of the population indicated. This is especially important when interpreting findings for the First Nations and populations described in this report. In such cases, the percentages in a table may add to over and in some instances less than 100%, and the reader is advised to apply a cautionary note when interpreting the findings.


In addition, to random rounding Statistics Canada also applies area and data suppression which results in the deletion of all information for geographic areas with populations below a specified size. For example, areas with a population of less than 40 persons are suppressed. If the community searched has a population of less than 40 persons, only the total population counts will be available. Suppression of data can be due to poor data quality or to other technical reasons. As a result, depending on the size of the community there may be instances in this tool where data is not available due to suppression. 

Defining the Aboriginal Population

Defining the Aboriginal population of Canada can be somewhat problematic and can result in different estimates of its size. There is no single or “correct” definition of the Aboriginal population and the choice of a definition depends on the purpose for which it is to be used. Different definitions/counts are used depending on the focus and requirements of the user.

Aboriginal Identity Groups

The 2006 Census provides data that are based on the definitions of ethnic origin (ancestry), Aboriginal identity, Registered Indian, and Band membership. For purposes of analysis, this study uses the concept of Registered Indian to provide a statistical profile of the social, economic, and demographic conditions of the urban Aboriginal population in the City of Edmonton.

The Aboriginal identity population includes all those who identified themselves in the 2001 Census as Aboriginal and/or identified themselves as Registered Indians or members of an Indian Band or First Nation. The population is derived from Census questions 18, 20 and 21. Question 18 asks people if they are North American Indian, Métis or Inuit and allows for multiple responses. Question 20 asks people whether they are a member of an Indian Band or First Nation and, if so, to give the name of the First Nation. Question 21 asks if the person is a “treaty or Registered Indian,” defined as someone who is registered under the Indian Act. 

The term “Total Aboriginal” is used to include all Aboriginal identity groups: Registered Indian (on and off reserve), Inuit, Métis and other multiple Aboriginal non-status individuals.  The “Other Canadian” population is the total Canadian population minus the total Aboriginal identity population.  All of the tables in this study concerning individuals use these identity categories

  1. Aboriginal Ancestry/Origin refers to those persons who reported at least one Aboriginal origin (North American Indian, Métis or Inuit) on the ethnic origin question in the Census. The question asks about the ethnic or cultural group(s) to which the respondent’s ancestors belong.
  2. Aboriginal Identity refers to those persons who reported identifying with at least one Aboriginal group, i.e. North American Indian, Métis or Inuit. Also included are individuals, who did not report an Aboriginal identity but did report themselves as a Registered or Treaty Indian and/or Band or First Nation membership.
  3. Registered or Treaty Indian refers to those who reported they were registered under the Indian Act of Canada. Treaty Indians are persons who are registered under the Indian Act of Canada and can prove descent from a Band that signed a treaty. The term “treaty Indian” is more widely used in the Prairie Provinces. 
  4. 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.

Data Sources

The 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey

The 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) is a national survey of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people living in urban centers across Canada. Urban centers are defined by small population centre (1,000 to 29,999), median population centre (30,000 to 99,999) and large population centre (10,000 or more), these populations do not include Aboriginals living in rural areas. The 2012 APS is the fourth cycle of the survey and provides detailed data on education, employment and health unique to Urban Aboriginal people. The survey addresses topics such as number of schools attended, exposure to Aboriginal languages, traditional activities, peer influences and plans for further schooling. The APS provides key statistics to inform policy and programming activities aimed at improving the well-being of Aboriginal Peoples. The 2012 APS is a robust data source and valuable source of information for a variety of stakeholders including Aboriginal organizations, communities, service providers, researchers, governments and the general public. The Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) provides data on the social and economic conditions of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people living in Canada.  Again, the sections that utilize APS data in this tool apply to Aboriginal people living off reserve in small, medium and large centres and not those people residing in rural communities.

The 2011 Census of Population 

The Census is designed to provide information about the demographic and social characteristics of the people living in Canada and the housing/dwelling units they occupy. The Census is conducted every 5 years by Statistics Canada in an effort to collect information on the basic demographics of the Canadian population, including the Aboriginal population according to a variety of socio-economic and demographic characteristics such as sex, age, marital status and language. The Census of Population is the basis for the population estimates for the provinces, territories and municipalities. The information collected supports federal and provincial legislation. The population estimates from the decennial census are used to determine the distribution of federal transfer payments to the provinces and territories and the information gathered through the Census is used to support planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of governments at all levels, as well as data users in the academic and private sector.  

Data Limitations

While the objective of the Census of Population is to provide a snapshot of detailed information on the social, economic and demographic conditions of the population on Census Day, inevitably a small percentage of the population are not included. Undercoverage occurs for a variety of reasons including, for example: because a household did not receive a questionnaire, an individual has no usual place of residence or did not spend the night of Census Day in a dwelling. Undercoverage is an important issue to consider especially when interpreting and analyzing Census data for the Aboriginal population for two reasons:

  1. It can be exceedingly difficult to delineate an accurate portrait of the urban Aboriginal population if one takes into consideration the high degree of mobility. Research studies have shown that a significant proportion of the Aboriginal population are transient and frequently move between on-reserve and off-reserve locations, as well as within census metropolitan areas.
  2. One must consider the magnitude of undercounted Aboriginal people, and how this impacts the counts by Aboriginal Identity group status and geographic location. However, despite these limitations, the Census is still regarded as one of the most up-to-date and comprehensive sources of data available on Aboriginal people in Canada.

The 2011 National Household Survey (NHS)

The National Household Survey (NHS) began within four weeks of the May 2011 Census and included approximately 4.5 million households. Based on a federal decision announced in June 2010, the mandatory long questionnaire also known as the 2B Long Form was replaced by a voluntary survey at the time of data collection for the 2011 Census known as the National Household Survey (NHS). Many departments, agencies and local planners who have used the data from the long census questionnaire now find themselves having to spend extra time familiarizing themselves with the changes related to the implementation of the NHS. 

But are the data from the NHS and the previous Census 2B long form data comparable? The fact the NHS is a voluntary survey has resulted in lower response rates creating bias and poorer quality of data. And, when there is a Global non-response rate of 50% or lower the data becomes suppressed, meaning it is not released due to its small size and unreliability. This was not unusual for smaller cities or towns and even the smaller provinces. As for some questions what we experienced in preparing the data for this tool is that the “Atlantic Provinces” became aggregated and provincial data for some variables for each province Nova Scotia, PEI, NFLD, and NB was not released. 

Community Well-Being Index (CWB)

The Community Well-Being index is a way to evaluate the well-being of individual Canadian communities. The CWB index was created by AANDC and is based on the 2011 National Household Survey to calculate the CWB scores. The index is calculated using various indicators of socio-economic well-being, including education, labour force activity, income and housing and then combined to give each community a well-being “score”. These scores are then used to compare the well-being across First Nations and Inuit communities with the well-being in non-Aboriginal communities over time. 

The following lists the variables that were used in the creation of the socio-economic overview of the provincial and territorial profiles for this tool based on the following data sources: 

Provincial/Territorial Overview:

  • Population – 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data
  • Labour Market activity – 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data
  • Income – 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data
  • Education rates – Custom tabulation APS data
  • Language – 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data
  • Traditional Activities – Semi-custom tabulation 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data
  • Mobility – Semi-custom tabulation 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data
  • Community Well-Being Index – Scores derived by Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada based on 2011 Census data

Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) and Census Agglomeration Area (CA)* – 

  • Population – Aboriginal data derived from the 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data APS, and non-Aboriginal was derived from the 2011 National Household data
  •  Labour Market activity – Aboriginal data derived from the 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data APS, and non-Aboriginal was derived from the 2011 National Household data
  • Income – Aboriginal data derived from the 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data APS, and non-Aboriginal was derived from the 2011 National Household data
  •  Education rates – Aboriginal data derived from the 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data APS, and non-Aboriginal was derived from the 2011 National Household data
  • Housing – Aboriginal data derived from the 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data APS, and non-Aboriginal was derived from the 2011 National Household data
  • Language – 2012 Aboriginal People’s Survey data
  • Community Well-Being Index – Scores derived by Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada based on 2011 Census data

*A census metropolitan area (CMA) or a census agglomeration (CA) is formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centred on a population centre (known as the core). A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more must live in the core. A CA must have a core population of at least 10,000. To be included in the CMA or CA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the core, as measured by commuting flows derived from previous census place of work data. If the population of the core of a CA declines below 10,000, the CA is retired. However, once an area becomes a CMA, it is retained as a CMA even if its total population declines below 100,000 or the population of its core falls below 50,000. Small population centres with a population count of less than 10,000 are called fringe. All areas inside the CMA or CA that are not population centres are rural areas.  When a CA has a core of at least 50,000, it is subdivided into census tracts. Census tracts are maintained for the CA even if the population of the core subsequently falls below 50,000. All CMAs are subdivided into census tracts.