Fifty years ago, in the 1951 Census, only 210 of Winnipeg's population of 354,000 were identified as registered Indians. The Metis were not counted in those days. By the time a comprehensive survey of Winnipeg's Aboriginal population was made in 1958, there were 1,200 Indians and 3,500 Metis. This was about 1% of the city's population, though the Metis were probably undercounted.
In 1958, 58% of the Indian population had lived in the city for less than three years. About 20% of the Metis had lived in Winnipeg less than three years, and 45% had lived here more than 10 years. Most recent arrivals stated they had come to the city to find work, and 83% of men who indicated this reason were employed at the time of the interview. Overall, 55% of Aboriginal respondents were employed.1 We have seen that this employment rate has since dropped to 42%, despite increased labour market participation of women.
Winnipeg's Aboriginal population has continued to increase - due to the high birth rate and decreasing mortality rate, increasing Aboriginal self-identification and, prior to the 1990's, in-migration from rural areas. By the 1996 Census, 45,750 Winnipeg residents identified themselves as North American Indian, Metis or Inuit.
Of these, about 46% indicated registration under the Indian Act, and another 46% indicated Metis identity.2 Winnipeg has the largest Metis community in Canada, comprising just over 50% of the Metis population in Manitoba. Non-Status Indians were the third largest group, at about 7%. The Inuit population in Winnipeg was only 120, yet this accounted for 50% of the total Inuit population in Manitoba.
Between 1996 and 2000, the Aboriginal population in Winnipeg will have grown to approximately 50,000 - just over 7% of the population.
WINNIPEG IN RELATION TO OTHER CANADIAN CITIES
As well as being the largest Aboriginal community in Canada, Aboriginal people in Winnipeg make up a larger proportion of the population in Winnipeg than most large Canadian cities. Aboriginal people comprise less than 1% of the population of Toronto and Montreal, 1.7% in Vancouver and 1.9% in Calgary, rising to 3.8% in Edmonton, 5.9% in Thunder Bay and 6.9% in Winnipeg. Only the Saskatchewan cities of Regina and Saskatoon have a higher proportion of Aboriginal people (7.1% and 7.5%).
Aboriginal people live throughout the city, however they are concentrated in the inner city.3 Here they account for over 20% of the population of 14 different Census tracts, and over a third of all school age children. In one inner city census tract, the Aboriginal portion of the population exceeds 50%. By contrast, outside Winnipeg Aboriginal people do not comprise over 20% of any urban census tract in Canada, except a small number in Regina and Saskatoon.4 It can be argued that the size, proportion and geographical concentration of Winnipeg's Aboriginal community make it qualitatively unique among Canadian cities.
This inner city area is one in which the overall proportion of children who are under the age of six has increased from 25.7% to 31.4% from 1981 to 1996. In the same period, the proportion of families headed by single parents has increased from 17.5% to 27.1%. The labour market participation rate has dropped from 63.5% to 58.4%, and for those single parents who participate in the labour market the unemployment rate has increased from 11.6% in 1981 to 24.3% in 1996. 5 All of these trends are related to the increasing Aboriginal population in these neighbourhoods.
Researchers have found that the proportion of all inner city families with incomes under the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) has increased steadily from 32.6% in 1971, to 39.5% in 1986, to 50.8% in 1996. Among inner city Aboriginal households in 1996, the proportion was 80.3%. In fact, 64.7% of Aboriginal households in all of Winnipeg are below the LICO. Aboriginal households comprise over 20% of Winnipeg households with incomes under the LICO, though they are only 7% of the population. 6
Families with incomes under the LICO are often referred to in the media or in government reports, as "living in poverty." While this designation is controversial, there has been a nine-fold increase in the number of families using food banks supplied by Winnipeg Harvest between 1987 and 1997. During this same period, the use of food banks across Canada has "only" doubled.7
.Poor families in Winnipeg have incomes far below the LICO .The LICO for a household of three in Winnipeg is $27,672. Winnipeg households with incomes below the LICO had an average annual income of $13,717 in 1996 and $12,211 in the inner city - less than half the level of the LICO. 8
The core area of Winnipeg can be unsafe for its residents. Manitoba Health has reported that "the hospitalization rate for violence by others was 6.6 times higher in core area than for non-core area residents. The hospitalization rate for violence to self was 2.1 times higher."9
Aboriginal people rate Winnipeg as a less safe place than other Aboriginal communities. In the 1991 Aboriginal Peoples Survey, 79% of reserve residents aged 15+ reported "feeling safe walking alone at night in their community," as did 83% of Metis living in communities outside Winnipeg. In Winnipeg, this number dropped to 65% for both Metis and Indians. 11 The well-publicized rise of the street gangs in the early to middle 1990's, along with an outbreak of arson in the late 1990's, can only have heightened these perceptions since 1991. 12
Not surprisingly, Aboriginal people living outside the core area enjoy higher education and income levels, lower unemployment and more stable housing. The following table gives data for Aboriginal people age 15+ in selected neighbourhoods, sorted by median income,12 with Winnipeg total population data at bottom for comparison:
|% Married||% Education > Grade 12||% Moved in Past Year</||Unemployment Rate</||Median Income|
|All Winnipeg Residents||51||53||16||8||$19,950|
In all neighbourhoods, Aboriginal people are more transient and have unemployment rates significantly above average. However, in suburban neighbourhoods, Aboriginal peoples' education and income levels approach city averages.
Married Aboriginal people with jobs and sufficient incomes appear to be following their non-Aboriginal counterparts out of the inner city, just as soon as they can afford the higher rents. In the inner city districts of Downtown and Point Douglas, only 14% and 17% respectively of Aboriginal adults were married in 1996. This compares with province-wide averages of 34.5% for Metis and 32.3% for First Nations.13 Both single parents and unattached individuals are over-represented in the inner city.
A particular characteristic of the Aboriginal population in Winnipeg is the very high proportion of single parent families. Though only 27% of Manitoba Status Indians live in the city, one half of Status single parents live there (1,995 out of 4,005). The other side of the coin is that only 910 Status lone parents (23%) live on reserve, though 58% of the total population is on reserve.
In Winnipeg, 61% of First Nations families and 41% of Metis families are led by a single parent, as compared to 17.6% of non-Aboriginal families. First Nations families in Winnipeg are four times as likely to be headed by a single parent as families on reserve, and 3½ times as likely as non-Aboriginal families in Winnipeg. To the extent that Aboriginal children in single parent families are "at risk" of various negative life outcomes, these risks and these outcomes are centred in Winnipeg. Low income, high shelter costs, and frequent residential moves are particular issues for these families.
Percentage of Families Led by a Single Parent 14
|Southern Off Reserve||48.0||24.0|
|Northern Off Reserve||46.1||30.9|
|Southern On Reserve||18.0||N/A|
|Northern On Reserve||12.4||16.7|
Non-Aboriginal families tend to be led by a single parent because of divorce or widowhood. But Aboriginal single parents are on average much younger, and less likely to have ever been married. In Winnipeg, just 13% of non-Aboriginal single parents are aged 15-29. For Metis, the figure is 33%, and for Status Indians 37% (compared to 24% on reserve). Over 60% of non-Aboriginal single parents in Winnipeg are over 40, compared to 33% of Metis and 24% of Status Indians.
The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is composed of seven regions; one of these, the Winnipeg Metis Association, is specifically oriented to serve its members and other Aboriginal people residing in Winnipeg.
Program and service delivery to First Nations members residing in Winnipeg through Band or Tribal Council offices is problematic, due to the heterogeneity of this population in terms of First Nation membership. Bands belonging to the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council have approximately 3,300 members in Winnipeg, Southeast Resource Development Council 2,300 members, and Dakota-Ojibway Tribal Council 1,500 members. The other four Tribal Council each have less than 1,000 members in Winnipeg, and 4,300 First Nation members belong to Bands not affiliated with any Tribal Council.15
One unaffiliated Band, Fort Alexander or Sagkeeng First Nation, has over 1,800 members in Winnipeg. Peguis, in the Interlake, has just under 1,600 members in Winnipeg. No other Band has more than 1,000 members, although there are significant numbers of members from many - such as Brokenhead (800), Fairford (700), Norway House (600), Fisher River (600), Long Plain (500), St. Theresa Point (500), Sandy Bay (450) and Pine Creek (400).16
During the 1990's, a number of service delivery agencies for Aboriginal people have located at the Aboriginal Centre, in the former Canadian Pacific Railway station at the corner of Main Street and Higgins Avenue. These agencies deliver services in a "status-blind" fashion; that is, without regard to whether the person is Status or non-Status Indian, or Inuit or Metis. During 1999, the MMF also located its provincial headquarters in this area, and an attractive new building called the Thunderbird House has been constructed. It is intended to be a spiritual and cultural centre for Aboriginal residents of Winnipeg.