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Native Studies Review 17, no.

2 (2008)

Mtis Populations in Canada: Some Implications of


Settlement Patterns and Characteristics
Evelyn J. Peters
In the last few decades there has been a considerable growth in materials that focus on Mtis identities, legal rights, cultures, and histories.
However, an examination of academic materials shows that there is
little that explores Mtis population geographies. In this paper I use
the data on Aboriginal identities collected through the Canadian census to explore the distribution of Mtis between and within provincial
boundaries, and the implications of changes in those distributions in
the last decade. The focus then turns to cities, with an analysis of Mtis
urbanization, changes in urban Mtis populations, socio-economic
characteristics, and settlement patterns. By way of conclusion, I argue
that the population geographies and changes in Mtis population patterns cannot be extrapolated from those of First Nations people, and
that they require additional research. Their growing numbers means
that Mtis people will have an increasing influence on public policy,
and the heterogeneity of Mtis populations will create challenges for
governments and Mtis representative organizations.
Au cours des dernires dcennies il y a eu un dveloppement considrable de documents portant sur les identits, les droits juridiques,
les cultures et les histoires des Mtis. Cependant, un examen des
documents universitaires montre que rares sont ceux qui examinent
les gographies de la population mtisse. Dans cet article, jutilise des
donnes sur les identits autochtones recueillies grce au recensement
canadien pour examiner la distribution des Mtis entre les frontires
provinciales et dans les provinces, ainsi que les implications des
changements dans ces distributions au cours des dix dernires annes. Ensuite, je me penche sur les villes, en analysant lurbanisation
des Mtis, les changements au sein des populations mtisses, leurs
caractristiques socio-conomiques et leurs modles dtablissement.
En conclusion, je soutiens que les gographies des populations et les
changements dans les modles de population mtisse ne peuvent pas
tre extrapols de ceux des Premires nations, et quils demandent
davantage de recherche. Leurs nombres grandissants signifient que
les peuples mtis auront une influence de plus en plus grande sur la
politique publique et que lhtrognit des populations mtisses
crera des enjeux pour les gouvernements et les organismes reprsentants les Mtis.

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Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

The last few decades have seen a considerable growth in materials that
focus on Mtis identities, legal rights, culture, and history. However, an
examination of academic materials shows that there is almost nothing
available about what I call the contemporary geographies of Mtis
people. I define geographies quite narrowly here to refer to demographic
analyses that give a sense of where Mtis people are, and some of their
characteristics in those places.
The geographies of Mtis people are, I would argue, an important
companion to discussions of Mtis identities, histories, and legal rights.
They provide a framework for discussing a wide range of issues, including the implications of regional trends in population growth, the effects
of population change on decisions about service delivery and cultural
programming, and the relationship between population distributions
and models of self-government. Information about the distribution and
characteristics of Mtis populations also raises some interesting questions
about the formulation of contemporary Mtis identities.
In this paper, I use the data on Aboriginal identities collected through
the 2001 Canadian Census. In the census, Mtis are defined through selfreporting, and this definition may not match that which others choose to
use. Census materials do, however, provide information about the whole
Canadian population, and they provide some possibility of comparisons
over time and of different places. They represent a starting point for looking at the characteristics of those who identity themselves as Mtis for
the purpose of census statistics.
The paper begins by exploring the distribution of Mtis between
and within provincial boundaries, and the implications of changes in
those distributions in the last decade. The focus then turns to cities, with
an analysis of Mtis urbanization, changes in urban Mtis populations,
socio-economic characteristics, and settlement patterns.

Provincial Distributions and Patterns of Movement

The first level of geography addresses the distribution and movement of


Mtis people between and within provincial territories. We begin with
patterns of change between 1991 and 2001. The analysis is based on the
Mtis identity population, that is, self-identified Mtis in the 1991
Aboriginal Peoples Survey and in the 2001 Census.
The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Oksana Starchenko, a graduate student in the
Department of Geography, in preparing the maps and some of the tables. This research was supported
by SSHRC Standard Research Grant #410-01-0836.

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)

21

Provincial Distributions, 1991 and 2001


In 2001, the census counted almost 300,000 people who identified themselves as Mtis. Mtis people are not distributed evenly across provinces
and territories. Mtis people made up the largest component of the total
population in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan (Table 1). Within one decade, the Mtis population in Canada
more than doubled, growing from 135,265 in 1991 to 292,305 in 2001.
Between 1991 and 1996 the Mtis population increased by 55.4 percent;
between 1996 and 2001 the rate of increase slowed to 39.1 percent. Guimond (2003, p. 17) points out that, at present, the highest national rates
of natural increase in the world are at 3.5 percent per year. These rates
are primarily related to fertility. The increase in the Mtis population is
substantially greater than 3.5 percent per year, and because in-migration
of Mtis to Canada is not a significant contributor to these growth rates,
changes in patterns of self-identification seem to be the key component.
Mtis populations increased substantially more rapidly than populations
identifying themselves as North American Indian, which increased by
15.9 percent between 1991 and 2001.
Clearly, rates of increase were distributed unevenly across provincial
populations. Rates of increase were highest in the Maritime provinces,
but Mtis populations remain small in these areas. The Mtis population
tripled in Ontario, and in British Columbia the Mtis population almost
quadrupled. These increases mean that British Columbia and Ontario have
joined the three prairie provinces as the regions where most of Canadas
Mtis population lives.
People who identify as Mtis come from a variety of different historical experiences, and it is beyond the scope of this paper to speculate on
the factors behind changing patterns of identification. There are, however,
several conclusions that we can draw from the data. First, the spectacular
rates of increase in the Maritime provinces, Ontario, and British Columbia
suggest that an approach, exemplified by the Royal Commission, of focusing on Mtis associated with Red River and creating a more marginal
category of Other Mtis may be increasingly untenable for a significant
proportion of the population that identifies as Mtis. The geographies of
Mtis populations and population change challenge political organizations
to make some sense of Mtis identities in ways that meet the aspirations
 The North American Indian category includes both individuals who are Registered Indians and
individuals who do not have legal status under the Indian Act.
 The 1991 population is based on adjusted numbers used by the Royal Commission (1996, p.
604).

Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

22

of Mtis populations across Canada. Second, demographics tend to have


an effect on public policy and politics, independent of changes in law
and legislation. Between 1991 and 2001, the Mtis population increased
from comprising almost one-fifth (19.5 percent) of the Aboriginal identity
population in Canada, to making up almost thirty percent. In Alberta, the
Mtis make up over forty-two percent of the Aboriginal identity population, and in Manitoba and Saskatchewan they make up over one-third.
While the rate of increase dropped between 1996 and 2001, it seems
likely that Mtis populations will continue to increase in the next census
period. This, in turn, suggests that Mtis influence on Aboriginal politics
will also continue to grow.
Table 1. Mtis Identity Populations in Canada and the
Provinces, 1991 and 2001.
Percent of
Percent of
Total Mtis
Mtis
Percent
Total Mtis Aboriginal
Population, Population, Increase,
Population in Population
2001
%
19912001
Each Province
Mtis
Canada
Newfoundland
and Labrador
PEI

292,305

1.0

116.1

29.9

5,480

1.1

164.1

1.9

29.2

220

0.2

n/a

0.1

16.4

Nova Scotia

3,135

0.4

1,293.3

1.1

18.4

New Brunswick

4,290

0.6

4,190.0

1.5

25.3

Quebec

15,855

0.2

82.5

5.4

20.0

Ontario

48,345

0.4

301.0

16.5

25.7

Manitoba

56,795

5.1

70.9

19.4

37.9

Saskatchewan

43,695

4.5

61.9

15.0

33.6

Alberta

66,055

2.2

70.4

22.6

42.3

B.C.

44,265

1.1

390.2

15.1

26.0

535

1.9

181.6

0.2

8.2

3,580

5.6

-8.1

1.2

8.6

Yukon
NWT/Nunavut

Sources: Statistics Canada, 2005 Census; Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996, p. 204.

 See note 2.

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)

23

Intra-Provincial Settlement Patterns


While sections 35(1) and 35(2) of the 1982 Constitution Act (as amended)
recognized and affirmed Mtis Aboriginal and treaty rights, very few
of these rights have been defined through either legislation or the courts.
Hunting rights are one area where the law seems to have made some space
for Mtis rights. While people living in urban areas can also hunt and fish,
the association of Mtis rights with hunting rights presents an image of
residency in rural and/or northern communities. How closely does this
image relate to contemporary Mtis settlement patterns?
One way of looking at this is to examine the proportion of the total
provincial Mtis population in different census subdivisions (CSDs).,
which include rural areas, villages, towns, and cities. In Manitoba, for
example, CSDs in the northern third of the province each contain less than
one percent of the provincial Mtis population. The three large CSDs in
the middle of the province each contain between one and five percent of
the population. Over half the total provincial Mtis population lives in
Winnipeg. Saskatchewan patterns are similar. The CSDs of the north each
Table 2. Mtis Settlement Patterns, Manitoba and Saskatchewan,
2001.
Percent of CSD that is Mtis, 2001
0
9.9%

10
19.9%

20
29.9%

30
39.9%

40
49.9%

50+%

56.23

24.74

3.41

0.30

1.99

13.29

757

55

16

10

75.34

13.99

5.27

1.27

2.65

1.46

229

30

13

Saskatchewan
% of total Mtis population in category
Number of areas
Manitoba
% of total Mtis population in category
Number of areas

Notes
1. In Manitoba, all 50+% areas fall into 50 to 59.99% categoryi.e., none has Mtis constituting
more than 60% of the total CSD population.
2. In Saskatchewan, out of ten areas in 50+% category, two have Mtis constituting 70 to 79.99%
of the total CSD population and four have Mtis constituting 80 to 89.99% of the total CSD
population. All CSDs in 50+% category are small northern towns, such as le--la-Crosse and
La Loche.
Source: Statistics Canada, 2004.

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Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

Figure 1. Proportion of Each CSD That is Mtis, Manitoba, 2001.

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)

25

Figure 2. Proportion of Each CSD That is Mtis, Saskatchewan,


2001.

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Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

contain less than one percent of the total population. Over forty percent
of the Saskatchewan Mtis population lives in Regina, Saskatoon, and
Prince Albert. These patterns of distribution clearly raise some interesting
questions about what kinds of policies and legislation are most likely to
benefit the largest proportion of the Mtis population.
We can look at settlement patterns from another perspective, too, by
asking the question Do Mtis people make up a significant portion of
the population in some areas? Table 2 uses data from the 2001 Census
to explore this question for Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Both provinces
have some places that have a Mtis majority population. In Saskatchewan,
Mtis people make up over ninety percent of one northern community.
Figures 1 and 2 show that areas where Mtis people comprise a substantial
portion of the population are more likely to be north of both provinces
agricultural and urban areas. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal
Peoples approach to self-government left open the possibility of joint
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal jurisdiction over lands where Aboriginal
people represent a sizeable proportion of the population (Peters, 1999,
pp. 418419). The northern parts of provinces might be appropriate for
such co-management initiatives. However, these approaches will probably not benefit the majority of the Mtis population unless settlement
patterns change.
Most Mtis people in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba (84.4 percent
and 94.6 percent, respectively) live in places where they comprise less
than thirty percent of the population. These settlement patterns might
have some implications for the way that contemporary Mtis identities are
constructed. Recent academic work differentiates between identities that
emerge from stable and relatively homogenous communities and identities
that emerge from migration and contact with many other cultures (Dwyer,
1991). The latter are often associated with hybridity and the construction
of identities from a variety of cultural sources (Gilroy, 1994). In her 2002
book on urban Native American identities, Jackson notes that individuals
who grew up on reservations and moved to urban areas configure their
identities differently than those who grew up in cities. While an analysis
of how these frameworks apply or do not apply to Mtis people in Canada
is far beyond the scope of this paper, what is interesting here is that con In general, for individuals who grew up in primarily Native American communities, identities
are largely taken for granted and expressed through patterns of relationship and behaviour. For
individuals who grew up in urban areas, including those who claim identities through the discovery
of ancestry, identities are more explicit and expressed through symbols and participation in cultural
ceremonies and organizations.

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)

27

temporary Mtis identities emerge primarily in relatively heterogeneous


communities where Mtis people are a minority.
At the same time, it is difficult to find out how recent are these
settlement patterns. In 1956, the Manitoba Legislature commissioned a
major study on those of Indian and Mtis ancestry living in the province,
providing one point of comparison. The study identified individuals
through a combination of ascribed and self-identity, and concluded that
22,077 First Nations and 23,579 Mtis were living in Manitoba. (Mtis
areas of residence are described in Table 3). However, the study did not
describe how predominantly was defined and used. In other words,
Table 3. Mtis Population by Category of Community, Manitoba,
1956.
Fringe of Reserves

12.3%

Fringe of White Settlements

10.8%

Predominantly Mtis Communities

25.5%

Predominantly White Communities

44.4%

Communities Along Northern Railway Lines Not Accessible by Roads

6.6%

Other

0.3%

Total

23,579

Source: Lagass, 1959.

Table 4. Mtis and Registered Indian Migration Flows, 19962001.


Percent of Total Migration
Origin-Destination

Mtis

Registered
Indian

Urban-Urban

53.0

34.3

Urban-Reserve/Rural

20.4

27.4

Rural/Reserve-Urban

17.8

24.0

Rural/Reserve-Rural/Reserve

8.8

14.3

Source: Norris and Clatworthy, 2003.

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Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

predominantly could mean anything between just over fifty percent


Mtis to a much higher concentration. The data do suggest, though, that
many Mtis lived in neighbourhoods where they comprised a distinct
population, either in Mtis communities or in clusters at the edges of
reserves or white settlements. At the same time, the data from Manitoba
suggest that, even at mid-century, many Mtis lived in areas where they
were a minority. Certainly in the contemporary situation, most Mtis
identities are forged in communities where Mtis people are less than
one-third of the population.
Migration
For decades, movement rates for Mtis people have been slightly higher
than those of the non-Aboriginal population (Clatworthy, 1994; Norris
and Clatworthy, 2003). A common perception is that moves between communities primarily involve rural to urban migration. However, migration
from rural to urban areas is not currently the main pattern of movement.
Of Mtis people who moved between communities between 1996 and
2001, over half moved between urban areas. About one-fifth moved from
cities to reserves or rural areas, almost eighteen percent moved from rural
or reserve areas to cities, and approximately nine percent moved between
rural areas (including reserves) (Table 4). While city to city migration was
also most frequent for Registered Indians, they were more likely than
Mtis people to move from cities to reserves and between rural areas.
It is not easy to interpret these mobility rates and movement patterns.
Is migration between cities accompanied by socio-economic mobility or
is it caused by a lack of opportunities? Is the move from cities to rural
areas a result of poor urban conditions, or is it an attempt to reconnect
with a community or origin (or both)? Are some people responsible for
most of the movement, while others are relatively stable? Do the Mtis
migrants between cities represent a different sub-group than the Mtis
migrants between cities and rural areas? At present, we have some information necessary to answer these questions for Registered Indians, but
not for Mtis people.
Patterns of migration do suggest, however, that Mtis urban and rural
populations are much more distinct from each other than Registered Indian
urban and rural populations. Two-thirds of Mtis migrants originating in
urban areas move to other cities, not to rural or reserve areas. In other
 Registered Indians are First Nations people who are registered under the Indian Act.

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)

29

Table 5. Mtis and Registered Indian Net Migration Flows, 19861991


and 19911996.
Mtis

Registered Indians

19861991

19911996

Urban CMA

1,455

Urban non-CMA

-2,660

Rural
Reserve/Settlement
Total Migrants

19861991

19911996

-2,070

3,855

-3,295

-955

-4,080

-4,405

1,015

2,535

-9,005

-6,385

190

490

9,230

14,085

37,470

87,360

Notes
1. Net migration is the difference between migrants coming to a destination and migrants leaving
that destination.
2. Statistics for 19962001 are not available for Mtis populations.
Sources: Clatworthy, 1994, p. 64; Norris and Clatworthy, 2003

words, the back and forth movement between rural to urban areas that
are found among Registered Indian migrants is not as pronounced among
Mtis. At the same time, almost one-quarter of urban Mtis migrated from
urban to rural areas between 1996 and 2001. Although the numbers are
not available, this is probably higher than the rates for the non-Aboriginal
population. These patterns must contribute to the continuing rural attachment of at least a segment of the Mtis population.
Patterns of net migration show that the slight increase in Mtis urbanization does not seem to be a function of Mtis migration to urban areas.
Net migration rates (differences between out- and in-migration) show
that urban areas lost migrants in comparison to rural and reserve areas,
even as the proportion of Mtis living in cities increases (Table 5). While
data are not available for the 19962000 period, between 1986 and 1991
urban areas had a net loss of 1205 Mtis migrants who moved to rural and
reserve areas (Clatworthy, 1994). Between 1991 and 1996, urban areas
had a net loss of 3025 Mtis migrants who moved to rural and reserve
areas (Norris, 2003). It is likely that these trends are continuing.
Statistics for 2001 show that rural areas continued to gain migrants
in comparison to urban areas (Norris, 2001). Net migration patterns have
interesting implications for Mtis urbanization of the last decade. It is
unlikely that differential urban and rural fertility rates are responsible
 It is important to remember that these are aggregate patterns, and that net migration into a particular
city may deviate from this pattern.

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Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

for the slight increase in the proportion of the Mtis population living
in cities. Because migration rates suggest that more Mtis are moving
out of, rather than into cities, it seems likely that increasing urbanization
between 1991 and 2001 is related to changing patterns of self-identification. The increase in urbanization is not large, but the combination of
contributory factors raise some very interesting questions about rural and
urban Mtis identities.

Urban Patterns

The scale of this analysis now shifts to cities. The first section addresses
urbanization patterns, followed by inter- and intra-urban characteristics
and settlement patterns. For the latter, the focus is primarily on the nine
Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) that contain the largest number of
Mtis people, and for whom data exist for the 1991 and 2001 period.
Urbanization
It is much more difficult to document patterns of Mtis than First Nations
urbanization with published data. Much of this has to do with a gap in
census information. The 1901 and 1941 Censuses collected information
for the category Half-breed (but not for Mtis), but these are not aggregated to show urbanization patterns in the published data. The 1981
Census provided counts for Mtis ancestry (respondents who indicated
that they had ancestors who were Mtis, independent of how respondents
identified as individuals), and all subsequent census years had categories
for both Mtis ancestry and Mtis identity, collected either through the
Aboriginal Peoples Survey or the census (Goldmann, 1993).
Public concerns about First Nations and Mtis urbanization began
to be expressed at mid-century (Peters, 2001), but we lack statistical
information for Mtis people that corresponds to that period. Evidence
from Manitoba, though, suggests that Mtis urbanization patterns do not
mirror the patterns of First Nations people. Data for specific communities
from the 1956 Manitoba study show that, while only 10.8 percent of First
Nations people identified in the study lived in urban areas, 35.8 percent
of Mtis lived in cities (Lagass, 1959). Davis (1965) study, with data
collected in 1960, emphasized the existence of urban Mtis, both within
cities and in fringe settlements, in Prince Albert, North Battleford, and
Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, although his statistics aggregated Mtis and
First Nations residents. Clearly, these data do not give an overall picture

Vancouver

0.6

2.3

1.1

216.7

390.2

58.4

150.4

10.2

22.0

12.7

85.7

32.3

19.4

14.9

60.5

29.3

15.9

Percent Increase
North American
Indian,
19912110

Sources: http://www12.statcan.ca/english/Pgdb/demo39a.htm; Statistics Canada, 1993, p. 6

12,890

21,410

Edmonton

B.C.

10,730

Calgary

70.4

51.8

8,480

Saskatoon

3.7

63.2

Alberta

61.9
3.2

6,070

110.8

70.9

270.6

240.0

301.0

128.4

Regina

4.7

0.1

0.5

0.1

Saskatchewan

Winnipeg

31,595

5,300

Toronto

Manitoba

4,845

OttawaHull

Ontario

3,825

82.5

Montreal

Quebec

Percent Increase
Mtis,
19912001

116.1

Mtis as Percent
of Total CMA
Population,
2001

Canada

Mtis Population, 2001

33.9

51.5

48.3

41.0

38.2

56.3

25.1

34.8

33.1

Mtis as Percent
of CMA Aboriginal Population,
2001

Table 6. Change in Mtis Populations in CMAs, 19912001.

17.6

5.3

17.9

-5.9

4.4

13.7

15.0

14.2

8.4

Increase, Mtis as
Percent of CMA Aboriginal Population,
2001

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)


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Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

of Mtis geographies at the half-century. They do suggest, however, that


we cannot understand Mtis urbanization by extrapolating from First
Nations experiences.
The 1981 Census reported that six out of ten people with Mtis ancestry people lived in cities (Statistics Canada, 1984, p. np). In 1991,
almost two-thirds (65 percent) of people with Mtis identity lived in
cities (Royal Commission, 1996, p. 604). In 1996, the proportion had
risen slightly to sixty-six percent, and in 2001, sixty-eight percent of
people with Mtis identity lived in urban areas. While the 2001 Mtis
urbanization rate was lower than that of most Canadians (79.4 percent),
it was higher than the rate for North American Indians (41.2 percent). It
is striking, though, that Mtis urbanization has largely stalled in the past
decade, increasing only three percent between 1991 and 2001. What,
then, is the nature of the urbanization experience for Mtis people that
contributes to their long history of relative ruralness compared to the
rest of Canadian society?
Urban Mtis Populations: Numbers and Change
Table 6 shows population numbers and change for the nine CMAs that
contained the largest number of Mtis people. Cities in the east had smaller
absolute numbers of people who identified as Mtis, and Mtis people in
these cities made up a very small proportion of the total urban population.
Winnipeg had the largest number of Mtis people (over 30,000) followed
by Edmonton (over 20,000). In Winnipeg, Mtis people made up almost
five percent of the population, followed by Saskatoon and Regina with
over three percent.
Comparing the rate of increase for CMA Mtis populations to provincial Mtis populations demonstrates complexity and variability by city.
In some cities, the increase in the Mtis population was less than the provincial increase; in other cities it was more. We do not know the complex
factors of combined migration patterns and patterns of self-identification
(assuming fertility and mortality rates are relatively uniform) that contribute to the outcomes for each city, but it seems clear that different cities
represent quite different environments for attracting people identifying
as Mtis. Increases in Mtis populations outstripped increases in North
American Indian populations in all CMAs except Saskatoon.
 The 1981 Census asked about an individuals ancestry, but not their identity. Therefore, these data
are not directly comparable to the identity data employed for 1991, 1996, and 2001.

17,316

30,062

24,352

28,954

30,445

20,799

20,949

21,108

24,383

21,995

24,458

All North American Indians

All Non-Aboriginal People

Montreal

Ottawa-Hull

Toronto

Winnipeg

Regina

Saskatoon

Calgary

Edmonton

Vancouver

12.6

10.5

7.8

15.5

11.3

12.2

7.6

5.4

10.5

7.1

22.2

14.0

Unemployment
Rate

34.84

41.47

35.43

37.31

39.45

44.59

25.60

28.29

33.39

30.81

50.61

42.12

With Less Than


High School Certificate, %*

8.82

10.67

8.74

14.44

13.94

13.46

8.29

7.45

7.84

4.3

9.0

7.0

Lone Parents, %

13.9

14.8

9.9

16.1

16.6

15.5

7.4

10.5

15.7

11.5

24.3

15.7

Receiving
Transfer Payments, %

19.73

16.34

17.92

14.68

13.47

11.65

27.25

26.60

12.75

24.4

9.6

15.8

Earning
$40,000 or
more, %

7.42

5.40

6.69

8.40

6.87

5.98

12.93

14.99

11.33

15.74

4.09

5.27

With University
Degree,
%1

Of population fifteen or older.


Source: Statistics Canada 2001 Census tabulations, Catalogue No. 97F0011XCB01040, 97F0011XCB01043, 97F0011XCB01045, 97F0011XCB01047;
Custom tabulation No. S2-T3-2001-PPH-IDENTITY-V3.

22,213

All Mtis

Average
Income, $

Table 7. Socio-Economic Characteristics, Mtis in CMAs, 2001.

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)


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Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

One of the particularly interesting features of change in urban Mtis


populations has to do with their relative representation in general urban
Aboriginal populations. Whereas in 1991 Mtis populations were less
than half of urban Aboriginal populations, increases in the last decade
mean that they now represent the majority or close to half the Aboriginal
population in Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton. It seems likely that these
demographics will influence the nature of organizational development
in cities, as well as the struggle for representation of urban Aboriginal
people.
Socio-Economic Status of Urban Mtis
For many decades, urbanization has been put forward as a solution to
the high poverty levels of Mtis and other Aboriginal peoples. Table 7
attempts to assess this strategy and to compare Mtis socio-economic
status in different cities. Clearly, Mtis people in Canada have a lower
socio-economic status than non-Aboriginal people. More Mtis than
non-Aboriginal people are lone parents, there are higher proportions of
Mtis than non-Aboriginal people who do not have a secondary school
certificate, and there are lower proportions of those with some university
education. Participation rates and average incomes are lower for Mtis
than for non-Aboriginal people, and unemployment rates are higher. At
the same time, the socio-economic status of Mtis people is higher than
that of people who identify as North American Indian.
A table that compares the socio-economic characteristics of nonAboriginal people, Mtis, and North American Indians by CMA is too
detailed for this paper. However, such calculations demonstrate that Mtis
are generally better off socio-economically than North American Indian
populations, but they are also generally marginalized in comparison with
non-Aboriginal populations. Table 7 shows that the socio-economic situation of urban Mtis is too complex to be captured by a simple tabulation
of available measures. Almost every CMA has some apparent anomaly.
For example, Saskatoons Mtis are among the most socio-economically disadvantaged in prairie cities, but the proportion of those with a
university degree is higher.
The implications of living in large cities for Mtis socio-economic
status is mixed. Mtis in prairie cities tend to be worse off than Canadian
Mtis as a whole. Incomes are lower, unemployment rates are high (except for Calgary), the proportion of family persons who are lone parents
is higher (except for Edmonton), and more people receive government

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)

35

transfer payments (except for Calgary). At the same time, Mtis in cities
may be better off than their provincial rural counterparts. Average Saskatchewan Mtis income, excluding Regina and Saskatoon, for example,
was about $16,000.
What can we conclude from a table like this? The socio-economic
situation of Mtis in large cities is complex. It seems likely that Mtis
in CMAs fare slightly better in terms of these socio-economic characteristics than their counterparts in rural areas, but the urban experience
varies widely in different cities. However, the gains seem to be small, on
average, and urbanization does not seem to be a straightforward way out
of poverty for Mtis populations.
Aggregate residential mobility rates seem to confirm that a substantial portion of the urban Mtis population is socially and economically
marginalized. Most (seventy percent) of the moves that Mtis people
made between 1991 and 1996 were changes of residence within the same
community (Norris and Clatworthy, 2003, p. 6). Clatworthys (1994)
research found that residential mobility is closely related to poor housing and neighbourhood conditions. High rates of movement may make it
difficult for children to perform as well in school as they might otherwise
(Norris and Clatworthy, 2003). Recent Canada Mortgage and Housing
Corporation (2002) research on Aboriginal residential mobility in Regina
and Winnipeg showed that high residential mobility rates made it difficult
for service agencies to track clients, estimate demand for services, and
prepare appropriate policies, business plans, and budgets.
At the same time, there is some evidence that not all Mtis people
are socio-economically marginalized in urban areas. Table 7 shows that
a significant proportion of the Mtis population earns more than $40,000
per year and that a significant proportion possess some university education. In other words, there is no single urban Mtis experience, even in
the same city.
Urban Settlement Patterns
What happens to Mtis people once they arrive in urban areas? Are they
clustered into ghetto-like areas of the city? To date, we have almost no
information about urban Mtis settlement patterns. This is because relatively little attention has been paid to urban Aboriginal peoples patterns
of segregation, generally, despite assumptions about their ghettoization,
 Clients of these agencies, however, did not see residential mobility as being the problem. Instead,
they focused on the importance of providing adequate and affordable housing.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2001.

Calgary
North American Indian
Mtis
Non-Aboriginal
Edmonton
North American Indian
Mtis
Non-Aboriginal
Regina
North American Indian
Mtis
Non-Aboriginal
Saskatoon
North American Indian
Mtis
Non-Aboriginal
Winnipeg
North American Indian
Mtis
Non-Aboriginal
0.80
0.44
98.75
0.95
1.14
97.88
2.63
1.29
96.06
1.71
1.04
97.22
1.60
1.19
97.19

6,155
7,405
637,100

4,275
2,100
155,980

2,610
1,580
148,035

9,245
6,890
562,385

1981
% of CMA
population

4,690
2,560
579,705

Population
count

0.484
0.437
0.449

0.298
0.346
0.298

0.434
0.376
0.371

0.363
0.339
0.314

0.355
0.380
0.309

ID

22,955
31,395
605,970

11,285
8,310
202,355

9,200
5,990
174,335

18,260
21,065
886,090

10,155
10,580
921,395

Population
count

3.47
4.74
91.57

5.07
3.73
90.89

4.84
3.15
91.75

1.97
2.27
95.58

1.08
1.12
97.68

2001
% of CMA
population

0.488
0.286
0.363

0.461
0.233
0.369

0.457
0.289
0.387

0.421
0.295
0.330

0.376
0.324
0.298

ID

Table 8. Segregation at the Census Tract Level, Mtis in Selected CMAs, 1981 and 2001.

36
Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

Source: Statistics Canada, 2001.

Calgary
% of total Mtis population in
category
Number of areas
Edmonton
% of total Mtis population in
category
Number of areas
Regina
% of total Mtis population in
category
Number of areas
Saskatoon
% of total Mtis population in
category
Number of areas
Winnipeg
% of total Mtis population in
category
Number of areas
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
5.0
1

114
100.0
116
100.0
36
100.0
33
95.0
128

10
19.9%

100.0

0 9.9%

20
29.9%

135

74.3

42

94.4

46

96.9

150

97.5

181

100.0

16

21.2

5.6

3.1

2.5

10
19.9%

4.5

0.1

20
29.9%

30+%

Percent of CT that is Mtis, 2001

30+% 0 9.9%

Percent of CT that is Mtis , 1981

Table 9. Distribution of Mtis Populations in Selected Cities, 1981 and 2001.

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)


37

38

Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

and even research that does address this issue focuses on aggregate patterns (Drost, 1995; Kaximpur and Halli, 2000, p. 129; Richards, 2001;
Maxim, White, Whitehead, & Beavon, 2000). The focus here is on measures of segregation for Mtis in urban areas.
While there are numerous measures of segregation, the dissimilarity
index is used most often. The dissimilarity index describes the evenness of one groups distribution in relation to another. It measures the
proportion of a group that would have to move out of an area to make
the distribution the same as the reference group (usually the majority
population). The dissimilarity index ranges from 0 to 1, with values up to
0.3 considered to indicate low levels of segregation, values of 0.4 to 0.5
indicating moderate levels of segregation, and values of 0.6 and higher
considered high. In inner city areas in the United States, dissimilarity
indexes routinely exceed 6.0, and can be as high as 8.0 or over (Massey
and Denton, 1993). To date, analyses of urban Aboriginal populations
have found low to moderate levels of segregation (Clatworthy, 1994;
Maxim et al, 2000). Bauder and Sharpes (2002, p. 213) recent analysis
of 1996 segregation patterns in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver found
dissimilarity indexes for Aboriginal populations of .458, .407, and .374,
respectively. These levels were close to those of other visible minority
populations aggregated, and lower than indices for black and Chinese
populations in each city.
Table 8 describes levels of segregation for six cities with substantial
Mtis populations. Montreal, Ottawa-Hull, Toronto, and Vancouver are
omitted because their Mtis populations are small relative to the number
of areas in the sample, and the dissimilarity index is sensitive to population size. Calculations are based on census tracts, which approximate
urban neighbourhoods. In 2001, dissimilarity indexes in all cities were
low to moderate, and Mtis were less segregated than North American
Indians. Comparing 1981 and 2001 data shows that levels of segregation
decreased over time for Mtis people in all these cities. At the same time,
segregation levels of the North American Indian population increased
over time.
Table 9 provides another perspective on Mtis residential settlement
patterns. The columns describe the proportion of a census tract that is
Mtis (09.9 percent, 1019.9 percent, and so on) in 1981 and 2001. In
1981, Winnipeg was the only city that had a census tract where more
 Kerr, Siggner, and Bourdeau (1996) suggest that the Native peoples data from the 1981 census
question on ancestry captured a population like the Mtis identity question in 2001.

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)

39

Figure 3. Proportion of Population in Each Census Tract That is


Mtis, City of Winnipeg, 2001.

40

Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

Figure 4. Proportion of Population in Each Census Tract That is


Mtis, City of Edmonton, 2001.

Native Studies Review 17, no. 2 (2008)

41

than ten percent of the populations was Mtis. By 2001, several cities
had census tracts where Mtis people comprised up to one-fifth of the
population.Winnipeg had two neighbourhoods where Mtis people made
up between 10 and 29.9 percent of the populations. In the vast majority of
neighbourhoods, however, Mtis people comprised less than ten percent
of the population. Figure 3 shows that the neighbourhoods in Winnipeg
where Mtis populations comprised between twenty and twenty-nine
percent of the population were in the inner North End. At the same time,
Mtis people were distributed throughout the city. Figure 4 shows that
Mtis people are spread throughout the city of Edmonton.
These data show that Mtis people are not highly clustered in urban
areas. Instead, most of them live in areas where they are a minority of the
population. At the same time, they are found throughout the city. From a
policy perspective, these settlement patterns suggest that strategies focused
on particular neighbourhoods may not be the most effective for addressing Mtis socio-economic marginalization in cities. Similarly, programs
focusing on cultural expression need to have a wide geographic scope.
Finally, most urban Mtis identities are constructed in neighbourhoods
where Mtis people comprise a minority of the population.

Conclusion

Population statistics are just thatthey are numbers. Their significance


lies in the meanings attached to them through social processes. However,
if we see the category Mtis as it is defined in the census as a meaningful
category, then the patterns described in this paper raise some interesting
issues. The first has to do with the implications of a growing population
that identifies as Mtis. Population growth suggests that Mtis issues will
continue to gain in importance in the near future. The geography of this
growth suggests that in areas where Mtis representation has historically
been small, it is increasing in number and influence.
The second issue has to do with the relative absence of analysis of
Mtis population data. As a result, it is difficult to identify the nature of
change and the trajectory of trends. Available data indicates that Mtis
geographies are different from those of First Nations peopleMtis have
different settlement patterns, migration movements, and socio-economic
characteristics. It would, therefore, be useful to have more detailed analyses of these subjects.
Third, it is clear that, while most Mtis live in areas, rural and urban,
where they are a minority, there are some areas where they make up a

42

Peters,
Mtis Populations in Canada

majority, or at least a substantial minority. There are important questions


related to service delivery strategies, structures of self-government, and
identity formation that need to be investigated with respect to these
distributions.
Finally, there is considerable heterogeneity in the population that
identifies as Mtis in the census. Heterogeneity emerges from a variety
of histories of Mtis people, different settlement patterns, the possibility
that different sub-groups have distinct rural or urban attachments and
identities, and the likelihood that Mtis are differentiated by class. This
heterogeneity raises very important challenges for governments and Mtis
representative organizations.

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