Inuit women continue to play catch-up with Aboriginal peers
“Results highlight the importance of education”
Canadian Inuit women continue to play catch-up with other Aboriginal women in Canada.
That’s among the many conclusions from a recently-released chapter on First Nations, Métis and Inuit Women contained in a Statistics Canada study on women in Canada.
Here’s some good news from the study: Inuit women, who live in the Inuit Nunangat regions, engage in more traditional activities than other Aboriginal Canadians and remain more likely to speak their Aboriginal language — Inuktut.
Nearly all Inuit women living in Nunavik reported being able to speak Inuktut — 99 per cent — compared with 89 per cent in Nunavut, 25 per cent in Nunatsiavut, and 21 per cent in the Inuvialuit Region.
The StatsCan study also shows that higher education holds the key to Inuit women’s prosperity.
An Inuk woman with a university degree living in Inuit Nunangat can look forward to earning an average salary of $95,058, according to the study, based on data from the 2011 National Household Survey and the Aboriginal Peoples Survey.
Overall, Aboriginal women with higher levels of education enjoyed slightly higher employment rates than non-Aboriginal women in 2011.
And that same employment pattern held true for all three Aboriginal groups, First Nations, Métis and Inuit women, the study found.
“These results highlight the importance of education, especially as Aboriginal women are generally less likely than non-Aboriginal women to have a postsecondary qualification,” StatsCan said.
In 2011, the proportion of Inuit women who held a high school diploma or equivalent as their highest qualification remained the lowest of any Aboriginal group: 17 per cent — or less than one in five — for Inuit women aged 25 to 64, compared to 25 per cent for Métis women and 23 per cent for First Nations women.
The StatsCan study shows Inuit women face other obstacles as well.
The study shows how the living conditions of Inuit women lag behind First Nations and Métis women: Inuit women are the youngest overall of any Aboriginal group, they have more children, are likely not legally married, live in overcrowded substandard houses and often drop out of school due to pregnancies, child caring or other responsibilities.
As well, the study says nearly one in three Inuit women had contemplated suicide in the previous 12 months, two in three were daily smokers, and more than one in three reported heavy drinking.
Roughly one in four Inuit women over 15 years old, living in Inuit Nunangat, also said they lived with a chronic health condition:
• 15 per cent had been diagnosed with arthritis while the same percentage had been diagnosed with high blood pressure;
• about nine per cent were diagnosed with asthma; and,
• roughly eight per cent were diagnosed with a mood disorder and seven per cent were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Inuit women remain in the minority among Aboriginal Canadians: they comprise only four per cent of the population of Aboriginal women in Canada, who, in turn, make up only four per cent of the entire female population of Canada.
The largest proportion of Inuit women live in Nunavut (45 per cent).
Outside Inuit Nunangat, in 2011, the largest female Inuit population could be found in Ottawa-Gatineau, with 550 Inuit women and girls, followed by Edmonton with 535, and 445 in Yellowknife.
In 2011, of the 59,400 Inuit living in Canada, three-quarters of Inuit lived in Inuit Nunangat.
But the proportion of Inuit women and girls living in Inuit Nunangat has declined since 2006, the study said.
In 2006, 77 per cent of Inuit women and girls lived in Inuit Nunangat while 23 per cent lived outside of Inuit Nunangat.
But in 2011, 72 per cent were living in Inuit Nunangat and 28 per cent living outside Inuit Nunangat.
The region with the largest number of Inuit women and girls was Nunavut (13,340), followed by Nunavik (5,335).