Bright lights, and a growing Inuit population

Males outnumber females among urban Inuit, Statscan reports


Thanks to Statistics Canada, new, up-to-date information is now available about the growing, but poorly-understood population of urban Inuit.

City life is a magnet for young male Inuit with post-secondary educations, it’s good for kids because they’re staying in school, but urban Inuit women may find themselves unemployed and caring for young children in the South.

This is the portrait that emerges from a report, “The Inuit Population living in Census Metropolitan Areas, 2001,” which Statistics Canada prepared on request from the Nunatsiaq News.

The report says seven out of 10 Inuit still live in small communities, mostly in Labrador, Nunavik, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories.

But if you’re an Inuk and you live in a city of more than 100,000, you probably live in either Montreal, Edmonton or Ottawa.

According to the report:

* If you’re an adult, you’re more likely to be a man, 25 to 44. There are more urban Inuit men than women, and relatively fewer numbers of women than in the total city population;
* If you’re a man, you’re studying or working;
* If you’re working, you earn more than Inuit in the North do, and you have a better education;
* If you’re a woman, there’s a 50-50 chance you’re a single mother, and that you have a job;
* If you’re a child, you’re in school and may live with your mother, with relatives or non-relatives. In cities, about half of Inuit children live with single parents or with other relatives or non-relatives, compared to one-fifth of all city children;
* And if you’re an urban Inuk, you probably moved within the last year. Urban Inuit are more mobile than other city dwellers – nearly one out of five moved between 2000 and 2001, a much higher rate than in the total city population.

“This ‘churn’ makes service delivery a challenge,” says the report.

The 2001 census shows the following southern Canadian cities over 100,000 now have more than 100 Inuit residents – Montreal: 435; Edmonton: 420; Ottawa-Hull: 415; Toronto: 315; Vancouver: 250; Calgary: 195; St. John’s: 195; Winnipeg: 160; Halifax: 160, and Saskatoon: 115.

As in the North, the urban Inuit population is young. Nearly half of urban Inuit are under 25 (in comparison, only about one in three non-Inuit living in cities are under 25).

Yet urban Inuit differ in several ways from Inuit in the North.

About half the northern Inuit population 20 to 24 is no longer attending school and hasn’t graduated.

But in the cities, only four per cent – or four out of 100 Inuit, aged 20 to 24, have dropped out of school without receiving a high-school diploma.

And 57 per cent of urban Inuit 15 to 24 still attend school, a level that’s much closer to the 65 per cent of other youth in the cities.

Among urban Inuit 25 to 34, about 35 per cent have completed post-secondary studies, compared to 25 per cent of the same age group in the North and 49 per cent of non-Inuit city dwellers.

There are still large gaps in the employment rates between northern Inuit and the rest of Canadians, and Inuit adults earn about half their average salary, $12,596, instead of $25,052.

And, surprisingly, employment rates for urban Inuit appear to be even a bit lower than for Inuit in the North.

But those urban Inuit who work earn more money.

In cities, the gap between Inuit and non-Inuit salaries is smaller. Urban Inuit adults earn a average of $16,980 compared to the $27,219 average salary for the total adult population living in cities.

And, while employment rates for Inuit women are lower overall than for men, the employment rates were lowest for urban Inuit women.

Still, overall, in cities, urban Inuit have a lower dependence on government transfers and the dependence rate is much closer to that of the general population.

In the North, about one in five Inuit or 20 per cent were receiving government transfer payments such as social assistance, unemployment insurance, and so on: a rate that nearly double that of the total population.

In cities, the gap is much smaller, with 12 per cent of urban Inuit receiving government transfer payments compared to 10 per cent for the total urban population.

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