Nunavik families buck national trends

Greatest number of single-parent families in Canada



Nunavik has the highest proportion of single-parent families of any geographic area in Canada, according to a Statistics Canada report issued Tuesday.

The report examines Canadian family and dwelling trends gleaned from last year’s census statistics.

It found that Nunavik’s family structures and living arrangements national trends do not mirror.

“Nunavik has two things going on that are really different from the rest of Canada — a high proportion of common-law couples and a very high proportion of lone-parent families,” Claude Yell, an analyst with Statistics Canada, said this week.

According to the report, there were 8.3 million families in Canada in 2001. Single-parent households accounted for only 1.3 million, or 15.7 per cent of Canadian families, while married families numbered 5.9 million or 70.5 per cent.

But of the 2,175 families in Nunavik, single-parent families numbered 755 and married families numbered 895.

“If you look at the proportion of lone-parent families for Quebec it’s 16.6 per cent but for Nunavik it’s 34.7 per cent,” Yell said.

“It means if you take the total number of families for Quebec, almost 17 per cent are lone families, but for Nunavik it’s almost double. That’s a very high proportion compared to the rest of Quebec and the rest of Canada.”

Nunavut has the next highest proportion of single-parent families at 25.6 per cent and Newfoundland-Labrador has the smallest proportion at 14.9 per cent.

Few statistics have been released for Nunavik because it is not an official administrative area, however, those that have been released paint a portrait of a highly distinct region.

For example, though the traditional family structure of a married couple with children continues to drop nationally, married families remain Canada’s predominant family structure at 70.5 per cent.

At the same time, the national proportion of common-law families is growing and now accounts for 13.8 per cent of all family structures.

But in Nunavik, married families make up only 41.1 per cent of total families, common-law couples account for 23.3 per cent and single-parent families number 34.7 per cent.

Another national trend showed the number of households in Canada is growing faster than the population living in them.

Between 1996 and 2001, private households grew by almost seven per cent while the number of people living in these households grew only by four per cent.

Though Statistics Canada has not yet gathered all Nunavik housing and dwelling statistics into a unified report, an impromptu analysis by Yell of two Nunavik communities again set the region apart from the rest of Canada.

Between 1996 and 2001, Kuujjuaq’s population has grown by 11.9 per cent, but the number of households has grown at a near identical rate of 12 per cent.

In Akulivik, housing development lags behind the village’s population growth. Over the past five years, Akulivik’s population has grown by nearly 15 per cent but housing has only increased by six per cent.

There are also many more married and common-law couples with children in Nunavik than in the rest of Canada where the number of couples with children is declining.

Yell said these discrepancies indicate any provincial or federal public policy would need to address Nunavik’s unique family trends.

“I am not a politician so it may not be my place to say but it does seem to indicate you can’t manage Nunavik the same way as you would manage the North Coast or Gaspésie,” he said. “It’s too different. Even the data for the southern rural areas of Quebec does not have these extreme differences from say what is happening in Montreal.”

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