THUNDER BAY — The number and the percentage of Indigenous people living in the Thunder Bay area grew significantly between the 2016 and 2021 censuses.
Data released Wednesday by Statistics Canada shows that 16,935 people identified as Indigenous in last year's census.
That's about 14 per cent of the Thunder Bay metropolitan area population.
The number of Indigenous residents increased by almost 1,900 – or more than 12 per cent – from the 2016 census, when the group accounted for approximately 12.5 per cent of the population.
The term "Indigenous peoples" refers to three groups – First Nations, Métis and Inuit – who are recognized in the Constitution Act.
In the 2021 census, 12,815 of 16,935 Indigenous respondents were members of First Nations, while 3,700 identified as Métis.
Thunder Bay's Indigenous population is growing steadily.
In 2006, according to census data, only about 8 per cent of the area's population was Indigenous.
But the authors of a 2020 study maintain that the census grossly undercounts the number of Indigenous residents.
Statistics Canada also reported Wednesday that First Nations, Métis and Inuit people made up 5 per cent of the national population last year, up from 4.9 per cent in 2016.
It found that the Indigenous population grew by 9.4 per cent over the five years, almost twice the growth rate of the non-Indigenous population.
The agency said this is generally attributed to higher birth rates, combined with changes in the way respondents answer the census questionnaire from one census to the next.
"In general, respondents have become more likely to identify as Indigenous over time," Statistics Canada said in a news release.