The 1986 Census of
Canada provided, as did all the previous censuses, a rich source of
information on individual, family and household characteristics of
Canadians. The census data allow individual researchers as well as
academic, business, cultural, social and governmental organizations to
undertake in-depth enquiries and analyses on those social issues which
interest and concern them.
This study is part of
the 1986 Focus on Canada Series. The series is a modest effort by
Statistics Canada to provide overviews of a wide variety of subjects on
which the 1986 Census collected information. The studies have been
written by experts, both inside and outside Statistics Canada, in
non-technical language supported by simple tables and attractive charts.
The topics include demographic characteristics (population, families,
farmers, youth, seniors, the disabled), socio-cultural characteristics
(ethnicity, language, education), and economic characteristics (women in
the labour force, affordability of housing, occupational trends,
employment income, family income).
The present study on
"Canada’s North, A Profile” was authored by Professors Allan M. Maslove
and David C. Hawkes of Carleton University.
I would like to express
my appreciation to the authors, to the reviewers and to the staff of the
Bureau involved in managing and producing this series.
We hope that the
studies in the Focus on Canada Series will not only provide Canadians
with very useful information on various facets of Canadian society, but
will also be an inducement for them to undertake further research on the
Ivan P. Fellegi
Chief Statistician of Canada
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1. Definitions
Chapter 2. Demographic Composition and Change
Chapter 3. Cultural Composition
Chapter 4. Education
Chapter 5. Labour Force Activity and Income
Chapter 6. Family and Household Composition
Chapter 7. Housing Conditions
• Although the total
number of persons living in Canada’s North has been relatively stable
between 1981 and 1986, aboriginal peoples form an increasingly large
proportion of this population. This is partly due to their high birth
rates and to the out-migration of non-aboriginal persons during the 1976
to 1986 period. ’
• Although the population of the North is much younger than that of
Canada as a whole, it is aging somewhat, among both the aboriginal and
• The age structure of the entire northern Canadian population, as well
as the size of northern Canada’s aboriginal population, are similar to
those of other circumpolar regions, such as Greenland and Alaska.
• Although aboriginal peoples form 40% of the northern Canadian
population, their numbers range from a high of almost 90% in the extreme
North to 37% in the Fort Smith district of the Northwest Territories
(which includes Yellowknife and Hay River).
• The retention of aboriginal languages is higher in the North than in
all of Canada, but is low in the Yukon.
• Aboriginal language retention rates are low for northern Canadians
with mixed aboriginal/non-aboriginal backgrounds, most of whom lack an
aboriginal mother tongue to retain.
• In terms of level of schooling, the disparity among aboriginal and
non-aboriginal persons is greater in the North than in Canada as a
whole. This is because aboriginal Northerners have less schooling than
their southern counterparts, while non-aboriginal Northerners are more
highly educated than their southern counterparts.
• Aboriginal peoples in the North appear to have made few gains in
educational achievement during the 1981 to 1986 period.
• The Inuit have the least formal education, and the Metis the most,
among northern aboriginal peoples.
• Northern Canadians, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, are similar to
Canadians as a whole in the fields of study they pursue in postsecondary
• Non-aboriginal persons in Canada’s North tend to participate in a
high-wage economy, to be strongly attached to the work force, and to be
concentrated in professional and administrative activities.
Aboriginal persons in Canada’s North tend to have much lower incomes, be
more dependent on government transfers as their principal source of
income, have less attachment to the mainstream labour market, and have
higher rates of unemployment for those in the labour force.
Northern Canadian families are more likely to be husband-wife families
than their southern counterparts.
Aboriginal families tend to be larger than non-aboriginal families, but
no differences between Canada’s North and South are apparent.
Aboriginal families are less likely to have both spouses present than
non-aboriginal families although the percentage of aboriginal
lone-parent families in the North is lower compared to their
counterparts in the South.
Housing quality (whether measured by persons per room or by the presence
of central heating facilities) in Canada’s North is on average lower
than in the rest of Canada.
As in all of Canada, aboriginal housing is of lower quality in the North
than non-aboriginal housing (although the disparity is greater across
The choice of heating fuels varies across the North in patterns that
reflect the availability and relative cost of alternative fuels.
However, some differences between aboriginal and non-aboriginal
dwellings may also reflect housing quality differences.
The Canadian North has
undergone important changes in recent years, especially in demographic,
economic and social areas. It has experienced significant economic
activity in oil, gas and mineral exploration and development throughout
the 1980s, although much of this has been sporadic due to swings in
world commodity prices for these resources. Projects such as the
Beaufort Sea oil and gas explorations, the expansion of the Norman Wells
oil fields, and the building of an 800 km oil pipeline through the
Mackenzie River valley to northern Alberta have stimulated the northern
economy. Significant slumps in the mining industry have had the opposite
effect. At the same time, northern Canadians, and in particular
aboriginal peoples, have been strengthening their role in political and
economic development, conducting negotiations in such areas as land
claims and self-government, and renewing their efforts to preserve
This study examines some of these changes, based on data from the 1986
Census of Canada. It examines who lives in the North (age, sex,
ethnicity, language), as well as migration in and out of the North,
education, income, the structure of the labour force, family and
household structure, and housing conditions.
Throughout the analysis, the demographic and socio-economic
characteristics of the North are compared with those of Canada as a
whole. These characteristics of Northern aboriginal peoples are
contrasted to those of their non-aboriginal counterparts, and, finally,
regions within the North are compared to each other. In order to measure
change over time, data from the 1986 Census are contrasted to those
obtained from the 1981 Census. In some cases, differences among northern
Aboriginal peoples (Inuit, Indian and Metis) are examined, and where
information is available, the similarities are highlighted between
Northern Canadians and Northern people in circumpolar regions in other
countries such as Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Soviet Union,
and U.S.A. (Alaska).
You can download a pdf of this report here