Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic May 08, 2013 - 11:45 am

Less than two in three Inuit speak an Inuit language: StatsCan

About 27 per cent of Inuit live outside traditional homelands

JIM BELL
The Rising Sun childcare centre in the Montreal borough of Verdun operates in three languages — English, French and Inuktitut. But of the roughly 16,000 Inuit who live outside Inuit Nunangat, only one in 10 report the ability to speak an Inuit language. (FILE PHOTO)
The Rising Sun childcare centre in the Montreal borough of Verdun operates in three languages — English, French and Inuktitut. But of the roughly 16,000 Inuit who live outside Inuit Nunangat, only one in 10 report the ability to speak an Inuit language. (FILE PHOTO)
An inuksuk stands in front of one of the buildings owned by Tungasuvinngat Inuit, the Ottawa-based community centre for Inuit, which serves an estimated population of about 735, some of the 15,980 Inuit who now live outside traditional Inuit homelands, StatsCan reported May 8.(FILE IMAGE)
An inuksuk stands in front of one of the buildings owned by Tungasuvinngat Inuit, the Ottawa-based community centre for Inuit, which serves an estimated population of about 735, some of the 15,980 Inuit who now live outside traditional Inuit homelands, StatsCan reported May 8.(FILE IMAGE)

Less than two of every three Inuit in Canada — about 37,615 people — are able to conduct a conversation in the Inuit language, Statistics Canada reports.

That number is contained in a big release of data May 8 that Statistics Canada gathered during its 2011 household survey.

StatsCan number-crunchers estimate Canada’s Inuit population at 59,445 for 2011.

Of those, 43,460 Inuit, about 73 per cent of the total, live in Inuit Nunangat, defined as the Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut and the Inuvialuit regions.

The other 27 per cent — 15,980 Inuit — live outside traditional Inuit homelands, StatsCan reported.

On language use, StatsCan found 63.3 per cent of the Inuit population is able to converse in an Inuit language. That’s down from 68.8 per cent in 2006.

And though the Inuit population in Canada grew 18.1 per cent between 2006 and 2011, the raw number of Inuit able to speak an Inuit language grew by only 8.6 per cent.

A small number of Inuit, about 250, report the ability to speak Cree or Innu-Montagnais languages.

StatsCan’s numbers suggest the Inuit language is healthiest in Nunavik, where 99.1 per cent of the region’s Inuit population of 10,755 report the ability to speak an Inuit language.

And Inuit language use is still fairly strong in Nunavut, where 89 per cent, or 24,090 Inuit, report the ability to conduct a conversation in an Inuit language.

But only 24.9 per cent of Inuit in the Nunatsiavut region and 20.1 per cent of Inuit in the Inuvialuit region of the Northwest Territories are able to converse in an Inuit language.

And of the roughly 16,000 Inuit who live outside Inuit Nunangat, only one in 10 report the ability to speak an Inuit language.

StatsCan found that of the country’s large urban population centres, Edmonton holds the largest Inuit population: 1,115.

The agency counted 900 Inuit in Montreal, 735 in Ottawa, 735 in Yellowknife and 680 in St. John’s.

StatsCan also found that Canada’s Aboriginal population is booming, having grown by 20.1 per cent between 2006 and 2011, while the non-Aboriginal population grew by 5.2 per cent.

They found that 1.4 million people in Canada reported an Aboriginal identity in 2011: 851,560 First Nations people, 451,795 Métis and 59,445 Inuit.

And it’s a young population: 28 per cent of the Aboriginal population are children under the age of 14 and 18.2 per cent are youth aged 15 to 24.

Among First Nations, 22.4 per cent report the ability to converse in an Aboriginal language. Only 2.5 per cent of Métis speak an Aboriginal language.

The Inuit population in Canada is the youngest, with a median age of only 23. “Median age” means that half of all Inuit are under 23.

Here are the 2011 Inuit population counts for the four Inuit regions and the rest of Canada, with the relative proportion of each:

• Nunavut: 27,070 (45.5 per cent)

• Nunavik: 10,750 (18.1 per cent)

• Inuvialuit region: 3,310 (5.6 per cent)

• Nunatsiavut: 2,325 (3.9 per cent)

• Outside Inuit Nunangat: 15,980 (26.9 per cent)

Statistics Canada cautions that because the 2011 household survey was voluntary, their statistics could be subject to a greater number of potential errors caused by a higher non-response rate.

That’s because the Conservative government’s controversial decision to eliminate mandatory compliance with the household survey.

It’s estimated the non-compliance rate in 2011 could be as high as 30 per cent.

Statistics Canada also cautions that some of their First Nations numbers could contain more errors because of non-compliance and the refusal by some First Nations to allow StatsCan workers onto their territory.

They also caution that estimates of Inuit living outside Inuit Nunangat may be subject to error because of the small size of the total number.

This Statistics Canada graphic shows the largest proportion of Inuit in Canada — 45.5 per cent — live in Nunavut. But the second-largest, 26.9 per cent, live outside traditional Inuit homelands. (STATISTICS CANADA IMAGE)
This Statistics Canada graphic shows the largest proportion of Inuit in Canada — 45.5 per cent — live in Nunavut. But the second-largest, 26.9 per cent, live outside traditional Inuit homelands. (STATISTICS CANADA IMAGE)
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