Indigenous count crucial to determining services

Pandemic protection measures in place for Indigenous communities

The federal agency conducting this month’s census says it is taking extra steps because of the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid having people enter Indigenous communities.

“Those in Indigenous communities will be able to self-enumerate with an electronic questionnaire for the first time where possible. Respondents will also be able to complete a questionnaire by phone with the help of a Statistics Canada employee, by calling the Census Help Line,” indicates information provided by Statistics Canada.

“In cases where a Statistics Canada census employee is sent to a dwelling to follow-up with households who have not responded, a new no-contact protocol will be followed. In addition, where door-to-door collection is necessary, the enumeration in Indigenous communities will be done by local staff, in order to avoid the movement of people into Indigenous communities.”

“Only in certain circumstances where that is not possible will staff from other communities conduct the census,” the information adds.

The count of Indigenous people is important for First Nations governments in determining what services are needed and the level of those services in the same fashion that local governments depend on information for their own communities.

And that includes identifying Indigenous people living off and on reserve although Statistics Canada does indicate there could be discrepancies.

It cautions that there is a difference between membership in a First Nation and membership of an Indian band.

“These are two separate questions and separate concepts. A respondent can indicate that they are a Registered Indian without being a member of a First Nation, or conversely, that they are a member of a First Nation without being a Registered Indian,” states Statistics Canada.

“Question number 27 [of the 2021 census] provides the opportunity for respondents to specify the First Nation of which they are a member, if applicable. This question is asked on all long-form questionnaires across Canada, therefore results will reflect residents living both on and off reserve,” states the information.

“Estimates for specific First Nations reflect self-reported responses to the census question and may differ from the administrative records collected by the First Nation themselves. As a result, these data should not be used as official estimates of the First Nations in Canada,” the information adds.

As to how census information is used by governments and policy makers, Statistics Canada says that is up to the governments and policy makers themselves.

“Statistics Canada releases data that can assist policy-makers in developing and evaluating policies and programs. Users should select the most appropriate data for their intended purpose. Statistics Canada does not determine service levels within Indigenous communities.”