The phenomenon of Indigenous mobility towards cities has grown constantly for many years in both Quebec and Canada. It is part of the ways of life of Indigenous people, in the paths of families and in the trajectories of individuals.

Indigenous people live in or significantly frequent more than 50 towns and cities in Quebec. Among the cities with the largest number of Indigenous residents are Montreal et Québec City, but also Chibougamau, Joliette, La Tuque, Maniwaki, Roberval, Saguenay, Senneterre, Sept-Îles, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Val-d’Or. There are many reasons for moving to urban areas: to pursue studies, to seek work, to find adequate housing, or to receive health care.


The role of the friendship Centres

This movement has a huge impact on the necessity, quality and quantity of services offered in cities. In addition to offering services to the Indigenous residents of urban areas, our Centres must open their services to those who are just passing through in the short-, mid- and long-terms, while also building partnerships with service providers in the communities to develop a continuum of effective services for these Indigenous travelers.

For this purpose, the presence of a Centre influences the dynamics and logic of Indigenous individuals’ and families’ mobility. The Centres act like focal points for Indigenous people, whether these latter live in or are just passing through the urban area. As a result, the Indigenous population a Centre serves greatly exceeds the number of Indigenous people counted in Statistics Canada censes for any given city.


Personal trajectories towards cities

The presence of Indigenous people in cities is not static. Four personal trajectories emerge that are typical of the urban Indigenous population:

  • Occasional or transitory movement by the large majority of Indigenous people for medical reasons, employment, higher education and training, purchases, public services, etc.
  • Obligatory movement spurred by the difficult living conditions that can be experienced in the communities, such as domestic violence, lack of adequate services, loss of autonomy, overcrowded housing, unemployment, substance abuse, etc.
  • Involuntary movement caused by legal rulings, like child placement in foster homes, individuals who are released from jail elsewhere than in the communities, women who lost their Indian Status prior to 1985, etc.
  • Temporary or permanent voluntary movement caused by a deliberate choice: marriage, higher-education, access to a larger labour market or any other “differential” advantage over life in the communities.

In addition to the phenomenon of mobility towards cities is the growing reality of Indigenous people born and raised in urban areas who show no less interest in Indigenous cultures and pride in their identity.

Furthermore, a major increase in the Indigenous population was recorded following the McIvor Judgement Rendered in 2008 by the Supreme Court of Canada, this ruling recognized the Indian Status of a whole generation that, until that moment, had not had access to the status. This explains how Indigenous population growth in cities is not an “exodus” from the communities, but rather an increase in the number of Indigenous people already living in urban areas who recently received Indian Status.

References: Lévesque, C., E. Cloutier, D. Salée, P. Apparicio et M. Gagnon (2012). Cartographie sociale et économique de la population autochtone des villes du Québec. Bilan provincial. Rapport de recherche, Cahier ODENA, no. 2012-04, Montréal : Alliance de recherche ODENA, Réseau de recherche et de connaissances relatives aux peuples autochtones (DIALOG) et Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec.

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