A mobile and growing population
The phenomenon of Indigenous mobility towards cities has grown constantly for many years in both Quebec and Canada. According to the 2016 census, over 55 % of First Nations members live in Quebec’s urban areas.
ACCORDING TO THE 2016 CENSUS, OVER 55 % OF FIRST NATIONS MEMBERS LIVE IN QUEBEC’S URBAN AREAS.
Indigenous people live in or significantly frequent more than 50 towns and cities in Quebec. According to the 2016 census, the metropolitan area of Montréal (CMA) has over 34,000 Indigenous residents – including 975 Inuit -, while Québec City (CMA) has over 11,500. Many other towns also have a significant Indigenous presence: Chibougamau, Joliette, La Tuque, Maniwaki, Roberval, Saguenay, Senneterre, Sept-Îles, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Val-d’Or.
Indigenous people are mobile. The main reasons they give for moving to urban areas are studies (35.4%), work (24.6%) and housing (11.1%), while they report returning to the communities especially for family and cultural reasons (FNQLHSSC, 2008).
Developed by the Réseau de recherche et de connaissances relatives aux peuples autochtones (Réseau DIALOG), the concept of a territorial influence area (TIA) leads to better understanding of these dynamics of mobility. A TIA can be measured socioeconomically, as well as by the services offered to Indigenous people, and takes into consideration all the relationships between Indigenous people and urban areas. When the Native Friendship Centres’ TIAs are mapped, we see that 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 (Lévesque et al, 2012).
We also know that the presence of Indigenous people in cities is not static; rather, it too is evolving in the different cities and communities. 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 (RCAAQ, 2015).
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.
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 (Lévesque et al, 2012).
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.