The growth rate of Canada’s Indigenous population is four times higher than the rest of Canada, according to the latest census data.
Jalon Jack, Shayla Williams and their eight-month-old son Jalon Jr. perfectly depict new census figures released Wednesday by Statistics Canada.
At the ages 24 and 21 respectively, the young family is loving parenthood and is looking forward to growing their family.
“Being able to teach all your little ones all you’ve learned and pass down all your traditions,” Williams said about a few things she’s looking forward to.
The average age of Aboriginals in Canada is 32. In Saskatchewan, the average age of Indigenous people is 28.
Like 56 per cent of Aboriginals, the family lives off reserve.
“I got up, moved away, went to Regina, worked,” said Jalon, who is currently employed in Regina with a paving company.
Originally from Carry the Kettle First Nation, they made the move from the reserve to the city for Jalon Jr.
“There’s nothing for them to do and they just get into mischief,” Williams explained in regards to life on reserve.
According to the census, 44 per cent of status Indians on reserve live in homes that need major repair. Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) third vice-chief Dutch Lerat said that rundown homes coupled with overcrowding are driving people elsewhere.
“To address that would address a lot of, not only the social issues, but a lot of the health issues that our First Nations, and their children and the elders encounter,” Lerat explained.
He’s in charge of the FSIN’s housing strategy and political mandate – created with input from every First Nation in Saskatchewan.
Lerat is meeting with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to strategize ways to lobby the federal government to address housing issues that First Nations people face. It’s a timely endeavor, considering Statistics Canada expects the Indigenous population to climb from 1.7 million to 2.5 million by 2036.
An increase in the number of people self-reporting as Indigenous, plus a greater life expectancy and higher fertility rates are factors behind the growth.
“Have a big family, just a big full house … it’s kind of warming,” Williams said with a smile.