In 2016, almost 900,000 Indigenous people lived in urban areas (towns and cities with a population of 30,000 or more), accounting for more than half of Indigenous people in Canada. They are often referred to as “Urban Indigenous peoples.” The largest Urban Indigenous populations are in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto.
Many Indigenous people move to cities seeking employment or educational opportunities. Some have lived in cities for generations, while for others the transition from rural areas or reserves to urban settings is still very new. Many Canadian cities occupy the traditional territories and reserves of First Nations. For example, Vancouver lies on the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
Most Urban Indigenous peoples consider the city they live in to be their “home.” However, for many it is also important to keep a close connection to the Indigenous community of their family’s origin. This could be the place where they were born or where their parents or grandparents lived. Connection to these communities helps many people retain their traditional and contemporary Indigenous culture.
Urban Indigenous peoples in Vancouver
The Urban Indigenous peoples in Vancouver are an important and visible part of the city’s life. However, the majority believe they are viewed in negative ways. Despite this, according to the Urban Indigenous Peoples Study (2010), among Indigenous people in Vancouver:
- 83 per cent are “very proud” of their Indigenous identity
- 52 per cent are “very proud” of being Canadian
- 44 per cent are not concerned about losing their cultural identity; they feel it is strong enough to continue and that they can protect it
- 70 per cent think Indigenous culture has become stronger in the last five years
- 18 per cent hope that young people from the next generation will stay connected to their cultural community, and 17 per cent hope their young people will experience life without racism and discrimination.