Environics Institute releases the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study (UAPS)


Urban Aboriginal peoples (First Nations peoples, Métis, and Inuit) are an increasingly significant social, political and economic presence in Canadian cities today.

First-of-a-kind Research Study takes new, in-depth look at growing population in 11 cities.

TORONTO, April 6, 2010 – An extensive new research study has gone beyond the numbers to capture the values and aspirations of this growing population.

By speaking directly with a representative group of 2,614 First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit living in major Canadian cities, as well as 2,501 non Aboriginal Canadians, the Environics Institute, led by Michael Adams, has released the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study (UAPS), which offers Canadians a new perspective of their Aboriginal neighbors living in Canada’s eleven largest cities. In the 2006 Census –1.172 million people self-identified themselves as “Aboriginal”, half of whom (one in two) reported living in urban centres.

“This study is about the future, not the past. The Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study offers Canadians a new picture of Aboriginal peoples in cities. Ideally, the things we have learned will help people understand each other better, have better conversations, and live together better in our urban communities.” ~Michael Adams, President, Environics Institute

Guided by an Advisory Circle, Aboriginal people designed the research themes, methodology, and executed the main survey.

“When urban Aboriginal peoples are researched it’s often about problems like homelessness and sexual exploitation. There are hundreds of thousands of us living in cities, and there are a lot of positive things happening in our communities; it’s not all crises. But unless someone comes along and says, ‘This is interesting. Tell me about your choices; tell me about your community,’ then people don’t notice that they’re part of a wider social change.” ~Ginger Gosnell-Myers, UAPS Project Manager


  • For most, the city is home, but urban Aboriginal peoples stay connected to their communities of origin. Six in ten feel a close connection to these communities – links that are integral to strong family and social ties, and to traditional and contemporary Aboriginal culture. Notwithstanding these links, majorities of First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit consider their current city of residence home (71%), including those who are the first generation of their family to live in their city.
  • Eight in ten participants said they were “very proud” of their specific Aboriginal identity, i.e., First Nations, Métis or Inuk. Slightly fewer – 70 per cent – said the same about being Canadian.
  • Urban Aboriginal peoples are seeking to become a significant and visible part of the urban landscape. Six in ten feel they can make their city a better place to live, a proportion similar to non-Aboriginal urban dwellers.
  • Six in ten were completely or somewhat unworried about losing contact with their culture, while a minority were totally (17 per cent) or somewhat (21 per cent) concerned. As well, by a wide margin (6:1), First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit think Aboriginal culture in their communities has become stronger rather than weaker in the last five years.
  • They display a higher tolerance for other cultures than their non-Aboriginal neighbours: 77% of urban Aboriginal peoples believe there is room for a variety of languages and cultures in this country in contrast to 54% of non-Aboriginal urbanites.
  • Almost all believe they are consistently viewed in negative ways by non-Aboriginal people. Almost three in four participants perceived assumptions about addiction problems, while many felt negative stereotypes about laziness (30 per cent), lack of intelligence (20 per cent) and poverty (20 per cent).
  • Education is their top priority, and an enduring aspiration for the next generation. Twenty per cent want the next generation to understand the importance of education, 18 per cent hope younger individuals will stay connected to their cultural community and 17 per cent hope the next generation will experience life without racism.
  • Money was cited as the No.1 barrier to getting a post-secondary education among 36 per cent of those planning to attend – and 45 per cent of those already enrolled in – a university or college.
  • Urban Aboriginal peoples do not have great confidence in the criminal justice system in Canada. More than half (55%) have little confidence in the criminal justice system and majorities support the idea of a separate Aboriginal justice system.
  • A significant minority (4 in 10) feel there is no one Aboriginal organization or National political party that best represent them, or cannot say.

The perspective of non-Aboriginal urban Canadians

  • Non-Aboriginal urban Canadians are divided on where Aboriginal people fit in the Canadian mosaic: 54 percent believe Aboriginal people should have special rights and 39 percent think they are just like any other cultural or ethnic group (this divide varies across cities).
  • Perceptions of the current state of relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are divided, but there are signs of optimism.
  • NA urban Canadians are starting to recognize the urban Aboriginal community and their cultural presence, but have limited knowledge of Aboriginal people and issues, although they do demonstrate a desire to learn more.
  • There is a widespread belief among NA urban Canadians that Aboriginal people experience discrimination.

The Study

Through UAPS, more than100 interviewers, almost all of whom were themselves Aboriginal, conducted 2,614 in-person interviews with Métis, Inuit and First Nations (status and non-status) individuals living in eleven Canadian cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Ottawa (Inuit only).

The study also investigated how non-Aboriginal people view Aboriginal people in Canada today through a telephone survey with 2,501 non-Aboriginal urban Canadians living in these same cities (excluding Ottawa).

This first-of-its-kind study, conducted by the Environics Institute, and guided by an Advisory Circle of recognized experts from academia and from Aboriginal communities, is designed to better understand the values, identities, experiences and aspirations of Aboriginal Peoples (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) living in Canadian cities.

Findings and insights from this research are intended to establish a baseline of information on the urban Aboriginal population in Canada, prompt discussion within Aboriginal communities and between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, and inform public policy and planning initiatives that pertain to urban Aboriginal peoples.

UAPS Sponsors

Major sponsors: Sponsors:
INAC – Federal Interlocutor Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation
Trillium Foundation Calgary Foundation
Province of Alberta Elections Canada
Province of Saskatchewan The  Mental Health Commission
Province of Manitoba/Manitoba Hydro City of Edmonton
Province of Ontario (Aboriginal Affairs) City of Toronto
  Province of Nova Scotia (Aboriginal Affairs)
  Winnipeg Foundation
  John Lefebrve
  Edmonton Community Foundation
  Toronto Community Foundation
  Vancouver Foundation
  Halifax Regional Municipality
  Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

What’s next?

The research is intended to provide a potential starting point for a range of initiatives: ongoing organizing and capacity-building in the cities studied; dialogue among Aboriginal networks and organizations about urban realities in different parts of the country; policy discussions at all levels of government; public dialogue; and, of course, further research. UAPS data will be made available to other research projects.

Currently, the Environics Institute is preparing to roll out an engagement process in the eleven cities that participated in the study bringing the study’s findings back to the communities that shared their insights and told their stories.

The Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study may be downloaded here.

The Environics Institute for Survey Research was established in 2006 to sponsor relevant and original public opinion, attitude and social values research related to issues of public policy and social change. We wish to survey those not usually heard from, using questions not usually asked.