Nova Scotia's Indigenous population doubles over past 10 years: Stats Canada
New data released from Statistics Canada shows the Aboriginal population in Nova Scotia has more than doubled over the past 10 years.
The figures show the Aboriginal population has increased 113.5 per cent over that time, which is the most significant increase in the country.
First Nations Chief Morley Googoo calls it promising news.
"Previously a lot of people had been hiding their identity and hadn't identified themselves as First Nation, but now with reconciliation happening, a lot more people are coming forward. They're not ashamed. They're proud of their heritage," Googoo says.
Googoo believes the population boom is a result of a number of factors, including an awareness campaign to let Aboriginal Canadians know the importance of filling out their census.
"If we don't have the proper numbers and the proper data, the funding request that we put in to federal government is not going to be adequate and we're not going to be able to serve our people properly," he says.
Over 51,000 Nova Scotians identify as Aboriginal, making up 5.7 per cent of the population. In New Brunswick, more than 29,000 identify as Aboriginal, 4.9 per cent of the population and mirroring the national average.
The growth can also be shown through average age data. The population of Canadians identifying as Aboriginal is nearly 10 years younger than the average Canadian.
The average age of Aboriginal people in Nova Scotia is 35.1 years old compared to 44 years old for non-Aboriginals.
In New Brunswick, the average Aboriginal is 35.5 years old compared to 43.4 years old. In Prince Edward Island, the Aboriginal average is a full 12 years younger.
"The statistics and research for years say we're having more kids,” says Cheryl Maloney of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association. “We're the only population that's growing in Canada. The others are declining and having less children, so that's just sort of a natural path of our population growth."
But Maloney says the increase in the Aboriginal population may have some negative explanations as well.
"That's the problem. You can just self-identify or go to these ancestry.coms and a lot of people are - I don't want to say coming out of the woodwork- but it seems like there's an influx whenever there are new rights that are hard fought and won."
But the numbers don't lie and First Nations communities in the Maritimes are seeing growth, at a time when many other communities are trending in the opposite direction.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April.