Infographic Wednesday - Urban Aboriginal Homelessness in Canada

University of Lethbridge
February 19, 2014

The causes and impacts of Aboriginal homelessness are difficult to quantify and evaluate because our understanding of these phenomena is based on:

  1. Assorted anecdotal evidence consisting of front-line worker observations;
  2. Various and methodologically disparate municipal homelessness censuses; and
  3. Municipal and academic reports examining these trends.

Two specific schools of thought have also emerged that identify the cause and effect of urban Aboriginal homelessness. One is derived from front-line, worker-collected data utilized for municipal policy development, and the second school is found in the researcher-driven academic literature, which is often developed according to personal interest, and with limited intention of informing policy or support services. Those seeking to explicate these issues have therefore lacked a baseline underscoring national rates of urban Aboriginal homelessness.

This infographic is based on an exhaustive search of online reports and other data sources, and the homelessness counts undertaken in major urban centres nationally during the last decade. Only those reports that identified the presence of significant Aboriginal homelessness in large Canadian cities were used. For all the cities that fit our evaluative criteria we estimated that the urban Aboriginal homeless population accounts for 29 percent of the overall homeless population in Canada. Of the total 70,200 Canadian urban homeless, 20,358 are Aboriginal, and these data reflect only those who were counted in recent censuses. They do not account for rough sleepers and couch surfers, as an example. It is estimated that the Canadian homeless population exceeds 150,000 although recent academic assessments suggest that roughly 250,000 people are homeless at any given time. Using a median 150,000 as our guide (a substantial majority of which is urban populations), the above analysis would suggest that there are 43,500 urban Aboriginal homeless individuals in Canada. Statistics Canada has estimated that there are an estimated 633,306 urban Aboriginal people nationally.

These data would suggest that 6.97% of all urban Aboriginal people are considered to be homeless on any one night, compared with 0.78% of the mainstream population. Put another way, more than one in fifteen urban Aboriginal people are homeless, compared to one out of 128 non-Native Canadians. This means that urban Aboriginal people are more than eight times likely to be or become homeless than non-Native urban individuals.

Aboriginal Homelessness Infographic

Dr. Yale D. Belanger (Ph.D.) is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge (Alberta). His doctoral work at Trent University focused on the emergence and evolution of Aboriginal political organizations in late 19th- and early 20th-century Canada. Dr. Belanger is widely published in various edited compilations and in journals such as Canadian Foreign Policy, Journal of Gambling Business and Economics, International Journal of Canadian Studies, International Gambling Studies, Business & Politics, the Saskatchewan Institute on Public Policy, the Canadian Journal of Native Studies, Native Studies Review, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and American Indian Quarterly. In 2006, he produced Gambling with the Future: The Evolution of Aboriginal Gaming in Canada (Purich Publishing), the first book-length treatment tracing the emergence of casino gaming among Canada’s First Nations seeking improved economic development opportunities. He followed this in 2011 with First Nations Gaming in Canada (University of Manitoba Press). In 2008, he edited the third edition of Aboriginal Self-Government in Canada: Current Trends and Issues. In 2010, he published Ways of Knowing: An Introduction to Native Studies in Canada with Thompson-Nelson. Dr. Belanger is a regular contributor for the Canadian and international media, having appeared on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) National News serial Contact, The National with Peter Mansbridge, The National Post and CBC Radio International, among others. Dr. Belanger currently resides in Lethbridge with his wife Tammie-Jai and Smokey the dog.

Add Comment

Recent Tweets

Content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License

The analysis and interpretations contained in the blog posts are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.