Statistical Information Pertaining to Socio-Economic Conditions of Northern Aboriginal People in Canada: Sources and Limitations
AbstractWith all the recent demographic, environmental, and other changes occurring in the circumpolar region of Canada, empirical investigations of the socio-economic well-being of northern Aboriginal people are becoming increasingly important to policy-makers, yet increasingly challenging to quantitative researchers. This is because systematically generated, comparable statistical data on this segment of the Canadian population have historically been inadequate, if available at all. This article identifies and assesses the quality of the existing major sources of statistical information available to researchers investigating socio-economic issues and needs in the context of northern Aboriginal communities. While a number of data sources are mentioned, the article centres primarily on the evaluation of Canadian censuses and post-censal surveys such as the Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) and the related Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic (SLiCA). These data sources are the most comprehensive in the sense that they contain rich information on the surveyed population's engagement in both traditional and non-traditional economic activities, as well as on a range of other social indicators. After highlighting the relative strengths of each data source, the article makes a number of cautionary notes on their limitations when defining analytical samples and when comparing research results across time as well as between and within different Aboriginal groups. These cautions merit careful attention from researchers and policy-makers addressing specific issues and needs of the diverse sub-groups of the Aboriginal population in northern Canada. Even on the national level, there is a growing consensus on the ineffectiveness of generic policies aimed at alleviating the socio-economic burden of Aboriginal Canadians.
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