Through a survey focusing on social and economic outcomes related to education, employment, health and access to services, the Canadian government is looking to collect important information about Indigenous peoples.
The Indigenous Peoples Survey (IPS) is a national survey of First Nations people living off reserve, Métis and Inuit living in Canada. The 2022 survey, from Statistics Canada, will collect information regarding language, harvesting, handcrafting, cultural activities, housing and mobility. It is conducted every five years.
Tim Leonard, assistant director of StatCan’s Centre for Indigenous Statistics and Partnerships, said the survey’s purpose is to fill important gaps in data about Indigenous peoples.
This year’s themes, he said, will focus on where Statistics Canada can dig deeper into data about Indigenous peoples.
“It has 480 questions. It really covers a broad, broad area.”
The survey informs policy and programming activities aimed at improving the well-being of Indigenous peoples. Leonard said it’s an important source of information for a variety of stakeholders, including Indigenous organizations, communities, service providers, researchers, governments and the general public.
“Any good program, any good policy has to be based on data. It’s fundamental. It’s about making evidence-based decisions,” Leonard said. “If you’re going to be investing a lot of money into a program, you want to have some basis and some way of speaking to that issue.”
Leonard said having that data on hand helps policies and programs be implemented more quickly. However, it’s not just about numbers and raw data.
“Our job is to take that data and put it into digestible form,” Leonard explained. “We create a massive data set that people can access and run data runs and tell their own stories, but we also try and disseminate that information into bits and pieces. We’ll take a particular storyline, maybe about Indigenous children … and tell a story about them living across Canada. Then the next story we tell will be a slightly different [one], maybe on Indigenous languages.”
From any given survey cycle, Leonard said, there are 20 to 25 really good stories that can be told from the data.
“That’s what the survey is able to do. It’ll take an issue and dig deeper to really provide a rich story.”
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) is encouraging all of the people that the government randomly selects to participate in the survey.
Elmer St. Pierre, CAP’s national chief, said in a press release on Aug. 2 that the survey is an important tool to identify challenges and issues Indigenous peoples face from coast to coast to coast.
“Indigenous people across the country have very different needs, and it’s crucial governments and organizations are able to clearly identify those needs to ensure the proper supports and programs are in place.”
Kimberly Beaudin, national vice-chief of CAP, told the Sun he’s happy to see the survey include Indigenous peoples living off-reserve.
“Over the years, it’s always been focused on people who live on-reserve or in rural areas … but this is actually better,” Beaudin said of this year’s survey. “It’ll have more of a focus on those who live off-reserve. It’s really important.”
Beaudin said he hopes the survey will give the federal government a much clearer picture of the needs and issues faced by Indigenous peoples who live off-reserve.
“One of the issues that we’ve been dealing with for years is … people who live off-reserve and have a membership for a particular band, and then what happens is that that band doesn’t recognize them or doesn’t want to address needs and issues and things like that that they should be, because they’re too focused on their on-reserve [people].”
Beaudin said CAP has been lobbying Statistics Canada for many years to increase focus on Indigenous peoples living off-reserve.
“I think they’re getting the message from CAP that this is an important survey that needs to be done, and then we can build those kinds of issues into what we’re trying to do as well, for programs and services and that sort of thing.”
The collection period for the 2022 survey started May 11 and will end Nov. 30.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun