While town numbers dwindle, reserve population explodes

While most township populations shrank since the last census, First Nation community’s grew substantially.
Couchiching’s population grew by 11.6 percent in the past five years. There are now 595 people living on the reserve, compared to 533 in 1996.
Big Grassy River saw its population grow 6.7 percent—176 residents in 2001 compared to 165 in 1996.
Manitou Rapids, on the other hand, saw a 10.3 decrease in population, from 213 people in 1996 to 191 in 2001.
Information on Naicatchewenin and Stanjikoming was not available.
Historically, First Nations have had very low reply rates to the census and many reserves have rejected the census out right. Reid Thompson, Treaty #3’s executive director, said the First Nations in the district have been responsive.
“There was a partnership signed between Statistics Canada and Treaty #3,” he said, adding that only one reserve in the area declined to participate. About 30 of more than 600 native communities in Canada declined to take part in this census.
The high rate of natural increase may be attributed to the higher birth rate among First Nations people.
The federal department of Indian Affairs, using band membership lists and other measures, estimated Canada’s total aboriginal population at almost 1.4 million in 2000.
In 1996, data for 44,000 people living on 77 reserves and settlements, most of them registered Indians, couldn’t be included because residents answered only selective portions of the questionnaires.