Indigenous ancestry of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on May 11, 2021.


Indigenous ancestry refers to whether a person has ancestry associated with the Indigenous peoples of Canada, that is, First Nations (North American Indian), Métis, and/or Inuit. Aboriginal peoples (referred to here as Indigenous peoples) of Canada are defined in the Constitution Act, 1982, Section 35 (2) as including the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada. The term 'Aboriginal' has been replaced with the updated term of 'Indigenous' when referring to individuals who identify themselves as First Nations people, Métis and/or Inuit. Ancestry refers to the ethnic or cultural origins of the person's ancestors, an ancestor being usually more distant than a grandparent. A person can have more than one ethnic or cultural origin.

Person refers to an individual and is the unit of analysis for most social statistics programs.


'Indigenous ancestry of person' is typically analyzed using the List of Indigenous ancestry responses 2021, where each response is considered separately. Persons who report more than one origin (Indigenous or non-Indigenous) are included in the response category for each of the origins they reported and the counts for specific origins reflect the number of responses provided. As a result, the counts for specific origins in this list cannot be meaningfully summed because the total number of responses given to the question is greater than the total population.

'Indigenous ancestry of person' may also be analyzed using the Classification of Indigenous ancestry. In this classification, persons are classified into mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories depending on whether they have a single Indigenous ancestry, multiple Indigenous ancestries, Indigenous and non-Indigenous ancestries or non-Indigenous ancestry only. As a result, the categories in this classification sum to the total population.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard conforms to the recommendations for censuses contained in the United Nations' "Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 3", 2017. The UN suggests that defining the Indigenous population can be done in many ways, such as through a question on ethnic origin (that is to say, ancestry) and/or on Indigenous identity. This standard conforms to the first of the suggested approaches. The UN provides no standard classification because countries use their own national concepts to identify the Indigenous population.


Relation to previous version

  • Indigenous ancestry of person May 11, 2021 to current

    The terminology within the concept has been updated from 'Aboriginal' to 'Indigenous' in English. The wording of the concept definition has been modified but the meaning is unchanged. The list of Indigenous ancestry responses has been considerably expanded compared to the previous version.

  • Aboriginal ancestry of person October 19, 2015 to May 10, 2021

    This is an update to Aboriginal ancestry of person. The definition has been reworded but the meaning is unchanged.

  • Aboriginal ancestry of person April 20, 2009 to October 18, 2015

    This standard replaces the standard for Aboriginal ancestry. Previously, persons who did not have Aboriginal ancestry but had been accorded Aboriginal rights by legislation, for example, by marriage to an Aboriginal person, were considered to have Aboriginal ancestry. This has been changed. In the current standard, only persons who reported at least one ancestry associated with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada among their ethnic origins are considered to have Aboriginal ancestry. Aboriginal peoples of Canada are defined in the Constitution Act, 1982, Section 35 (2) as including the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada. Note: The current standard was updated in March 18, 2013 to include the classification of Aboriginal ancestry response.

  • Aboriginal ancestry July 15, 1998 to April 19, 2009

    'Aboriginal ancestry of person' replaces the standard 'Aboriginal ancestry' as of April 20, 2009.

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