Manitoba First Nation Among Youngest Communities in Canada: Census Data
While Canada’s latest census figures show an aging population, a First Nation in Manitoba has one of the highest percentages of people under the age of 15 in the country.
In Norway House Cree Nation, about 500 kilometers north of Winnipeg, 34.7% of the population is under the age of 15, more than double the national average of 16.9%, according to census results from 2021 from Statistics Canada released Wednesday, focusing on age-related factors. The data.
The federal agency said two Canadian communities “stand out for their very high proportion of children under the age of 15” – Norway House and Mackenzie County, Alberta, where 36.2% of the population is under the age of 15. 15 years old.
Mackenzie County has a large Mennonite community, while Norway House has a large Aboriginal population — both groups with relatively high birth rates, according to Statistics Canada.
“I noticed about 20 years ago that there was a large population of young people and there wasn’t much to do,” said Deon Clarke, band councilor for the Cree Nation of Norway House.
With the growing youth population, Clarke was inspired to open a youth center for teens, which features pool tables, air hockey, and video games. The community also has an indoor play center for the younger ones.
“What inspires me is seeing our young people miss out on what other Canadians take for granted,” Clarke said.
The community wants to see recreation centers similar to those in urban centers, he said.
The growing youth population comes as no surprise to 27-year-old Paige Miswagon, who had her son, Jace Miswagon, when she was 17.
“After I got pregnant and had my son, it hit me like a ton of bricks that there was very, very little support for what I needed,” Miswagon said.
“I had never heard of birth control at that time. I had never heard of contraception at that time.”
Issues like overcrowding, lack of housing, and the painful legacy of residential schools all affected Miswagon as a young mother.
Many people who have children of their own still struggle with the effects of residential schools, she says.
“Our young people have to, I think, work and grow with their parents, versus, you know, maybe doing more than kid stuff.”
After having her son, Miswagon went back to school to become a paramedic and worked for Norway House. But for the past two years, she has dedicated her time to making art and teaching young people in her community to do the same.
“We have a little club every weekend. … I try to bring lost art back to the kids, like beadwork,” Miswagon said.
“We taught them how to handle leathers, furs, we also bit birch bark, which is really difficult.”
Pressure on schools
The growing youth population is also straining Norway House Cree Nation schools: the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Educational Resource Center and Jack River School.
“It’s great that the census has shown what we’ve known for some time,” said Reg Klassen, chief superintendent of Frontier School Division, which includes Norway House.
“We’re probably going to have some issues next year – we’re going to be extremely congested. The only reason we haven’t experienced this excessively in the last two years is because the pandemic has caused us to do things different.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, students at Norway House attended school on alternate days to reduce class sizes and minimize the spread of disease.
The biggest jump in the number of classes will likely be seen in kindergarten, Klassen says. More than 150 new students are registered for the start of the school year.
“It’s hard to keep up. We know Norway House chief and council are working with the government on a feasibility study, and we’ve already looked at plans for a new school.”
Despite the increase in class size, Miswagon says Norway House schools “are going above and beyond for these children.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the teachers… A lot of our teachers are aboriginal people, people from our community,” Miswagon said.
“When I think back to when Helen Betty Osborne School was first built…it was one of the first places I had access to resources as a youngster, like counseling and seeing a nurse .”