rafe arnott/metro vancouver


Cyrstal Chooner, 22, moved to Vancouver from Williams Lake looking for better education and employment opportunities.

British Columbia’s Aboriginal population is becoming increasingly urbanized with more aboriginals now living in cities than on reserves, according to a Statistics Canada study released yesterday.

The 2006 Census: Data On Aboriginal Peoples, found that 60 per cent of B.C.’s Aboriginal population lives in urban centres while 26 per cent are on reserves. It also found that Vancouver has the third largest Aboriginal population, at 40,310 people, out of all Canadian cities after Winnipeg and Edmonton.

Crystal Chooner, 22, is from the Nuxalk Nation and grew up on a reserve in Bella Coola and in Willams Lake. She moved to Vancouver when she was 16 for better access to education and work.

"When you live in a small town it’s really hard to get a job," said Chooner, a student at Vancouver’s London Hair School Of Hairdressing.

"(And) there’s a lot of racism in small towns. There’s less so in the city because it’s more diverse."

Chooner added that while young people tend to leave reserves in search of life experience and work, many move home as they age to reconnect with their culture and family.

"I’m not going to be in the city my whole life," Chooner said. "I’ve come here to learn as much as I can and bring it back to my people."


growing numbers

  • B.C.’s Aboriginal population grew by 39 per cent between 1996 and 2006, more than four times that of the non-Aboriginal population at that time.