Demographic Information on Aboriginal Entrepreneurs and Businesses

Published: Jun 21, 2013
Last Updated: Apr 27, 2017

As it is now over halfway through National Aboriginal History Month and today is National Aboriginal Day we felt it was important to write a post about the demographics and statistics of Aboriginal entrepreneurs and small businesses in Canada.

The National Household Survey (NHS) indicated that 1,400,685 people or 4.3% of the total population in Canada described themselves as being Aboriginal (First Nations People, Métis and Inuit) in 2011. 16.6% of those people lived here in British Columbia. This is an increase of 232,385 people or 20.1% since 2006.

In 2011, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) released a study that was the result of a partnership with Environics Research Group. The Promise and Prosperity: the Aboriginal Business Survey drew its results from 1,095 telephone interviews with First Nations, Métis and Inuit small business owners. These interviews took place between September 10 to November 19, 2010. The survey was undertaken due to the lack of current studies on Aboriginal business owners (the most recent Statistics Canada report was released in 2002). Below are some of the survey's findings and conclusions:

  • According to the 2006 Census there are 37,000 self-employed Aboriginal people in Canada. This is an increase of 27,000 self-employed Aboriginal people in 2001 or 38%.
  • 49% of self-employed Aboriginal people are Métis, 45% are First Nations and 2% are Inuit.
  • BC has one of the highest concentrations of self-employed Aboriginal people at 22%.
  • Aboriginal entrepreneurs are active in many different types of industry: 18% in construction, 13% in primary sectors (agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, mining, and oil and gas extraction), and 28% in knowledge and service-based sectors (education, scientific and technical services, health and social services)
  • 85% of Aboriginal-owned businesses focus on their local community  to sell their goods and services and 73% focus on the their territory or province.
  • In 2010, 61% of Aboriginal businesses reported profits and 35% had increases in revenue for 2009-2010
  • 63% of Aboriginal small businesses have no employees and 37% have at least one paid employee.
  • 86% of Aboriginal businesses with employees have at least one Aboriginal staff member.
  • 71% of Aboriginal businesses are expecting growth in revenue over the next two years.
  • 38% of Aboriginal small business owners have an organization or person that has given them guidance or advice about their business. Overall, it appears as though there is a lack of awareness about the information available. 
  • Access to financing and access to equity and capital are considered the major obstacles to Aboriginal small business growth plans
  • For startups, 55% of Aboriginal entrepreneurs rely on personal savings and 17% on business loans or bank credit. 15% rely on loans from Aboriginal lending institutions.


If you would like to read the Promise and Prosperity: the Aboriginal Business Survey in its entirety you can access the PDF version here. If you are interested in reading other reports done by CCAB, you can find descriptions and links here.

PHOTO CREDIT: 190603_PICT0018, created by Hideyuki KAMON on July 23, 2010. Image made available under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Last viewed on June 20, 2013.