Introducing a Halifax Google Map

(03 Jan 2010: Updates – Added links to the CT data files.)

I have something to share…

20100103_2006_Halifax_Census_Tracts

You’re looking at a colorful map of Halifax Regional Municipality.  Using information gathered from the 2006 Census, I’ve plotted the 2006 Census Tracts onto a map of Halifax using Google Earth and Google Maps so that data can be analyzed visually in the future. Aside from the colors and boundaries, there is no data attached to this particular map; this is a New Year’s project of sorts, so I hope to produce one rendered map of the city, region, or province per week.

I’ve been toying with the idea for this map for some time.  I originally began to mark up a map of Nova Scotia’s provincial constituencies last spring, but that project gave way to other concerns (i.e. the great outdoors) and I’ve since put it on the backburner since there is a new government on Hollis St.  Instead, I’ve produced a map this is closer to my professional interests.  I work regularly with socio-economic data from Statistics Canada and I’m familiar with its 2006 Census tools as well as with CANSIM and E-Stat; mashing up the data I use on a regular basis is a visual extension of my own research.

This page has been influenced from many other sites that deploy Google Earth and ArcGIS data on the internet – The Toronto Star’s Map of the Week, and the CBC‘s and the Globe and Mail‘s 2008 election coverage come to mind.  If you like what you see here, then consider checking out those sites as well.

For what it’s worth, the data used to produce this particular map is available on the Internet but is held through Crown Copyright by Statistics Canada.  I’m producing it anyway, though, since our fair dealing provisions allow for research and scholarship, which this is intended to be.  (i.e. Copyright Act and CCH are on my side, more or less.)

StatCan and Canadian Aboriginal Incarceration Rates

On 6 August 2009, Donald Marshall, Jr passed away. Marshall, a Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq, was wrongfully charged and convicted in the death of Sandy Seale in 1971.  Although an appeals court overturned the decision in 1983, the presiding judge nonetheless argued that Marshall himself was partly to blame for the conviction. If that’s not the greatest example of systemic racism and of passing the buck, then I don’t know what is.

The eulogies that have since been said for Marshall got me thinking about the prejudices that First Nations people face in the Canadian justice system and in society at large.  Although I’ve always understood that our justice system has never been kind to the First Nations and that the number of aboriginal peoples in correctional institutions are not at all proportionate to their numbers within the general population, I didn’t have a real sense of the problem because I’ve never actually looked at the incarceration rates. So this weekend I logged into Statistic Canada’s E-Stat database to see what the numbers really are.  I first pulled up census data from 1996, 2001, and 2006, all of which are available electronically and asked the general population in a simple question if they self-identified as First Nations in order to get a general sense of the aboriginal population of Canada.  Then I analyzed CANSIM Tables 251-0001, 251-0002, and 251-0012 to cross-reference the national aboriginal population against the the aboriginal prison population.

The findings,  attached as a PDF (click to view), are startling.  On the whole, national aboriginal incarceration rates for 2006 (i.e., at the last census) are nearly 6 1/2 times higher than the aboriginal population as a percentage of the national population:

In 2006, 1,172,785 Canadians self-identified as Aboriginal, or 3.71% of our population of 31,612,897.

Also in 2006, 24% of the 90051 Canadians who were admitted to a custodial sentence self-identified as aboriginal.

(Source: 2006 Census Data; CANSIM Table No. 251-0001: Adult correctional services, admissions to provincial, territorial and federal programs, annual)

The numbers aren’t pretty.  Although StatCan‘s data doesn’t track back to 1971 – the time of Marshall’s conviction – over 25+ years of data shows that the aboriginal incarceration rate has increased steadily.  In 1983, when the Marshall conviction was overturned, 13% of the prison population was aboriginal; since 2001 it has has rested at over 15%, and since 2004 over 20% of the prison population has self-identified as aboriginal.

The same spikes are evident at the youth criminal justice level, as well.  Some incarceration rates at the youth level have increased by over 10% in ten years:

  • In 1998/99: 13.01 % of all youth who were admitted into correctional services self-identified as aboriginal.
    • In 2008/09, 17.9% self-identify as aboriginal.
  • In 1998/99, 14.52% of all youth who were admitted into secure custody self-identified as aboriginal.
    • In 2008/09, 23.57% self-identify as aboriginal.
  • In 1998/99, 15.2% of all youth who were admitted into open custody self-identified as aboriginal.
    • In 2008/09, 27.73% self-identify as aboriginal.
  • (Source: CANSIM Table 251-0012 – Youth custody and community services (YCCS), admissions to correctional services, by sex and aboriginal identity, annual)

There is more data found in the spreadsheet, including a tracking of these national youth criminal justice and adult criminal justice rates on an annual basis.  I’ve also listed the rates for Nova Scotia, Marshall’s home province, but many of these provincial numbers might be unreliable because of the small size of the Nova Scotian population, which results in spikes from one year to another.  Regardless, the patterns that do emerge from the wider national data highly suggest that First Nations peoples have not been given a fair shake by either the justice system or our social structures.

Consult Statistics Canada and the Federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.  StatCan, I only noticed a few hours before publishing this post, recently published a lengthy analysis, “The incarceration of Aboriginal people in adult correctional services” in Juristat 29(3), July 2009, StatCan Catalogue No. 85-002-X.  This 26-page document is a free download for anyone looking to do serious work with the data.