By BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH
Special to SAF
The Greater Toronto region is growing more diverse as immigration brings changes to religious practices, languages and the faces of its residents.
New data released last week from the 2011 National Household Survey highlight the changes unfolding in Canadian society:
* One in five is now foreign-born, the highest proportion among G8 countries;
* The country has 200 ethnic groups and 100 religions;
* About 6.3 million people — 19 per cent of Canada’s population — count themselves a member of visible minority group.
“Canada is as diverse as it has ever been,” said Tina Chui, chief of immigration and ethno-cultural statistics at Statistics Canada.
“Diversity plays out differently across the country. When you look at the immigrant population in Montreal, the makeup is very different from those in Toronto and Vancouver,” Chui said.
Nowhere is that evolving change more starkly illustrated than Markham, which at 72.3 per cent, has the highest proportion of visible minorities than any other city in the country.
Other GTA communities weren’t far behind: Brampton (66.4 per cent); Mississauga (53.7 per cent); and Toronto (49.1 per cent), according to data from the 2011 National Household Survey.
In 2011, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6.8 million people, about 20.6 per cent of the total population, the highest proportion among G8 nations.
Between 2006 and 2011, about 1.2 million foreign-born people immigrated to Canada. Most recent immigrants came from Asia and the Middle East while numbers from Africa, Caribbean, Central and South America have also increased.
The 2011 survey counted about 2.5 million immigrants in the Toronto region, accounting for 46 per cent of the region’s population. Of all immigrants in Ontario, seven out of 10 lived in Greater Toronto.
And the region remained a magnet for recent immigrants with 381,700 newcomers settling in Toronto — 32.8 per cent of all those who arrived in Canada between 2006 and 2011.
And increasingly those newcomers count themselves as a member of a visible minority group. Almost one in five individuals in 2011 identified themselves as a member of a visible minority group, up from 13.4 per cent a decade earlier and 4.7 per cent in 1981. South Asians, Chinese and blacks were the largest visible minority groups, accounting for 61 per cent of the visible minority population.
Of the 6.3 million people who said they were a visible minority, 31 per cent were born in Canada and 65 per cent were immigrants.
Statistics Canada attributes the boost in visible minorities to the increasing numbers of immigrants from non-European countries — 82.4 per cent.
Indeed, the survey drives home the shifting trends in immigration as Asia, Middle East, Caribbean, Central and South America all replace Europe as the main source for Canada’s immigration.
Ontario remains the province of choice with 3.6 million immigrants — just over half of all newcomers to Canada — calling it home. Of the 1.2 million immigrants who arrived between 2006 and 2011, nine out of 10 settled in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. Just over 43 per cent of them choose to settle in Ontario.
But Ontario’s share dropped while other provinces like Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Maritimes all saw increases in immigrant settlement.
In this first tranche of data from the 2011 survey, Statistics Canada released information about the citizenship, visible minorities, place of birth, ethnic origin, religion, aboriginal peoples and language. Other releases in the months ahead will examine labour, education, workplaces, migration, income, earnings and housing.
Canada’s immigrants reported close to 200 countries as a place of birth. Among immigrants who arrived between 2006 and 2011, roughly 661,600, or 56.9 per cent, came from Asia and the Middle East. That compares with just 8.5 per cent of immigrants who settled in Canada prior to the 1970s.
European-born immigrants made up the next largest group at 159,700 or 13.7 per cent of recent immigrants, down sharply from the 1960s when European citizens made up three-quarters of Canada’s immigrants.
Between 2006 and 2011, about 145,700 immigrants arrived from Africa.
The Philippines was the leading country of birth for Canadian immigrants between 2006 and 2011 with 152,300, or 13.1 per cent. That was followed by China, with 122,100 or 10.5 per cent, and India at 121,400, or 10.4 per cent.
Other findings include:
* Of the 6.8 million immigrants in Canada, 54.6 per cent could converse in two languages and 20 per cent could speak in three languages. “The nation is becoming more and more a multilingual society in the wake of growing numbers of immigrants whose mother tongue is neither English nor French,” according to Statistics Canada.
* More than 200 ethnic origins were reported; 13 ethnic origins surpassed 1 million in total — Canadian, English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Chinese, First Nations, Ukrainian, East Indian, Dutch and Polish.
* 78.3 per cent of the population were Canadian citizens by birth, 15.8 per cent were Canadian by naturalization, and the rest did not have Canadian citizenship. The survey also revealed that just 2.9 per cent of the population — about 944,700 individuals — hold multiple citizenships. Most of these were immigrants.
The survey is the controversial replacement for the mandatory, long-form census that was axed by the Conservative government in 2010 amidst a storm of criticism. It was sent to about 4.5 million households and had a response rate of 68 per cent. The earlier 2005 census had a response rate of 94 per cent.
The low response rate and voluntary nature of the survey has left experts unsure what impact the new format will have on the numbers.
— Torstar News Service
By BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH