Canada’s ethnic neighbourhoods are not ghettos, says study

CANADA’S ethnocultural neighbourhoods are not ghettos, according to a new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). As the rapid growth of enclaves in Canada’s largest cities continues to transform Canada’s social landscape, we should stop assuming that these neighbourhoods are problematic for the integration of new Canadians.

“In Canada, as in Europe, enclaves are often viewed as poor inner-city neighbourhoods, where members of minority groups are socially isolated and economically deprived. But when we take a look at the Canadian data, the picture that emerges is very different,” says immigration expert Daniel Hiebert.

Hiebert studies enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver – areas in which a specific group dominates the population of a neighbourhood. He observes that enclaves are often characterized by “profound ethnocultural diversity.” Moreover, enclaves are more common in suburban neighbourhoods, where residents have average, and in some cases high, levels of home ownership and education. “This contradicts any portrayal of enclaves as places of marked poverty and ethnic isolation,” he argues.

According to Hiebert, the growth of enclave neighbourhoods in Canadian metropolitan areas should be seen as an opportunity. “They provide economic assistance to their residents and an opportunity for intercultural engagement, especially for newcomers to Canada.”

In light of the significant changes in Canada’s urban fabric, he calls for municipal governments to have a greater voice in immigration and integration matters and for more attention to be paid to local processes and outcomes when evaluating national policies.

“We should dispense with the widely held assumption that enclaves are antithetical to economic and cultural integration,” he concludes.

Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver by Daniel Hiebert can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (