Almost 2 million South Asians in Canada, largest visible minority group

SOUTH Asians continue to be the largest visible minority group in Canada with 1,924,635 people, representing one-quarter (25.1%) of the visible minority population and 5.6% of the entire Canadian population, according to the 2016 Census.

Statistics Canada reported on Wednesday that Chinese and Blacks were the two other largest visible minority groups in Canada.

Chinese formed the second largest visible minority group, with 1,577,060 individuals, representing 20.5% of the visible minority population.

The Black population in Canada surpassed the one-million mark for the first time in 2016. This visible minority group, the third largest in terms of number, comprised 1,198,540 individuals (15.6% of the visible minority population) in 2016, compared with 945,670 in 2011.

The fourth and fifth largest visible minority groups, Filipinos and Arabs, almost doubled their numbers in 10 years and had the highest growth rates among visible minority groups from 2006 to 2016.

They were followed by Latin Americans, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese.


THE increase in the number of immigrants from non-European countries, as well as their children and grandchildren born in Canada, has contributed to the growth of the visible minority population in Canada.

In 2016, 7,674,580 individuals were identified as belonging to the visible minority population as defined by the Employment Equity Act. They represented more than one-fifth (22.3%) of Canada’s population. Of this number, 3 in 10 were born in Canada.

The visible minority population has grown steadily since the 1981 Census, when data for the four Employment Equity groups (women, Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities) were first derived. At that time, the 1.1 million people belonging to a visible minority represented 4.7% of the total Canadian population.

If current trends continue, the visible minority population would continue to grow and could represent between 31.2% and 35.9% of the Canadian population by 2036.


CHANGES in the main source countries of immigrants have transformed the overall portrait of Canada’s foreign-born population. In 2016, almost half (48.1%) of the foreign-born population was born in Asia (including the Middle East), while a lower proportion (27.7%) was born in Europe.

Furthermore, African-born immigrants represented a growing share of the foreign-born population, increasing from 1.4% in the 1971 Census to 8.5% in the 2016 Census.

In 1871, in the first census held after Confederation, the foreign-born population was mainly from the British Isles (83.6%).

One hundred years later, the 1971 Census showed that individuals born in the British Isles still accounted for the largest group of foreign-born population, but their share had decreased significantly to 29.5%. The majority of the foreign-born population were from other European countries and the United States, while 10.9% of foreign-born were from other parts of the world.

Current immigration trends—if they continue—and the aging of established cohorts of immigrants mean that from 55.7% to 57.9% of all immigrants would be born in Asia by 2036, and from 15.4% to 17.8% would be born in Europe. The proportion of immigrants born in Africa is projected to increase to between 11.0% and 11.9% in 2036.


ALMOST 2.2 million children under the age of 15 were foreign-born (first generation) or had at least one foreign-born parent (second generation), representing 37.5% of all Canadian children. This is an increase from 2011, when this proportion was 34.6%. This population of children with an immigrant background could continue to grow and could represent from 39.3% to 49.1% of children under the age of 15 by 2036.

In 2016, the majority (74.0%) of these first- or second-generation children were from countries of ancestry in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Bermuda, Central and South America.


THE language composition of immigrants has changed over the past 100 years. The percentage of immigrants with English or French as a mother tongue decreased from 71.2% in 1921 to 27.5% in 2016, mirroring changes in the source countries of immigrants over the same period. Overall, statistics are presented on about 200 languages for the 2016 Census.

English and French remain the languages of convergence and integration into Canadian society. In 2016, the vast majority of the 7.5 million immigrants (93.2%) were able to conduct a conversation in English or in French. This means that only 6.8% of immigrants reported not being able to conduct a conversation either in English or in French.


IN 2016, Canada had 1,212,075 new immigrants who had permanently settled in Canada from 2011 to 2016. These recent immigrants represented 3.5% of Canada’s total population in 2016.

The majority (60.3%) of these new immigrants were admitted under the economic category, 26.8% were admitted under the family class to join family already in the country, and 11.6% were admitted to Canada as refugees.

Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal are still the place of residence of over half of all immigrants and recent immigrants to Canada. More immigrants are settling in the Prairies and in the Atlantic provinces.


THE Atlantic provinces were home to 2.3% of all recent immigrants in Canada in 2016. Each of the Atlantic provinces received its largest number of new immigrants, which more than doubled the share of recent immigrants in this region in 15 years.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and the place of residence of most of the country’s immigrants, received 39.0% of recent immigrants in 2016. This share decreased from 55.9% in 2001.

British Columbia also saw its share of recent immigrants decrease over the past 15 years, from 19.9% in 2001 to 14.5% in 2016.

In 2016, 17.8% of recent immigrants lived in Quebec, a higher share than in 2006 (17.5%) and in 2001 (13.7%). Overall, Quebec had the second highest number of recent immigrants in 2016, after Ontario.


REGINA, Winnipeg, Calgary, Saskatoon and Edmonton census metropolitan areas (CMAs) were the place of residence of a share of recent immigrants that was almost twice that of each CMA’s share of the total population in Canada in 2016. For example, 4.3% of new immigrants settled in Winnipeg, while 2.2% of Canada’s total population lived in this CMA.

Nevertheless, Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal, the three most populous CMAs in the country, together are still the place of residence of over half of all immigrants (61.4%) and recent immigrants (56.0%) in Canada. In comparison, just over one-third (35.7%) of Canada’s total population lived in these three CMAs.

In 2016, immigrants represented 46.1% of Toronto’s population, 40.8% of Vancouver’s and 23.4% of Montréal’s.

For the first time, Africa accounts for the second largest source continent of recent immigrants

In 2016, 13.4% of recent immigrants were born in Africa, a four-fold increase from the 1971 Census (3.2%). Africa thus ranked second, ahead of Europe, as a source continent of recent immigrants to Canada.

Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Cameroon were the top five countries of birth of recent African-born immigrants in 2016.

Asia (including the Middle East) remained the top source continent of recent immigrants. The majority (61.8%) of newcomers to Canada from 2011 to 2016 were born in Asia. This is a slightly higher proportion than was observed in the 2006 Census (58.3%) and in the 2011 National Household Survey (56.9%).

Asian countries accounted for 7 of the top 10 countries of birth of recent immigrants in 2016: the Philippines, India, China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and South Korea.

Newcomers from the Americas and Oceania represented 12.6% and 0.7%, respectively, of recent immigrants to Canada.


ALTHOUGH a large proportion of the 7.5 million immigrants reported neither English nor French as their mother tongue, the vast majority (93.2%) of them were able to conduct a conversation in English or French. In other words, 6.8% of immigrants reported being unable to conduct a conversation in either official language.

Immigrants were more likely than Canadian‑born people (non‑immigrants) to report knowing more than one language. In 2016, 76.4% of immigrants reported knowing at least two languages, compared with 27.5% of non‑immigrants.

However, immigrants’ knowledge of languages varied from region to region. In Canada outside Quebec, the majority of the immigrant population knew English, either alone (19.4%) or with at least one language other than English or French (72.0%). A lower proportion reported being able to conduct a conversation in French (5.9%).

On the other hand, half (50.3%) of immigrants in Quebec were able to conduct a conversation in both official languages, in addition to any other languages.

Quebec also had the largest proportion of the immigrant population with knowledge of French. Specifically, 80.5% of immigrants living in Quebec reported being able to conduct a conversation in French.

The proportion of immigrants with knowledge of at least one of Canada’s official languages is high (93.2%) largely because knowledge of English or French is one of the selection criteria for economic immigrants admitted to Canada and because these are the two languages of convergence in the public sphere. Furthermore, Quebec’s immigration policies specifically promote admission of immigrants with knowledge of French.