Analysis of results

Ethnocultural diversity from one generation to the next
Ethnocultural diversity of the Canadian population as a whole
Ethnocultural diversity within census metropolitan areas (CMAs)

Recent decades have seen a shift from a primarily European-based immigration to a pattern in which the majority of immigrants come from Asia. This, combined with the maintenance of sustained immigration levels, has contributed (and continues to do so) to the ethnocultural diversification of the Canadian population. That diversification takes place with new cohorts of foreign-born persons differing from previous cohorts, but also through the descendants that these new immigrants have after settling in Canada. While the progeny of the immigrants of recent decades is still quite young, its importance for the composition of the Canadian population will grow in the years to come. Thus the Canadian population can be expected to undergo major changes by 2031, especially in areas where the largest contingents of newcomers will settle.

The analysis presented in this section was structured so as to bring out the various facets of this phenomenon, in particular the mechanisms by which the population diversifies from one generation to the next. The results of the three population projection scenarios selected for analysis are first presented for Canada as a whole and then, more succinctly, for Canada's major metropolitan areas. Readers are invited to consult the definitions of the key concepts of the analysis, especially the concept of generation status, in Box 2.

Ethnocultural diversity from one generation to the next

Very soon, the proportion of foreign-born within the Canadian population could reach a record high

According to the 2006 Census, the foreign-born population, also called the first-generation population (see Box 2), consisted of just over 6.5 million persons and accounted for 19.8% of the Canadian population, or approximately one person in five (Chart 1). By comparison, the corresponding proportion in the United States was 12.5% and in Australia, 22.2% during the same period.1

Box 2

Ethnocultural diversity

In this document, the concept of ethnocultural diversity is used to refer to diversity with respect to visible minority groups, generation status, religious denomination, place of birth and mother tongue. Clearly, this operational definition does not cover all forms of ethnocultural diversity, and that diversity could therefore be defined using other variables.

Foreign-born population

In this study, the concept of foreign-born population (also called immigrant population) is used to designate persons who are, or once were, landed immigrants in Canada. This means that what is intended by foreign-born population does not include either non-permanent residents or Canadian citizens by birth who were born abroad. The latter are considered Canadians by birth or non-immigrants.

Generation status

This refers to the respondent's generational rank since the settlement of his or her family (meaning those from whom he or she is directly descended) in Canada. Foreign-born persons are the first generation; the second generation consists of persons born in Canada of at least one foreign-born parent; subsequent generations (third or more) consist of Canadian-born persons, both of whose parents were also born in Canada.

The relative share of the population that is foreign-born has mostly increased since 1991, in conjunction with the upward trends observed for immigration. Between 1991 and 2006, the average annual number of immigrants to Canada was 229,000, making the years 1991 to 2006 one of the longest uninterrupted periods of strong immigration since 1871. Between 1951 and 1991, the proportion of foreign-born persons in Canada had changed little, going from 14.7% to 16.1% over a forty-year period.

Chart 1 Proportion of foreign-born population by projection scenario, Canada, 1871 to 2031

The results of the projections show that according to all the projection scenarios selected, the proportion of the Canadian population consisting of foreign-born persons would continue to rise, reaching between 25% and 28% in 2031. In other words, within some twenty years, at least one person in four living in Canada could be foreign-born.

This would be the highest proportion of foreign-born persons since Confederation. To date, the highest proportions of foreign-born persons were observed between 1911 and 1931 (approximately 22%), a period in which Canada received a large number of immigrants owing to the settlement of Western Canada. From the beginning of the twentieth century to the start of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Canada received an average of 151,000 immigrants per year. This was a very high number considering that the population was then a third of what it is today.

This increase that Canada could see in the percentage of foreign-born persons by 2031 is due to the foreign-born population growing 4 times faster than the rest of the population according to the scenarios selected for the present projections. As a result, Canada would have between 9.8 million and 12.5 million foreign-born persons, compared to 6.5 million in 2006. The corresponding number in 1981 was 3.8 million.

An increasingly diversified foreign-born population in ethnocultural terms

In conjunction with this increase, and owing to the changes that Canada has undergone in the sources of its immigration, the place of birth of foreign-born persons living in Canada (the first generation) has considerably changed since the 1980s and could continue to exhibit major changes over the next two decades.

Until 2001, the main continent of birth of foreign-born persons, including those long settled in Canada, was Europe; in fact, more than two persons out of five among the foreign-born population came from Europe up to that time (Chart 2). This situation is clearly attributable to past immigration flows, with Canadian immigration during the twentieth century mainly originating from Europe.

Chart 2 Distribution of the foreign-born population by continent of birth, Canada, 1981 to 2031 (reference scenario)

However, since 1981, among foreign-born persons enumerated in censuses, the proportion of Asian-born persons has steadily increased, going from 14% to 41% in 2006, while the proportion of persons born in Europe has steadily declined, going from 67% to 37%. In fact, the Asian-born proportion of the foreign-born population exceeded the European-born proportion in 2006 for the first time.

According to the scenarios selected for the present projections, 55% of the foreign-born population would come from Asia in 2031. European-born persons, on the other hand, would then account for only 20% of that population. Markedly older (median age of 57.0 compared to 46.5 for all foreign-born), the European-born segment would register more deaths, which would barely be offset by the number of newcomers. The Asian-born, who on average would have settled in Canada more recently, would by comparison be younger (with a median age of 40.3) and their numbers would be swelled by a larger contribution from immigration.

The foreign-born population from non-European countries stands out from the rest of the Canadian population in having a larger proportion of visible minority persons, individuals with neither English nor French as their mother tongue and persons having a non-Christian religion.2 Consequently, the changes observed with regard to the places of birth of foreign-born persons are accompanied by a diversification of this population in several respects.

Thus, according to the projection scenarios, the proportion of visible minority persons within the foreign-born population would be approximately 71% in 2031 (Chart 3), compared to 54% in 2006. In other words, within two decades, more than two foreign-born persons in three living in Canada could belong to a visible minority group.

Chart 3 Proportion of the foreign-born population belonging to a visible minority group, to an allophone group or having a non-Christian religious denomination, Canada, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario) 1

Similarly, once again within the population of first-generation Canadians, the share consisting of persons having a non-Christian religion and those with a mother tongue other than English or French could increase substantially in the coming years. In 2006, approximately one person in four (24%) in Canada's immigrant population had a non-Christian religion; by 2031 and according to the reference scenario, that proportion would reach 32%, or nearly one person out of three. Similarly, the proportion of persons with neither English nor French as their mother tongue would go from 70% in 2006 to about 77% -more than three persons out of four-in 2031.

Of course, these results as to the composition of immigration are highly sensitive to the assumptions chosen. As noted earlier, readers may consult, appended to this report, results based on a scenario that assumes that the future composition will differ from that in the three scenarios analysed here (Scenario E alternative immigration - see Assumptions section for a description of this scenario).

In 2031, only one Canadian in two aged 15 years and over might belong to a family settled in Canada for at least three generations

While it is expected that changes in the volume and composition of immigration to Canada will first affect the ethnocultural diversity of the foreign-born population living in Canada, it is inevitable that in the longer run, as one generation is replaced by another, this diversity will also increase within the Canadian-born population. The projections made for this project distinguish, within the Canadian-born population, between the second generation and the third generation or more. As explained above, second-generation persons are born in Canada of at least one foreign-born parent; this population is therefore made up of the Canadian-born children of immigrants. The third generation or more is made up of persons who are Canadian-born and whose parents (both of them) are also Canadian-born. This is, therefore, a population for which their family has been settled in Canada for a longer period of time.

Between 1971 and 2006, the share of Canadians of the third generation or more within the population aged 15 and over3 hovered around the level of approximately 60% (Chart 4). In other words, during this period, approximately three persons in five aged 15 and over belong to families settled in Canada for at least three generations.

Chart 4 Distribution of the population aged 15 years and over by generation status, Canada, 1971, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

According to the results of the reference scenario developed for the present projections, this proportion should, however, decrease significantly over the coming decades, declining to 52% in 2031. At that point, no more than one Canadian in two aged 15 and over would come from a family settled in Canada for at least three generations.

By the same token, the share of first- or second-generation Canadians within the Canadian population aged 15 and over would increase to 46% in 2031, compared to 39% in 2006. In other words, at that point, nearly one Canadian in two aged 15 and over would either be foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent.

An examination of the age structure of the population by generation (charts 5 and 6) shows that those proportions would vary considerably by age. On the one hand, first- and second-generation persons would account for nearly 44% of the population between 0 and 14 years of age in 2031, up sharply from approximately 31% in 2006. This increase is clearly attributable to the birth rate of foreign-born persons.

Chart 5 Age pyramid (in number) by generation status, Canada, 2006

On the other hand, nearly one person in two in the working-age population (that is, the population aged 15 to 64) would be first- or second-generation in 2031, compared to 36% in 2006. This increase is due not only to the high volume of immigration to Canada, since the majority of immigrants coming to Canada are in this age group, but also to the fact that by 2031, the large cohorts of the baby boom, consisting primarily of Canadian-born persons of the third generation or more, will have moved into the 65-and-over age group.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the proportion of first- and second-generation persons within the population aged 65 and over would decline between 2006 and 2031 from 51% to 41%. Here again, the arrival in this age group of the baby boom cohorts largely explains why the growth of ethnocultural diversity would be limited within the senior population over the next two decades.

Chart 6 Age pyramid (in number) by generation status, Canada, 2031 (reference scenario)

Ethnocultural diversity up sharply within the Canadian-born population

Under the combined effect of the fertility of immigrants and their Canadian-born children and the intergenerational transmission of certain characteristics-e.g., belonging to a visible minority group, mother tongue and religious denomination-the diversity related to these characteristics would also be likely to increase substantially within the Canadian-born population in the coming decades.

Chart 7 shows that in general, within the Canadian-born population, the proportion of persons who belong to a visible minority group, have a non-Christian religion or have neither English nor French as their mother tongue could approximately double between 2006 and 2031. For example, visible minority persons accounted for just over 6% of the Canadian-born population in 2006; they could account for about 15% in 2031. This is an even faster increase than within the foreign-born population.

Chart 7 Proportion of the population born in Canada belonging to a visible minority group, to an allophone group or having a non-Christian religious denomination by projection scenario, Canada, 2006 and 2031

Chart 8 shows that the increase in this diversity would be rapid, within both the second and third generations or more. Thus, the proportion of persons belonging to a visible minority group could almost double during the next 25 years within the second-generation population, going from 24% in 2006 to 47% in 2031 under the reference scenario. In other words, nearly one person in two within the Canadian-born population and belonging to the second generation-the children of immigrants-could belong to a visible minority group within two decades.

Chart 8 Proportion of the population belonging to a visible minority group by generation status, Canada, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

While diversity is more modest within the third generation or more, it is in the latter population that that the increase in the proportion of visible minority persons would be fastest, since it could almost triple (from 1% to 3% according to the reference scenario) during the next 25 years. The increase in diversity within this population is expected to continue well beyond 2031. This is indicated by the fact that the proportion of visible minority persons in the 0 to 14 age group of this population would reach approximately 8% in 2031.

Within the population consisting of the second generation and the third generation or more, there would also be a rapid rise in the proportion of allophones and persons having a non-Christian religion. Thus, from 2006 to 2031, according to the reference scenario, the percentage of allophones would go from 21% to 35% within the second generation and from 2% to 4% within the third generation or more. At the same time, the percentage of persons having a non-Christian religion would reach 23% in 2031 for the second generation and 2% in the third generation or more, compared to 12% and 1% in 2006.

Ethnocultural diversity of the Canadian population as a whole

In 2031, about three Canadians in ten could belong to a visible minority group

This process, which relates to the fact that the increase in the ethnocultural diversity of the Canadian population first happens within the foreign-born population (first generation), and then, through fertility, within the Canadian-born population, would result in a population that differs in several respects from the current population.

In 2006, Canada had more than 5 million persons belonging to visible minority groups. At that time, those persons accounted for 16% of the overall population, compared to only 5% in 1981. The projections indicate that by 2031, Canada's visible minority population could rise to between 11.4 million and 14.4 million, depending on the three scenarios selected for this analysis (Table 4). The proportion that it would represent within the total population would vary between 29% and 32%. In other words, about three Canadians in ten could belong to a visible minority group in 2031, regardless of the projection scenario.

Between 4.0 million and 5.0 million (or one-third of) persons belonging to a visible minority group in 2031 would be Canadian-born, either as the children of immigrants (the second generation) or as members of families settled in Canada for three generations or more.

Table 4 Population by visible minority group and projection scenario, Canada, 2006 and 2031

The projected increase in the percentage of visible minority persons occurs because this population would grow at a faster rate than the rest of the population. While the population belonging to visible minority groups would more than double over the next 25 years according to all the scenarios, the rest of the population would change by only 12% at most. This is because the visible minority population would continue, according to the scenarios selected for the projections, to be bolstered, in the coming years, by sustained immigration, slightly higher fertility and a younger age structure (median age of 32.5 compared to 40.4 years for the rest of the population), one that accordingly would be more conducive to births and would generate fewer deaths.

Reflecting this younger age structure of visible minority populations, diversity should continue to be concentrated within the population under 65 years of age in the coming decades (Chart 9). Thus, the proportion of visible minority persons would reach respectively 36%, 36% and 30% within the populations aged 0 to 14, 15 to 44, and 45 to 64 by 2031. It would remain lower beyond age 65, at 18%. However, the proportion would rise sharply in all age groups.

The projections made also show which visible minority groups could continue, over the next two decades, to exhibit the largest changes (Table 4).

Chart 9 Proportion of the population belonging to a visible minority group by age group, Canada, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

In 2031, the South Asians and the Chinese should still, as in 2006, be the largest visible minority groups. Approximately 1.3 million South Asians had settled in Canada by 2006; their population could more than double during the next two decades, reaching between 3.2 million and 4.1 million by 2031 according to the scenarios analysed here. The Chinese population, for its part, could go from 1.3 million in 2006 to between 2.4 million and 3.0 million in 2031.

One person belonging to a visible minority groups in four (25%) was South Asian in 2006; that proportion could rise to approximately 28% in 2031. The proportion of Chinese persons would evolve differently, declining from 24% to approximately 21% between 2006 and 2031, even though the contribution of immigration would be similar to that of South Asians. The reason for this is that unlike South Asian women, Chinese women have one of the lowest fertility rates in Canada. Another, less important factor, is that persons born in China have a higher propensity to emigrate than South Asians.

Canada's Black and Filipino populations, which were the third and fourth largest groups in 2006, could also double in size in the next 25 years. According to the scenarios selected, the Black population could rise to between 1.6 million and 2.0 million in 2031 and the Filipino population, to between 908,000 and 1.1 million. However, the proportion that these groups taken together would represent within the visible minority population would diminish slightly, from 24% to 22%.

The Arabs and West Asians4 stand out in that these are the groups that could increase the most rapidly between 2006 and 2031. While their numbers were relatively modest in 2006 (276,000 Arabs and 164,000 West Asians), they could more than triple in the next 25 years. Canada's Arab population could thus number between 806,000 and 1.1 million in 2031, and the West Asian population between 457,000 and 592,000.

This growth is largely attributable to a sustained immigration of these two groups in the selected scenarios, and to higher fertility in the case of the Arabs. The latter have the highest fertility of any visible minority group in Canada, ahead of the South Asians.

The population having a non-Christian religious denomination could double by 2031

It is important to note that the 2006 Census, on which these projections are based, had no question on religious denomination. The projections for this variable reflecting ethnocultural diversity were therefore based on the 2001 Census (see Box 1). Since they are based on less recent data, the analysis of the results from the projections on religious denomination should be interpreted with caution.

Between 1981 and 2006, the population having a non-Christian religion (persons with no religion are not counted in this group) increased substantially, going from 616,000 to 2.5 million. According to the projection results, this population could more than double in the next 25 years to between 5.3 million and 6.8 million in 2031 (Table 5). From 8% of the population in 2006, the proportion of persons having a non-Christian religious denomination could rise to 14% in 2031, or approximately one person in seven.

Within the population having a non-Christian religious denomination, one person in two (48%) could be Muslim in 2031, whereas the corresponding proportion in 2006 was only 35%. All religions combined, it is the Muslim population that could show the greatest increase between 2006 and 2031, with its numbers tripling during this period. This increase is mainly due to two factors: the composition of immigration in the scenarios selected, and higher fertility than for other groups.

Table 5 Population by religious denomination and projection scenario, Canada, 2006 and 2031

The projections also show that most groups included among non-Christian religions should see their numbers double between 2006 and 2031.

The increase in the Christian population would, for its part, be much more modest at 19% at most. The number of people of Christian religion could be going from 24.3 million in 2006 to a level between 25.8 million and 28.8 million in 2031. As a consequence of this slower increase, fewer than two Canadians in three (between 64% and 66% according to the scenarios) could have a Christian religion in 2031, in contrast to three persons in four (75%) in 2006 and 90% of Canadians in 1981.

Among Christian religions, the growth of the two largest groups, the Catholics and the Protestants, would be below the average or even negative, mainly owing to religious mobility, which for them, more than for other groups, is unfavourable, as in the past.

Lastly, the proportion of Canadians reporting no religion could increase significantly over the coming years, going from 5.7 million in 2006 to a level ranging between 8.2 million and 9.4 million in 2031, depending on the scenario. An estimated 17% of the population had no religion in 2006; this proportion could rise to 21% in 2031. In 1981, 1.8 million persons, or 7% of the population, did not report a religious denomination. The main factors underlying this increase are mobility between religions, which favoured this group in the scenarios selected, and the immigration of persons reporting no religion (in many cases Chinese).

Three Canadians in ten in 2031 could have a mother tongue other than English or French

Persons with neither English nor French as their mother tongue-also called allophones-accounted for less than 10% of Canada's population in 1981. That proportion increased to 20% in 2006, and the projections indicate that it could reach between 29% and 32% in 2031, depending on the scenario chosen (Table 6). In other words, three Canadians in ten could have neither English nor French as their mother tongue in 2031. At that point, the number of allophones would vary between 11.4 million and 14.3 million. The number of allophones could increase between seven and eleven times faster than the rest of the population, augmented by immigration as among immigrants, persons with a mother tongue other than English or French would continue to be over-represented in the scenarios developed for the projections.

Table 6 Population by mother tongue and projection scenario, Canada, 2006 and 2031

Ethnocultural diversity within census metropolitan areas (CMAs)

Apart from its high level since the late 1980s and its ethnocultural diversity, Canadian immigration has another characteristic: its strong geographic concentration. According to the 2006 Census, the vast majority of immigrants who came to Canada between 2001 and 2006 settled in one of the country's 33 census metropolitan areas. In recent decades, this situation was one factor that distinguished Canada's CMAs from other areas in Canada, with strong immigration causing the metropolitan areas to experience more rapid population growth and greater diversification of their populations. This section is intended to illustrate what the ethnocultural diversity of Canada's different metropolitan and other areas could be in 2031.

In the interest of brevity, only the reference scenario will be analysed in this section. As noted earlier, results on the regional scale are especially sensitive to the assumptions made regarding internal migration. The assumption made in the reference scenario is a so-called "medium" assumption based on the trends observed in the censuses of 1996, 2001 and 2006. Obviously, other scenarios, including the alternative internal migration scenario (appended), lead to different results, especially as regards the population sizes of the different parts of Canada. Results at the regional level should therefore be interpreted with caution. However, all the scenarios point to a growing ethnocultural diversity of the Canadian population within the 2031 time horizon.

The vast majority of persons belonging to a visible minority group would continue to live in one of the 33 CMAs between now and 2031

Along with their birth rate, new Canadian immigrants' propensity to settle in large metropolitan areas has contributed in the past several decades to the concentration of ethnocultural diversity in Canada's metropolitan areas. Since the early 1990s, Canada's census metropolitan areas have received more than 90% of newcomers. By comparison, these areas were the place of residence of approximately two Canadians in three.

As a result of this strong metropolitan concentration of immigration compared to the general population, CMAs in 2006 had a much higher proportion of foreign-born persons than the rest of the country. Thus, 26% of the population in census metropolitan areas was foreign-born, compared to only 6% of the population in rural areas (Chart 10). Under the reference scenario for the population projections, this gap would continue until 2031. At that point, more than 33% of the population living in CMAs would be foreign-born, a proportion more than four times higher than elsewhere in Canada (7%).

Chart 10 Distribution of the population by generation status and place of residence (Census Metropolitan Area or outside Census Metropolitan Area), Canada, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

The Canadian-born children of immigrant parents-second-generation persons-would in turn account for 22% of the CMAs population and 12% of the population in other areas in 2031. If these data are combined with the above figures, this would mean that under the reference scenario for these projections, about 55% of persons living in metropolitan areas would be either immigrants or children of immigrants, compared to 19% in the rest of the country. In 2006, the corresponding percentages were instead 46% and 18%.

Since immigration is the main driver of ethnocultural diversity, that diversity too tends to be concentrated in Canada's census metropolitan areas. According to the 2006 Census, more than 96% of persons belonging to a visible minority group were living in one of the 33 CMAs of Canada. The results of the reference scenario for the projections suggest that persons belonging to a visible minority group could continue to be concentrated in very large numbers (more than 96%) in Canada's CMAs (Chart 11).

Similarly, the great majority of persons having a non-Christian religion and persons with neither English nor French as their mother tongue will likely live in Canada's largest metropolitan areas over the next two decades, as was already the case in 2006. For example, the results show that 95% of persons having a non-Christian religion and about 91% of allophones could, in 2031, live in Canada's metropolitan areas.

Chart 11 Distribution of the population belonging to a visible minority group, to an allophone group or having a non-Christian religious denomination by place of residence (Census Metropolitan Area or outside Census Metropolitan Area), Canada, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

The proportions of visible minorities, allophones and persons having a non-Christian religion within the population of Canada's metropolitan areas, already above the national average in 2006, could reach respectively 40%, 37% and 18% in 2031, once again illustrating the great diversity that already characterizes Canadian CMAs and would continue to do so.

Approximately three persons in five could belong to a visible minority group in the Toronto and Vancouver CMAs in 2031

Although ethnocultural diversity is greater in the largest metropolitan areas than elsewhere in Canada, sizable differences are observed from one CMA to another. According to the 2006 Census, for example, foreign-born persons accounted for more than 46% of the population of the Toronto CMA and 40% of the Vancouver CMA, but less than 5% of the CMAs of St. John's, Québec, Moncton, Trois-Rivières, Saint John and Saguenay. Similarly, the proportion of the population belonging to a visible minority group varied from approximately 43% in the Toronto CMA to less than 2% in the CMAs of Moncton, St. John's, Trois-Rivières and Saguenay. The reason for this is that new immigrants tend, upon their arrival, to settle in Canada's largest metropolitan areas, especially Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal, which were the place of settlement of more than 70% of immigrants admitted in the country from 2001 to 2006. To explain their choice of a place of residence, immigrants often cite having family and friends already living there and job opportunities.5

If the situation and trends included in the assumption for the reference scenario were to continue, major differences in the ethnocultural diversity of Canada's various CMAs would last until 2031 (Charts 12 and 13). With the proportion of foreign-born persons reaching respectively 50% and 44%, Toronto and Vancouver would continue to stand out from Canada's other metropolitan areas. If we add persons belonging to the second-generation (28% and 26% respectively), it emerges that 78% and 70% of the population of these two areas would be either immigrants or children born in Canada of immigrant parents. Already high in 2006, these proportions would remain the highest in Canada.

The Toronto and Vancouver CMAs would also continue to stand out in 2031 for their high proportion of persons belonging to visible minority groups. In fact, approximately three persons in five could belong to a visible minority group in 2031 in the Toronto and Vancouver CMAs according to the reference scenario for the projections.

Five other CMAs could, in 2031, have a proportion of foreign-born persons and visible minority persons above the national average, namely Abbotsford, Windsor, the Ontario part of Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary, and Montréal.

Chart 12 Proportion of foreign-born population by Census Metropolitan Area, Canada, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

Conversely, foreign-born persons would continue to comprise less than 5% of the St-John's, Trois-Rivières and Saguenay CMAs in 2031. Since the foreign-born populations there are smaller, the descendants of recent immigrants are fewer and the population is therefore less diversified than elsewhere in Canada in ethnocultural terms. By the same token, less than one person in twenty in these areas would belong to a visible minority group.

In 2031, the ranking of CMAs by the proportion of allophones and persons having a non-Christian religion is likely to have a profile similar to that based on the proportion of foreign-born and visible minority persons.

Because the projections show that by 2031, 71% of the visible minority population will likely continue to reside in Canada's three most populous CMAs, namely Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver, these CMAs are of particular interest. Also, owing to the differences between them as to the places of origin of the immigrants who settle in them, ethnocultural diversity in each of these CMAs has quite a distinct look. The sections that follow will deal with these distinctive features.

Chart 13 Proportion of the population belonging to a visible minority group by Census Metropolitan Area, Canada, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

More than two persons in five belonging to a visible minority group in 2031 could live in the Toronto CMA

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Toronto CMA alone attracts roughly 40% of newcomers to Canada. This sizable contribution of immigration has a number of consequences for the CMA, notably as regards its population growth, its age structure and its ethnocultural diversity. In fact, already in 2006, the Toronto CMA had a larger proportion of foreign-born persons than American cities such as Miami or Los Angeles, yet the latter are known for having a sizable immigrant population.6

There were 2.3 million visible minority persons in the Toronto CMA in 2006; this population is projected to more than double by 2031 to reach, according to the reference scenario, approximately 5.6 million (Table 7), accounting for more than 60% of the area's population. Thus, the Toronto could in 2031 be the place of residence of more than two visible minority persons in five (43%) living in Canada. It should be added that according to the projections, about one visible minority person in three living in the Toronto CMA would, in 2031, be Canadian-born.

The growth of the rest of the population of the Toronto CMA could be much more modest at roughly 8% over the period 2006-2031.

Table 7 Population of the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area by visible minority group, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

More than one visible minority person in three living in the Toronto CMA in 2031 could belong to the South Asian group

Already the largest visible minority group in 2006 in the Toronto CMA, South Asians are likely to remain so in 2031 and see their population almost triple, going from 718,000 to 2.1 million during the period. Thus, nearly one person in four (24%) living in the Toronto CMA would be South Asian in 2031, up from 13% in 2006. The factors that contribute to this increase are a sustained immigration and a higher fertility rate than many other visible minority groups, in the scenarios selected.

The Chinese would likely remain the second largest visible minority group in the Toronto CMA in 2031. Although the change in the percentage that they represent would be modest, going from 10% of visible minority persons in 2006 to 12% in 2031, their numbers would likely double during the period, going from 510,000 to 1.1 million, mainly owing to the contribution of immigration. As noted earlier, the more modest growth of the Chinese group is mainly due to having one of the lowest fertility rates of all visible minority groups.

Two visible minority groups with a smaller population in 2006 could see their numbers grow rapidly between 2006 and 2031: Arabs and West Asians. For example, according to the reference scenario for the projections, the Arab population could go from 56,000 to 202,000 over the next two decades. This situation reflects what is observed at the national level, with these two groups being the ones that could grow the most rapidly in Canada.

The change over time in the main religious denominations goes hand in hand with the projected trends regarding visible minority groups. Thus, the population having a non-Christian religion could more than double over the next two decades and come to represent about 30% of the overall population of the CMA, up from the 21% that it represented in 2006 (Table 8).

Conversely, the projections show that the population have a Christian religion living in the Toronto CMA could decline from 62% in 2006 to less than 50% in 2031. The population with no religious affiliation, for its part, would increase from 18% in 2006 to 20% in 2031.

Table 8 Population of the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area by religious denomination, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

More than one person in five in the Vancouver CMA could belong to the Chinese visible minority group in 2031

In the Vancouver CMA, the growth and proportional weight of the visible minority population are similar to those of the Toronto CMA. Thus, the visible minority population could double in the next two decades, going from 910,000 to 2.1 million (Table 9). Approximately three persons in five (59%) in the Vancouver CMA in 2031 could belong to a visible minority group, and among them, one in three would be Canadian-born. During the period 2006-2031, the growth of the visible minority population could be eleven times greater than that of the rest of the population, being largely augmented by immigration.

Table 9 Population for Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area by visible minority group, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

However, unlike in the Toronto CMA, where South Asians are the largest visible minority group, it is the Chinese who, in the Vancouver CMA, could account for the largest visible minority group; they would represent more than one person in five (23%) in 2031. The number of Chinese, who were already the largest group in 2006, could go from 396,000 to 809,000 over the next two decades. The South Asian group, which ranked second in 2006, is likely to remain the second largest visible minority group and account for 14% of the population of the Vancouver CMA.

Finally, as with the Toronto CMA and at the national level, the Arab group, although smaller, could experience, between 2006 and 2031, the strongest growth of any visible minority group in Vancouver.

About one-third of the Vancouver CMA could report having no religion in 2031

As in the case of the Toronto CMA, the proportion of the population having a Christian religion is likely to decline-but less substantially than in Toronto-between 2006 and 2031 in the Vancouver CMA, going from 50% to 47% (Table 10). It is important to note that the size of this group of religious denominations was already below the national average (75%) in 2006.

The proportion of persons reporting no religion in Vancouver is likely to continue to be one of the highest of any metropolitan area in Canada, with this group accounting for one person in three in the overall population. This situation, which already existed in 2006, is clearly not unrelated to the high level of Chinese immigration in this CMA, since the Chinese population has a high propensity to report no religion. Lastly, the proportion of persons having a non-Christian religion is projected to increase from 16% to roughly 21% during the next two decades.

Table 10 Population of the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area by religious denomination, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

The population belonging to visible minority groups could more than double by 2031 in the Montréal CMA

Compared to the situation in the Toronto and Vancouver CMAs, the population of the MontréalCMA has a less diversified ethnocultural profile. In 2006, there were slightly more than 600,000 visible minority persons in this CMA. The results of the reference scenario for the projections indicate that this number could more than double in the next two decades, reaching 1.5 million in 2031 (Table 11). Visible minority persons could then account for nearly one person in three (31%), up from 2006 (16%). This proportion would remain lower than those in Toronto (63%) and Vancouver (59%). However, as in the latter CMAs, the proportion of visible minority persons born in Canada would be approximately one in three in 2031.

Like in Toronto and Vancouver, however, the growth of the visible minority population in Montreal is expected to be much greater than that of the rest of the population.

The MontréalCMA also stands out with respect to the main visible minority groups within its boundaries. While South Asians and Chinese are the two largest groups in the Toronto and Vancouver CMAs, the largest groups in the MontréalCMA in 2006 were Blacks and Arabs, and they are projected to remain so up to 2031 according to the reference scenario.

In 2006, Blacks accounted for 5% of Montréal's population, and Arabs, 3%. Owing to greater population growth, with their numbers likely to triple between 2006 and 2031, the Arab group could almost catch up to the Blacks by 2031, with each group then accounting for close to 8% of the population of the MontréalCMA. Together, these two groups could comprise, in 2031, approximately half of the visible minority population in Montréal.

Table 11 Population of the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area by visible minority group, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

It is also worth noting that in 2031, the MontréalCMA would continue to be, as it already was in 2006, the Canadian metropolitan area with the largest Arab community. This situation is not unrelated to the characteristics of Quebec immigration, especially the propensity to select immigrants likely to speak French, including a number who come from the Maghreb (North African) countries.

Lastly, the Chinese and South Asian populations in Montréal could more than double between 2006 and 2031, but their share of the total would remain below those of the Black and Arab populations during the period.

Approximately 16% of the population of the MontréalCMA could have a non-Christian religion in 2031

In 2006, the religious portrait of Montréal in 2006 already stood out from those of Toronto and Vancouver in that the population having a Christian religion still accounted for a sizable proportion of the population, at approximately 82%. Over the years, this proportion is expected to decrease and by 2031, it could decline to 70% (Table 12). In other words, two persons in three living in the MontréalCMA in 2031 could have a Christian religion, compared to four in five in 2006.

Table 12 Population of the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area by religious denomination, 2006 and 2031 (reference scenario)

The reason for this is that the proportion of persons having a non-Christian religion or reporting no religion is expected to increase in the next two decades. The percentage of persons having a non-Christian religion would go from 9% to 16% during the period, while the population with no religious affiliation would comprise 13% in 2031, compared to 9% in 2006.


Notes

  1. See Chui, Tran and Maheux (2007).
  2. In this study, persons having a non-Christian religion are those who have a religion (which therefore excludes persons with no religion) other than Catholic, Protestant, Christian Orthodox or Christian not included elsewhere. The projected non-Christian religions are Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and other non-Christian religions.
  3. In the census, data on generation status are collected only from the population aged 15 and over. Data on the population under 15 years of age were imputed into the 2006 Census database for projection purposes, but those data are not available for 1971. Therefore, comparisons with 1971 concern only the population aged 15 and over.
  4. In 2006, the main countries of birth of West Asians born outside Canada were Iran and Afghanistan.
  5. See Statistics Canada (2003 (2)).
  6. See Chui, Tran and Maheux (2007).
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