Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population, 2006 to 2031

by the Demosim Team

Report prepared by Éric Caron Malenfant, André Lebel and Laurent Martel


Owing to persistent low fertility and strong immigration, Canada has seen its population rapidly change in recent decades. Thus, from one census to the next, there has been an increase in the proportion of persons born abroad, persons whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, and persons belonging to visible minority groups as defined by the Employment Equity Act, to cite only a few examples.1 However, this change is not occurring at the same pace throughout the country: while very rapid in the largest metropolitan areas, especially Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, where most newcomers settle, it has thus far remained quite modest elsewhere in Canada.

Because of the various public policy implications of these rapid changes in the composition of the Canadian population, the Multiculturalism and Human Rights Branch at the Department of Canadian Heritage (this branch is
now with Citizenship and Immigration Canada) commissioned Statistics Canada in 2004 to make regional projections of the population of visible minority groups, immigrant status, religion and the population with neither English nor French as its mother tongue. Those projections were made to 2017, the year of the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Owing to the great number of variables to be projected, Statistics Canada's Demography Division developed, in collaboration with Modelling Division, a microsimulation model (originally called PopSim, now known as Demosim2) to make these projections, since models based on aggregate data proved to be inappropriate for this type of exercise. Programmed using the Modgen microsimulation language, the model led, in 2005, to the publication of an analytical report3 that received wide media coverage and has since been widely used, notably by various federal departments.

The publication of the results of the 2006 Census, as well as the timeliness of issues relating to immigration and the changes occurring in the Canadian population, called for the development of a new series of population projections. While these projections drew on the work published in 2005, they went further by projecting new characteristics of the population (place of birth, generation status and highest level of schooling, for example), adding categories to the variables that had then been projected (religion and place of residence), simulating new events (e.g., change of religion, graduation and departure of children from the family home), and extending the time horizon to 2031.4 This report presents the results of those new projections, which were made by Statistics Canada for Canadian Heritage, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. These policy departments were responsible for the policy related assumptions of the projections.

This report consists of three main sections. The first describes the methods and data sources used. The second describes the assumptions and scenarios that were employed in this exercise. The third presents the main results of the population projections. Readers interested in more results can refer to the detailed tables appended. A glossary at the end defines the more specialized terms used in the report.


  1. On this subject, see Tina Chui, Kelly Tran and Hélène Maheux (2007) or Statistics Canada (2008).
  2. To avoid any confusion, only Demosim will be used to designate the model throughout the rest of the report.
  3. Alain Bélanger and Éric Caron Malenfant (2005). The project also led, in 2008, to a more technical publication in the research papers of Eurostat (see Bélanger , A., É. Caron Malenfant, L. Martel and R. Gélinas(2008)).
  4. The methods employed by the microsimulation-based projection model were thoroughly revised, and the model was also adapted in order to study the feasibility of Aboriginal projections by microsimulation. Although the methodology section of this report refers several times to the Aboriginal component of the model, no result relating to those populations will be described here.