Visible minority concept consultative engagement

Opened: October 2022
Updated: September 2023
Results posted: October 2023

Consultative engagement objectives

The visible minority concept is currently under review. Statistics Canada has been committed to engaging with partners, stakeholders, ethnocultural groups, and the general public to identify the appropriate terminology and categories to describe the population and properly address data needs in health, education, justice, and employment equity.

Consultative engagement methods

These consultative engagements on the Visible Minority Concept were conducted virtually with group discussions and information sessions, and electronically with e-forms and written submissions in both official languages. It was publicized through Statistics Canada's Consulting Canadians page, various events and social media. Moreover, stakeholders and partners, ethnocultural groups, non profit and nongovernment organizations and researchers were invited by email to participate and to share the invitation with others within their network.

How participants got involved

Overall, Statistics Canada received feedback from more than 460 individuals in both official languages from a variety of people and organizations, including anti-racism groups, civil society organizations, ethnocultural community organizations, religious networks, social inclusion groups and the general public.

The consultative engagement also included several follow up discussions with subject-matter experts that came from these ethnic diverse groups.

Statistics Canada thanks participants for their contributions to this consultative engagement initiative. Their insights will help guide the agency in this review.

Initial findings of the consultative engagements


What we heard regarding terminology to replace "visible minority"

A number of participants preferred the term "racialized groups." They noted that the term "racialized" is already used by various federal departments, by provincial and municipal governments, and in the media. They also argued that the term more accurately presents race as a social construct by emphasizing the process of racialization.

However, the term "racialized" was also the most controversial option. Most francophone participants did not think that Statistics Canada should adopt race-based terminology because it is more generally considered to be offensive in the French language. In fact, many participants (both French- and English-speaking) were offended when they were described as belonging to a racialized group. They also felt that labelling all non-White people as "racialized" reinforces that White is the dominant group. Participants also noted the various definitions of "racialization" currently in use, related to colour of skin, culture, religion, ethnicity, language, etc.

The term population group (or another neutral term, such as diverse groups) was the second most preferred. Participants argued that it is sufficiently broad and flexible to apply to a number of situations and to be defined differently according to the needs of different organizations or programs. It was considered to be a more neutral term that would likely have a longer lifespan, considering the sensitivity of this topic. Participants also noted that the term could include the White population, without making this population either the reference or the norm. On the other hand, some participants opposed this term because of its vagueness.


Option 1

  • White
  • South Asian (e.g., East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan)
  • Chinese
  • Black
  • Filipino
  • Arab
  • Latin American
  • Southeast Asian (e.g., Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai)
  • West Asian (e.g., Iranian, Afghan)
  • Korean
  • Japanese

Option 2

  • White
  • South Asian
  • East Asian
  • Black
  • Southeast Asian
  • Middle Eastern
  • Latin American


  • The "Option 1 – Current categories" list above reflects the categories included in the last Census. Information collected from this question are in accordance with the Employment Equity Act. Respondents can select multiple categories and the data collected on these groups are used for various purposes, including in the fields of labour, education, health, justice, etc.
  • The Option 2 is currently being used by certain federal departments.
  • The Census does have a question on ethnic and cultural origin which includes a list of over 500 response options and derives multiple responses showing the diversity of the population at a very granular level (see this infographic created with data from the 2021 Census).
  • The Census also provides specific data on Indigenous identity, on place of birth, on generation status, on religion, and on languages.

What we heard regarding the categories

During the consultations, no clear consensus emerged on a list of categories to measure groups. Some participants suggested that combining certain categories, as seen below in option 2, would be more useful for anti-racism purposes because the resulting data collected would be more reflective of the perception of others rather than the respondent's personal identity - which often can be quite specific.

Other participants argued that more detail is always preferable and saw no advantage in a reduction of the number of categories. Moreover, these participants noted that reducing the number of categories would mean that detail for certain groups would be lost (e.g., Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Arab, West Asian).

One common criticism was that the categories on both lists are incoherent because they straddle race, ethnicity, nationality, and geographical descent. Most respondents believed that some categories (in particular, the "Black" category) are too broad and should be more granular.

That said, most respondents felt that comparability between census cycles is important for their data needs and were concerned with the potential impacts caused by changing the categories in the questionnaire.

Further summary results of the consultative engagement initiatives will be published online when available.