Asian Heritage Month... by the numbers


  • Almost half of the immigrant population in Canada was born in Asia. In 2016, 48.1% of all immigrants were born in Asia (including the Middle East).
  • Asia has remained the top source continent for immigrants in recent years. From 2017 to 2019, 63.5% of newcomers to Canada were born in Asia (including the Middle East).
  • This is a slightly higher proportion than that observed from 2011 to 2016, when 61.8% of newcomers to Canada were born in Asia.
  • In 2016, Asian countries accounted for 7 of the top 10 countries of birth of recent immigrants: the Philippines, India, China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and South Korea.
  • According to Statistics Canada population projections, by 2036, immigrants born in Asia could represent between 55.7% and 57.9% of all immigrants.



  • Immigrants from each immigration wave from Asia, as well as their Canadian-born descendants, have contributed to the ethnocultural diversity of the country's population.
  • In 2016, a total of 6,095,235 people in Canada reported having Asian origins, representing 17.7% of Canada's population.
  • In the entire Canadian population, 3 Asian origins were among the 20 most commonly reported origins: Chinese (close to 1.8 million people), East Indian (approximately 1.4 million) and Filipino (837,130).


Groups designated as visible minorities

  • The population designated as visible minorities is made up of a number of groups that are, in themselves, diverse in many respects (e.g., place of birth, ethnic or cultural origins, languages, religion).
  • In 2016, the South Asian and Chinese groups were the two largest visible minority groups in Canada, each with a population exceeding 1 million.
  • Filipinos were the fourth-largest visible minority group. Similar to the Arab population, the number of Filipinos almost doubled in 10 years, and they had the highest growth rates among visible minority groups from 2006 to 2016.

Source: Immigration and ethnocultural diversity: Key results from the 2016 Census

Fighting anti-Asian discrimination

  • Research based on crowdsourced data showed that, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain population groups designated as visible minorities—most notably Chinese, Korean and Southeast Asian participants—were more likely than other groups to have perceived an increase in the frequency of harassment or attacks based on race, ethnicity or skin colour.
  • Overall, the proportion of visible minority participants (18%) who perceived an increase in the frequency of harassment or attacks based on race, ethnicity or skin colour since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was three times larger than the proportion of participants from among the rest of the population (6%).
  • This difference was most pronounced among Chinese (30%), Korean (27%) and Southeast Asian (19%) participants. In other words, participants designated as belonging to a visible minority group were more likely to perceive discrimination prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but COVID-19 has also disproportionately impacted perceived increases in these types of incidents.
  • Between 2018 and 2019, the number of police-reported crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity increased 10%, from 793 to 876. West Asian populations were one of the population groups driving this increase (+35 incidents).
  • In 2019, the number of police-reported hate crimes against the Arab or West Asian population rose 38%.


Contributions of Asian Canadians

  • Some groups are more likely to be represented among nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates than others. For example, 12% of all workers in these occupations were Black, 11% were Filipino and 4% were South Asian. By comparison, Black and Filipino workers each accounted for 3% of workers in all other occupations, and South Asian workers accounted for 5%.
  • In January 2021, 20% of employed Filipino Canadians worked in the health care and social assistance industry, compared with 14% of all workers.
  • Children of immigrant parents from Asian regions (East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Central Asia and the Middle East), in particular, are more likely to obtain a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree than children from the third generation or more.
  • Second-generation Asian Canadians have very high levels of education. For example, 72.6% of second-generation Chinese women had completed a university degree in 2016, compared with an average of 45.9% for all second-generation women.


Impact of COVID-19

  • South Asians are reporting lower levels of mental health than those belonging to other groups designated as visible minorities during the pandemic. South Asian participants were more likely to report fair or poor self-rated mental health and somewhat worse or much worse mental health since physical distancing began.
  • Crowdsourcing participants were asked whether they have experienced temporary or permanent job losses or reduced work hours since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Among participants who were employed prior to the shutdown, around one-third in most groups experienced job losses or reduced work hours. Filipinos and West Asians reported a higher share, at 42% and 47%, respectively, compared with 34% among White participants.
  • A higher proportion of the Japanese (86.5%), Korean (85.6%) and South Asian (82.5%) populations reported a willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.


Employment and income

  • In March 2021, the unemployment rate edged up 1.2 percentage points to 9.9% among South Asian Canadians aged 15 to 69, but did not change in the other six largest population groups designated as visible minorities.
  • For Canadians aged 15 and older, the poverty rate was 9.6% among the White population in the 2016 Census. In comparison, among Korean, Arab and West Asian Canadians, the poverty rate ranged from 27% to 32%. Among Chinese Canadians, the poverty rate was 20%.