Young, Suburban and Mainly from Asia: Canada's Immigrant Population Surges

Article excerpt

Canada is one-fifth foreign-born: NHS

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OTTAWA - The debut of Canada's controversial census replacement survey shows there are more foreign-born people in the country than ever before, at a proportion not seen in almost a century.

They're young, they're suburban, and they're mainly from Asia, although Africans are arriving in growing numbers.

But the historical comparisons are few and far between in the National Household Survey, which Statistics Canada designed -- at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's behest -- to replace the cancelled long-form census of the past.

The new survey of almost three million people shows that Canada is home to 6.8 million foreign-born residents -- or 20.6 per cent of the population, compared with 19.8 per cent in 2006, and the highest in the G8 group of rich countries.

It also shows that aboriginal populations have surged by 20 per cent over the past five years, now representing 4.3 per cent of Canada's population -- up from 3.8 per cent in the 2006 census.

Almost one in five people living in Canada is a visible minority. And in nine different municipalities, those visible minorities are actually the majority.

However, Statistics Canada isn't handing out detailed comparisons to the results shown in the 2006 census.

That's because many comparisons with the past can only made reliably at a national or provincial level, said Marc Hamel, director general of the census. He said the agency suppressed data from 1,100 mainly small communities because of data quality, compared with about 200 that were suppressed in 2006.

"For a voluntary survey, it has very good quality. We have a high quality of results at a national level," said Hamel.

Until 2006, questions on immigration, aboriginals and religion were asked in the mandatory long-form census that went to one-fifth of Canadian households. When the Conservatives cancelled that part of the census in 2010, Statistics Canada replaced it with a new questionnaire that went to slightly more households, but was voluntary instead of mandatory, skewing the data when it comes to making direct comparisons.

The result is a detailed picture of what Canada looked like in 2011, but it is a static picture that in many instances lacks the context of what the country looked like in the past at the local level.

What the NHS does show is that, overwhelmingly, most recent immigrants are from Asia, including the Middle East, but to a lesser degree than in the early part of the decade. Between 2006 and 2011, 56.9 per cent of immigrants were Asian, compared with the 60 per cent of the immigrants that came between 2001 and 2005.

The Philippines was the top source country for recent immigrants, with 13 per cent, according to the National Household Survey -- although a footnote warns that the survey data "is not in line" with data collected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. China and India were second and third as source countries.

The decline in the share of Asian immigration was offset by growth in newcomers from Africa in particular, and also Caribbean countries and Central and South America. …