Canada’s Visible Minority Population to Nearly Double by 2031

Jill Mahoney, Globe and Mail (Toronto), March 9, 2010

The number of visible minorities in Canada is expected to nearly double in the next two decades, according to new projections that highlight the country’s growing diversity.

One in every three Canadians will be non-white by 2031, Statistics Canada said Tuesday. In Toronto, the country’s most diverse city, nearly two in three faces will be non-white.

“A larger share of the visible minority population will be born in Canada, so they will be children of immigrants or grandchildren of immigrants,” said Laurent Martel, a Statscan analyst. “So it is the face of the Canadian-born population that is likely to change over the next two decades.”

Overall, between 29 and 32 per cent of the Canadian population could belong to a visible minority group in 2031, double the proportion recorded in the 2006 census, Statscan said in a release.

As well, at least a quarter of the population could be born outside the country in 20 years, with more than half of those from Asia. This would be the highest proportion ever of foreign-born Canadians, surpassing the 22 per cent level seen between 1911 and 1931.

Canada has one of the highest foreign-born populations in the world; only Australia and New Zealand have higher proportions, Mr. Martel said.

The foreign-born population is expected to increase about four times faster than the rest of the population, driving much of the country’s growth.

In addition, diversity will also increase among the Canadian-born population due to visible minorities’ younger age structure and slightly higher fertility rates.

The country could have between 11.4 million and 14.4 million visible minorities by 2031, depending on the growth projections used. In 2006, the country had 5.3 million non-whites. By contrast, the rest of the population will grow by less than 12 per cent.

Visible minorities are defined as “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.”

Almost all visible minorities will live in large cities, with 71 per cent calling Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal home. By 2031, 63 per cent of Torontonians would be non-white if current demographic trends continue. Vancouver would be 59 per cent non-white while Montreal would be 31 per cent.

The national statistics agency developed the projections using several growth scenarios based on different immigration, fertility and mortality assumptions.

Newcomers settle in urban areas because the sheer size of the cities means more job opportunities, which then leads to the creation of ethnic communities, said University of Toronto professor Jeffrey Reitz.

“(They) become kind of magnets in themselves for people of similar backgrounds,” said the ethnic and immigration studies professor. “The existence of the communities in the cities sort of tends to become a self-perpetuating process.”

As is the case now, South Asians would still be the largest group, representing 28 per cent of the visible minority population. The community would more than double from 1.3 million people in 2006 to between 3.2 million and 4.1 million in the next two decades. The Chinese population is expected to grow from 1.3 million to between 2.4 million and 3 million. Overall, however, the share of Chinese would drop to 21 per cent from 24 per cent.

Statscan said the black and Filipino populations could double in size. The fastest growth is among Arabs and West Asians, groups that could more than triple in 20 years.

By 2031, Statscan said 47 per cent of second-generation Canadians would be non-white, nearly double the proportion of 24 per cent in 2006. Second generation means people who are born in Canada to at least one foreign-born parent.

The country’s increasing diversity will also mean changes in Canadians’ religious affiliations. By 2031, the number of people who are non-Christian would almost double from 8 per cent in 2006 to 14 per cent. Of those, about half would be Muslim, up from one-third in 2006. Conversely, the number of Christians would decline to 65 per cent from 75 per cent.

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