A new Statistics Canada survey says almost half the country’s population could be an immigrant or the child of an immigrant within the next 20 years.
It suggests the proportion of immigrants in Canada’s population could reach 30 per cent in 2036 — compared to 20.7 per cent in 2011 — and a further 20 per cent of the population would be the child of an immigrant, up from the 17.5 per cent recorded in 2011.
The numbers released Wednesday are a far cry from the country’s first census of the population in 1871 — four years after Confederation — when 16.1 per cent of the 3.7 million people in Canada were born abroad, with Britain, the United States and Germany as the most likely countries of origin.
The population projections show immigration will alter the country’s cultural landscape under all scenarios Statistics Canada explored as part of an ongoing project to map out Canada’s future as the nation turns 150 years old.
The upward trend in the number of immigrants to Canada would also have an effect on the languages spoken at home.
In Quebec, the percentage of people who claim French as their mother tongue is expected to drop to between 69 and 72 per cent in 2036, down from 79 per cent in 2011.
Across Canada, the percentage of francophones is also expected to drop to between 17 and 18 per cent from 21.3 per cent in 2011.
In Quebec, while the overall number of people who speak French at home — even if it isn’t their mother tongue — is expected to grow, their share as a percentage of the population will fall to about 75 per cent from 81.6 per cent.
The share of those who speak English at home in Quebec, on the other hand, will rise three or four points to the 16 or 17 per cent range — due in part to the tendency of new immigrants to favour English over French when choosing a new language.
Up to 30 per cent of Canadians in 2036 could have a mother tongue that is neither English nor French, a potential jump of 10 points from 2011.
Researchers concluded more than half of the country’s immigrants will be of Asian origin within the next two decades, with a corresponding decline in the number of European immigrants.
Visible minority populations would make up a growing percentage of the working age population, defined as people between the ages of 15 and 64, potentially doubling their share to 40 per cent of the age cohort, up from the almost 20 per in 2011.
The projections also suggest that by 2036, between 13 and 16 per cent of the population would be people from a non-Christian religion, up from the nine per cent recorded in 2011. Within this group, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs would see their numbers grow most quickly.