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The Immigrant Population | Canada |

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The Immigrant Population

Jennifer Elrick

/ 2 Minuten zu lesen

For statistical purposes, the immigrant population is defined as people who are, or have ever been, landed immigrants in Canada, i.e. people who have been granted the right to live in Canada permanently by immigration authorities.

Sculpture honouring immigrants in Hastings Park, Vancouver. (© picture alliance / All Canada Photos)

In 2011, 20 percent of the country’s population was foreign-born and thus classified as belonging to the immigrant population. In 2011, questions pertaining to immigration, ethnic diversity, language, education, labor market participation, income, and other important socio-demographic characteristics were removed from the mandatory census questionnaire distributed every five years to all households and administered as a part of the new, voluntary National Household Survey (NHS).
This move has been widely criticized by migration researchers and social scientists in general, who fear that their ability to conduct critical analyses of trends in social change and social inequality will be curtailed.

In geographical terms, the immigrant population is distributed unevenly across Canada. According to the 2011 NHS, 94.8 percent of Canada’s foreign-born residents live in four out of ten provinces: Ontario (53.3 percent), British Columbia (17.6 percent), Québec (14.4 percent) and Alberta (9.5 percent). The immigrant population is also concentrated in urban areas. Toronto alone is home to 37.4 percent of all foreign-born persons in Canada, and they account for 46 percent of the city’s total population. In other words, nearly every second person in Canada’s largest city was born outside the country.

In the past 40 years, new immigration policies and international events related to the movement of migrants have resulted in a marked shift in the main countries of origin of Canada’s immigrant population. According the 2011 NHS, among immigrants who reported settling in Canada prior to 1971, 78.3 percent came from Europe, 8.5 percent from Asia, 5.4 percent from the Caribbean, Central and South America, and 1.9 percent from Africa. In contrast, those who reported arriving between 2006 and 2011 came mainly from Asia (56.9 percent), Europe (13.7 percent), Africa (12.5 percent), and the Caribbean, Central and South America (12.3 percent). The top ten source countries for newcomers in 2011 were, in descending order, the Philippines, China, India, the United States, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Iran, South Korea, Colombia and Mexico.



  1. In Census and National Household Survey data released by Statistics Canada, the terms "immigrant population" and "foreign-born" population are used synonymously.

  2. The 2011 NHS was distributed to approximately 4.5 million households, and the response rate was 68.6 percent. The statistics cited in this section and the one on ethnic origins is taken from Statistics Canada (2013a).


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Jennifer Elrick is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on family-related immigration policies in Canada and Germany since 1945. E-Mail Link: