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21.9% of Canadians are immigrants, the highest share in 85 years: StatsCan

October 25, 2017

CBC News |  Éric Grenier

The share of immigrants in Canada has reached its highest level in almost a century, according to 2016 census figures released Wednesday.

The Statistics Canada data also shows the Indigenous population is growing at more than four times the rate of the non-Indigenous population, reaching nearly 1.7 million in 2016.

These are some of the findings of the latest data set from the 2016 census, focusing on the population related to immigration, ethnocultural diversity, housing and Indigenous people.

The numbers come just days before the annual immigration levels are set to be tabled in the House of Commons by the Liberal government. The levels were set at 300,000 per year in 2017.​

The census figures show 21.9 per cent of Canadians report being or having been an immigrant or permanent resident, nearly matching the high of 22.3 per cent in 1921 and up from 19.8 per cent in 2006. The number was slightly higher than 21.9 per cent in 1931 too.

Statistics Canada estimates immigrants could represent up to 30 per cent of all Canadians by 2036.

The country welcomed 1.2 million new immigrants between 2011 and 2016, with 60.3 per cent of them being admitted as “economic” immigrants — nearly half of those through the skilled workers program.

Immigrants headed West

Immigrants are heading to the Prairies in larger numbers, with increases in the share of new immigrants settling in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. While 39 per cent of new immigrants still head to Ontario, that is down from 55.9 per cent in 2001.

“This isn’t just about the economy, but because some provinces are taking advantage of the Provincial and Territorial Nominee Program and using this program to attract immigrants that fit their economic needs,” says René Houle, senior analyst with Statistics Canada.

Urban centres in the Prairies have also welcomed disproportionately large numbers of new immigrants. Nevertheless, 56 per cent of them live in and around Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, while these centres are home to just over one-third of all Canadians.

More than 60 per cent of new immigrants come from Asia (including the Middle East), by far the largest source. Africa, however, has now surpassed Europe as the second-most important source of new immigrants, increasing to 13.4 per cent.

This is largely due to Quebec and its efforts in attracting French-speaking individuals. Nearly half of new immigrants from Africa settled in Quebec.

The largest individual source of new immigrants is the Philippines (15.6 per cent), followed by India (12.1 per cent) and China (10.6). Close to three per cent of new immigrants come from the United States, while Canada’s former colonial masters, France and the United Kingdom, combine for four per cent of all new immigrants.

In large part due to the influx of refugees, Syria was the seventh most important source of immigrants. It was ranked 50th in 2011.

7.7 million visible minority population

The census shows 7.7 million Canadians belong to a visible minority, representing 22.3 per cent of the population. That is up from just 4.7 per cent in 1981 and could rise to about one-third by 2036.

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