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There’s ‘diversity,’ then there’s ‘super-diversity,’ Burnaby style

October 31, 2015

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

“At least someone here is multicultural.”

That was the ironic joke the smiling Korean-Canadian customer made after his exchange with the Sri Lankan-Canadian woman behind the counter at Tim Hortons in Burnaby.

The Korean-Canadian was mock-boasting to everyone in earshot about how he and the Sri Lankan-Canadian had just been practising their mutual facility in the Japanese language.

The moment was an illustration of the kind of inter-ethnic “multicultural” interaction that happens all the time in Burnaby, including in this fast-food place on Kingsway and Arcola, near the Edmonds neighbourhood. The customers and staff look like a snapshot from a casual United Nations outing.

It doesn’t matter if you’re Korean, Sri Lankan, Chinese, white, Japanese, South Asian, Vietnamese or African, there is no place in Metro Vancouver — or arguably Canada or even the world — where you’re more likely to interact with someone of another ethnicity than in Burnaby.

In Metro Vancouver, Burnaby is the municipality that is most mixed in its ethnic diversity. Statistics compiled by The Vancouver Sun confirm it.

One of the most authentic ways to measure the intensity of ethnic diversity is to test the chances that two people, chosen at random from a certain area, will be of a different ethnic background.

Which is exactly what Sun data journalist Chad Skelton did: He’s given each part of Metro Vancouver a “diversity index.”

Burnaby prevails. There is a 73 per cent chance two randomly chosen people from Burnaby will be of a different ethnicity.

In Richmond, the chances of two random people being of a different ethnicity goes down to 68 per cent, which is the same diversity index rate for the city of Vancouver.

Sprawling Surrey, with its strong South Asian population, comes in next on Metro Vancouver’s diversity index, at 67 per cent. Coquitlam’s rate is 64 per cent. New Westminster comes in at 55 per cent on the diversity index. North and West Vancouver, Port Moody, Delta and Port Coquitlam all settle in at about 48 per cent.

Even though some people think of Richmond as the most “diverse” city in Canada because its population is 62 per cent foreign born, its diversity index is not as intense as that of Burnaby because Richmond is dominated by two major ethnic groups, Chinese and whites.

Burnaby is different. It has a wide range of ethnic groups. And they’re spread more evenly, with none dominating.

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