Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Ethnic diversity and immigration

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Today, the ancestral roots of the population of Canada come from around the world. The 2006 Census identified more than 200 ethnic origins in Canada. One in three—10.1 million people—reported ‘Canadian’ as their origin either alone or in conjunction with other origins. After Canadian, the origins that they most often reported were English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Chinese, North American Indian, Ukrainian and Dutch.

Visible minorities growing

Canada’s visible minority population is growing at a much faster rate than its total population: 27% growth from 2001 and 2006 versus 5% in the general population. This is largely due to more immigration from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Middle East. In 2006, about 70% of the visible minority population was born outside Canada.

In 2008, Canada accepted 247,200 immigrants, representing a rate of 8 newcomers per 1,000 people. This rate has been relatively constant since the 1990s.

From 2001 to 2006, almost 60% of newcomers to Canada came from Asia (including the Middle East). This contrasts with 35 years earlier, when Asians accounted for 12% of newcomers. Following the Second World War, most immigrants came from European countries.

The proportion of immigrants from African countries more than tripled from 3% in the late 1960s to 11% in the early 2000s. The proportion of immigrants from the United States followed an opposite trend, dropping from 11% to 3%.

Most immigrants settle in Toronto, Montréal or Vancouver. Social networks and links with family and friends influence immigrants to choose a particular location.

Wherever they settle, immigrants are about as likely as Canadian-born citizens to feel safe. In 2004, 93% of foreign-born or immigrant populations reported that they were satisfied with their personal safety, compared with 95% of the Canadian-born population.

Recently-arrived immigrants also may be more likely to move about within Canada to respond to job opportunities. For example, immigrants in Canada for five years or less have noticeably higher migration rates to booming Alberta than non-immigrants. Immigrants who have been in Canada for 10 to 15 years are less likely to move to Alberta.

As immigrants integrate into the labour market here, many initially face difficulties finding jobs. For example, university-educated immigrants aged 25 to 54 who arrived in Canada within the previous five years were less likely to be employed in 2007 than their Canadian-born counterparts. This was true regardless of the country where they obtained their degree. Those educated in Western countries generally had higher employment rates than those educated elsewhere.

However, the gap in rates between degree-holding immigrants and their Canadian born counterparts narrows the longer an immigrant have been in Canada.