Immigrants’ choice of destination
Canada’s three largest metropolitan areas attracted most new immigrants
As the 2001 Census showed, the majority of Canada’s most recent immigrants settled in the three largest census metropolitan areas (CMAs): Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal. This was also the case with the immigrants interviewed for the LSIC.
Of the 164,200 immigrants aged 15 years and older who arrived in Canada from abroad during this year-long period, 74% (121,400) settled in these three metropolitan areas. In contrast, in 2001, these three areas were home to only 26% of the Canadian-born population aged 15 years or older.
The CMA of Toronto received the majority (46%) of these newcomers, an estimated 75,400 immigrants. Toronto’s intake was three times higher than that of either Vancouver (15%), the second most popular destination, or Montréal (13%).
In a distant fourth place was the CMA of Calgary, which attracted about 5% of the new immigrant population, followed closely by Ottawa–Gatineau (4%). Just over 2%—about 3,800 arrivals—chose Edmonton as their destination area.
Only 4% of the total new immigrant population resided outside a CMA.
Majority of immigrants settled in their destination of choice
In general, the settlement pattern of these new immigrants was similar to the intended destination they had stated when they applied to immigrate to Canada. Three-quarters of the immigrants who had stated a destination at the time of admission to Canada actually settled where they had intended to. The remaining quarter ended up settling in a different area from their planned destination. Generally, these immigrants had originally planned to settle in a smaller metropolitan area, but subsequently decided to live in one of the three largest.
Overall, 47% of the immigrants had targeted Toronto as their intended place of residence. About 12% had planned to settle in Vancouver and another 12% in Montréal. The remaining 18% intended to reside in a CMA other than Toronto, Vancouver or Montréal. About 1 in 10 immigrants did not state any intended destination before coming to the country and only 1% planned to settle outside an urban area.
Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal were the top destinations of choice for most immigrants. Over 80% of the newcomers who had the intention to settle in these metropolitan areas ended up living there.
Of all the people who had intended to live in Toronto, 87% actually settled there. However, 3% wound up living in Vancouver instead, and another 3% in Montréal.
Of the newcomers who had planned to live in Vancouver, 83% actually did so, 11% wound up living in Toronto or Montréal.
Nearly 85% of the immigrants who intended to settle in Montréal lived there at the time of the survey, while 6% ended up settling in Vancouver and 4% in Toronto. The other 5% who originally planned to live in Montréal settled in other CMAs or outside a metropolitan area.
Among the immigrants who planned to settle in a smaller metropolitan area, or outside a metropolitan area, about 7% ended up living in Toronto.
The three largest CMAs also had the strongest drawing power among those who did not specify a destination when coming to Canada. About 30% settled in Vancouver, the largest proportion, followed by 24% in Toronto and 7% in Montréal.
Immigrants settled where they did to join family or friends
Overall, immigrants cited two main reasons for choosing to locate in a given CMA. First, the majority of immigrants chose their destination area based on the fact that they had a spouse, partner or other family member currently living there. Four in 10 (41%) newcomers cited that as the most important reason behind their location choice. Another 18% chose the area because they had friends living there.
In fact, when the newcomers were asked if they had family or friends living nearby, three-quarters said they already had kin or a network of friends in the region where they chose to live.
The second most important reason behind destination choice was the prospect of a job, which was cited by 14% of immigrants. Close to 5% made their decision based on education prospects, 5% on lifestyle criteria and 4% on housing.
The reasons given by the newcomers for settling in Toronto, Vancouver or Montréal varied. While the most important reason to settle in these three areas was to join family and friends, the next most important reason for choosing these particular areas varied.
In the case of Vancouver, the second most important reason, cited by just over 13% of immigrants, was not family- or economic-related. The reason was simply the climate. In Toronto, the second most common reason was the possibility of a job, while in Montréal, language was the next most important factor.
Job prospects were almost as important as family and friends for economic immigrants
The reasons for settling in different areas of the country varied by immigrants’ admission class. For example, in any given metropolitan area, immigrants who were admitted in the economic class reported that family and friends and employment opportunities were equally important in location choice.
Nearly 25% of the principal applicants in the economic class chose their place of residence because they had friends living in the area. Another 18% of the immigrants in this admission category settled in the area to join family members who already resided nearby, while 22% cited jobs and job prospects as the most important reason.
Similarly, one-quarter of the spouses or dependents of the principal applicants in the economic class cited joining friends as the most important factor. A similar proportion (23%) chose the area to join family, and another 17% cited job prospects as the reason to move to their destination.
Employment-related reasons were particularly important for economic-class principal applicants who chose to settle in smaller metropolitan areas or outside a CMA. One-third of these people cited jobs as the most important reason to move to these areas. In comparison, about one-fifth of these new immigrants lived in smaller areas to join spouses, partners or family members already living there.
Of the three largest metropolitan areas, Toronto was the most likely to be chosen by economic-class principal applicants because of the job prospects. Almost one-quarter (23%) of them chose Toronto for its employment possibilities, while only 16% selected Montréal and only a small proportion chose Vancouver for the same reason.
Still, one-half of the economic-class principal applicants settled in Toronto to join family and friends. In addition, Toronto had the highest proportion (5%) of economic principal applicants who chose to live there because there were people from their same country or ethnic community already living in the area.
In Vancouver, 41% of economic-class principal applicants chose to live there in order to join friends or family members. However, 20% picked Vancouver because of its climate and 12% preferred Vancouver’s lifestyle.
In Montréal, as was the case in Toronto and Vancouver, joining family and friends was the most important reason for 31% of economic-class principal applicants. Language was the next most important factor (19%), followed by employment prospects (16%) and education prospects (10%). Another 8% pointed to housing factors in Montréal.
Just slightly over one-fifth of economic-class principal applicants settled in an area other than Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal.
The strongest reasons for choosing areas other than the three largest CMAs were to join family and friends and employment opportunities. Slightly over one-third (36%) of economic-class principal applicants cited family and friends as their primary reason for destination choice. Equally important, cited by 32%, were job opportunities that the area offered. In fact, in comparison with Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal, the highest proportion of economic-class principal applicants cited job prospects as the most important factor for settlement choice. Education prospects (12%), lifestyle (6%) and business prospects (6%) were the other top reasons to settle in areas other than the three largest CMAs.
Most refugees joined relatives in the top three CMAs
Privately sponsored refugees normally settle in the community inhabited by their sponsor(s). As such, they are likely to report that they settled in areas where they have family or friends or that they did not choose their place of residence, at least during the initial months after landing.
One-half of the refugee immigrants who lived in smaller CMAs or outside a metropolitan region did not choose their destination.
In Montréal, 82% of the refugee-class immigrants who settled there reported family and friends as the most important reason, compared with 72% of those in Toronto and 63% of those in Vancouver.
Reunification was most important for family-class immigrants
Since family-class immigrants came to Canada in order to reunite with family members, over 90% of them chose their destinations based on where their spouse, partner or family members lived.