More immigrants choosing western provinces: Census
Cheaper real estate and growing ethnic communities drawing settlers away from Toronto, Vancouver
Calgary and other western Canadian cities are beginning to accept a greater share of the nation's newcomers, according to the latest census numbers released by Statistics Canada.
Statistics Canada released its portrait of Canadian society Wednesday as part of the 2016 census. It shows 22.3 per cent of Canadians identified themselves as part of a visible minority. In 1981, when the agency first began collecting the information, only 4.7 per cent of Canadians identified themselves as part of a visible minority.
Statistics Canada estimates that with current trends continuing by 2036, visible minorities will represent as much as 35.9 per cent of the population.
The data showed that Alberta is now receiving a greater share of immigrants than British Columbia.
In 2001, Alberta was home to 6.9 per cent of recent immigrants, but for 2016 that number jumped to 17.1 per cent. The other Prairie provinces are also accepting a greater share of new Canadians than in the past.
Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, said the influx of people to Calgary in particular will be a gold mine, as long as the three levels of government continue to manage the influx.
"If you're not prepared, I think we'd have some consequences," he said.
Typically Immigrants have flocked in the greatest numbers to Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, but Birjandian said Calgary is beginning to get a critical mass of certain socio-cultural groups, which means we're seeing more and more of those people coming here.
He added that compared with Toronto and Vancouver, our housing market is much more affordable, which makes the city more attractive.
As for managing the influx, Birjandian believes we're doing a great job so far.
"Refugees that came to Calgary indicated the highest percentage of home ownership in the country – that obviously shows we've done a good job," he said.
He thinks the city needs to have more preparation at the policy level to make sure Calgary continues to be a welcoming city where newcomers can settle.
At the national level, Canada is experiencing levels of immigration not seen for nearly a century.
Hélène Maheux, an analyst with Statistics Canada, said the 21.9 per cent of people identified as immigrants in the census is the highest it has been since 1921.
“In 1921, just before that there was a huge boom of immigration in the west where we encouraged a large number of immigrants to settle in that part of the country.”
She said after that boom, Canada largely closed the door for decades before gradually allowing re-opening them and admitting more people.
The largest ethnicity that people report to census takers remains simply Canadian with more than 11 million people reporting that way, which typically means their families have been in Canada going back three generations or more.
- WIth Files from Ryan Tumilty