Multiculturalism in Canada: what the data says

Multiculturalism in Canada: what the data says

Overall, the data suggests that while the Canadian model of an inclusive, welcoming society continues to be successful compared to most countries, there are some emerging fault lines. (Andrew Griffith, The Hill Times, Date: 20150914)

How well is Canada’s model of multiculturalism and citizenship working and how well are Canadians, whatever their ethnic or religious origin, doing? Will Canada’s relative success compared to other countries continues or are there emerging fault lines in Canadian society?

My recent book, Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, aims to answer these question through reviewing an extensive range of data, ranging from the 2011 National Household Survey, Citizenship and Immigration Canada operational statistics, to employment equity and other reports.

Overall, the data suggests that Canada has been largely successful at building an inclusive, multicultural society that encourages participation and integration. Analysis of the data confirms this success, but not without raising some concerns.

Starting with the obvious. Canada continues to become more diverse, whether measured by the numbers of different ethnic groups (some 250), their growing size (19.2 percent visible minority), increased concentration in urban centres along with greater dispersion to smaller centres, and increased religious diversity (8.8 per cent).

Each province is different. British Columbia is more heavily Asian, Ontario has the greatest diversity among groups, Alberta has overtaken Quebec both in numbers and diversity and Quebec’s composition reflects a preference for French-speaking immigrants.

Similarly, cities vary. Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver have been replaced by Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary. More immigrants are also settling in secondary and smaller cities. Alberta has displaced Quebec as Canada’s third most diverse province.

Economic differences persist. Whether measured by low-income cut-off prevalence, unemployment rates, or median income, visible minorities are doing worse than those of Canadian or European origin, despite strong participation rates. This is also true for most second-generation immigrants who have been schooled in Canada. However, some second-generation visible minority women are doing better than non-visible minority women, as are most younger (25- to 34-year-olds) university-educated second-generation visible minorities. But visible minority seniors, particularly women, have higher levels of poverty.

This overall pattern persists across the country. But visible minorities in Quebec fare more poorly: low-income cut-off prevalence is 50 per cent greater than elsewhere (save Atlantic Canada); the gap between visible minorities unemployed and non-visible minorities unemployed is greatest (6.8 percent); and second-generation median incomes of visible minorities are lower than in other provinces. Alberta and Saskatchewan have had the strongest economic outcomes for visible minorities and non-visible minorities alike.

In contrast, most visible minority groups are more well-educated than those of Canadian or European origin for both men and women. Canada continues to do a good job of integrating young new Canadians in primary and secondary schools. However, black and Latin American Canadians have lower rates of university education, reflected in poorer economic outcomes.

The public services that Canadians interact with most—health care, social services and education (particularly higher education)—are largely representative of the population. Some visible minority groups are overly represented in support positions.

Overall, Canada remains a welcoming society. However, hate crimes (whether police or community-reported), prejudice and discrimination continue to exist and contribute to poorer economic outcomes.

While ethnic groups do tend to settle together (33 federal ridings in 2015 had visible minority populations above 50 per cent), most ridings feature a mix of communities, some larger than others. In only two ridings does a single group (Canadian Sikhs) comprise more than 50 per cent. More detailed studies at the census district level provide, however, examples of greater ethnic concentration.

The Canadian model of immigration to citizenship is at risk, given declining naturalization rates (from 56 per cent for landing year 2005, to 47 per cent for landing year 2008, measured by six years after landing), a problem exacerbated by policy and program changes that have made citizenship “harder to get and easier to lose.”

Visible minorities (and women) continue to be underrepresented among federal and provincial political representatives (9.4 percent of federal MPs compared to the 15 per cent of Canadian citizen visible minorities). Typically—but not universally—visible minority MPs elected in the 2011 election tended to represent ridings with large populations of their ethnic-origin groups. Visible minorities (and women) are seriously under-represented in judicial appointments.

However, Canada has no anti-immigration party and all parties compete for the ethnic vote.

Core public service employment of visible minorities in the federal government is roughly in line with labour market availability, with the exception of some federal departments and agencies (e.g., Canadian Forces, RCMP). Governments of the larger provinces, with the exception of Quebec, are also reasonably representative.

What are the implications of these trends?

Increased diversity means that more communities will have to come to terms with change. It also means more accommodation challenges, likely religion-based.

The persistence of economic differences, particularly for second-generation non-university educated adults, risks social inclusion and cohesion. More initiatives are needed to address implicit bias in hiring and promotion decisions and communities also need to reflect on their role in helping members succeed.

Declining naturalization, the result of conscious policy changes, means greater risk of marginalization and exclusion, particularly with respect to some visible minority groups.

Political parties need to take care in finding the balance between targeted “shopping for votes” through diaspora politics and pan-Canadian engagement.

Overall, the data suggests that while the Canadian model of an inclusive, welcoming society continues to be successful compared to most countries, there are some emerging fault lines, seen most clearly in economic differences between groups, declining naturalization, and excessive diaspora politics.

Future governments will have to review, on an ongoing basis, whether Canada has the right mix and balance in its various policies to strengthen social inclusion and participation and make any necessary adjustments to reduce any emerging fault lines.

Andrew Griffith is the author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote and Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former director general for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad.

The Hill Times


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