According to demographic projections, the ethnocultural diversity of Canada’s population will increase greatly by 2031. The vast majority (96%) of Canadians belonging to a visible minority group will likely live in one of the 33 census metropolitan areas, and visible minority groups could comprise 63% of the population of Toronto, 59% of Vancouver and 31% of Montréal.
Canada’s increasing visible minority population is not the only aspect of diversity projected to change. Other aspects of diversity include foreign-born, generation status, mother tongue and religious denomination.
According to demographic projections, the proportion of foreign-born people in the population could increase from 20% in 2006 to between 25% and 28% by 2031. Just over half (55%) could be born in Asia.
The proportion of foreign-born in the population could increase together with immigration levels. From 1991 to 2006, the average annual number of immigrants to Canada was 229,000, making the years 1991 to 2006 one of the longest uninterrupted periods of strong immigration since 1871. Over the same period, the proportion of foreign-born in the population increased from 16.1% to 19.8%. In contrast, over a 40-year period from 1951 to 1991, the proportion of foreign-born in the population rose from 14.7% to 16.1%.
From 2006 to 2031, the foreign-born population of Canada could increase four times faster than the rest of the population. The number of foreign-born Canadians could total between 9.8 and 12.5 million, depending on immigration levels. By 2031, nearly half (46%) of Canadians aged 15 and older could be foreign-born, or could have at least one foreign-born parent, up from 39% in 2006.
Diversity will grow among the Canadian-born population in coming generations regardless of future immigration, since the children and grandchildren of immigrants will add to Canada’s diversity.
Doubling of visible minority population
By 2031, if current demographic trends continue, 47% of the second generation (the Canadian-born children of immigrants) will belong to a visible minority group, nearly double the proportion of 24% in 2006. The proportion of the third generation (the Canadian-born children of the Canadian-born children of immigrants) or later generations belonging to a visible minority group, although low, will triple from 1% to 3%.
By 2031, 29% to 32% of Canada’s population—between 11.4 and 14.4 million people—could belong to a visible minority group, which is nearly double the proportion (16%) and more than double the number (5.3 million) reported in 2006. In contrast, the rest of the population is projected to increase by up to 12%. Sustained immigration, slightly higher fertility and a young population will bolster the visible minority population’s growth.
South Asians—the largest visible minority group—could represent 28% of the visible minority population by 2031, up from 25% in 2006, whereas the share of Chinese could decline from 24% to 21%. Chinese women have one of the lowest fertility rates in Canada, unlike South Asian women. Also, people born in China are more likely than South Asians to emigrate from Canada.
Canada’s Black and Filipino populations, which were the third- and fourth-largest visible minority groups in 2006, could double in size by 2031. The Arab and West Asian groups could more than triple—the fastest population growth among all groups.
More allophones, increasing religious diversity
Allophones (people whose mother tongue is neither English nor French) accounted for less than 10% of Canada’s population in 1981. By 2006, that proportion had risen to 20%; augmented by immigration, it could reach 29% to 32% by 2031. In other words, the number of allophones could rise 7 to 11 times faster than the rest of the population, to total between 11.4 and 14.3 million people.
Diversity is also increasing in terms of religious denomination. The number of people having a non-Christian religion is expected to almost double from 8% of the population in 2006 to 14% by 2031; about half of the non-Christian population would be Muslim, up from 35% in 2006. The proportion of the population with a Christian religion could decline from 75% to about 65%. The share with no religion could rise from 17% to 21%.