Statistics Canada: Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada

New data released  from the 2011 National Household Survey highlight the changes unfolding in Canadian society

Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey



  • In 2011, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6,775,800 people. They represented 20.6% of the total population, the highest proportion among the G8 countries.
  • Between 2006 and 2011, around 1,162,900 foreign-born people immigrated to Canada. These recent immigrants made up 17.2% of the foreign-born population and 3.5% of the total population in Canada.
  • Asia (including the Middle East) was Canada’s largest source of immigrants during the past five years, although the share of immigration from Africa, Caribbean, Central and South America increased slightly.
  • The vast majority of the foreign-born population lived in four provinces: Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta, and most lived in the nation’s largest urban centres.

Ethnic ancestry

  • More than 200 ethnic origins were reported in the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS). In 2011, 13 different ethnic origins had surpassed the 1-million mark.

Visible minority population

  • Nearly 6,264,800 people identified themselves as a member of a visible minority group. They represented 19.1% of the total population. Of these visible minorities, 30.9% were born in Canada and 65.1% were born outside the country and came to live in Canada as immigrants. A small proportion (4.0%) of the visible minority population was non-permanent residents.
  • Combined, the three largest visible minority groups?South Asians, Chinese and Blacks?accounted for 61.3% of the visible minority population in 2011. They were followed by Filipinos, Latin Americans, Arabs, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese.
  • As was the case with the immigrant population, the vast majority lived in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta. Seven out of 10 lived in the three largest census metropolitan areas: Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver.
  • The visible minority population had a median age of 33.4 in 2011, compared with 40.1 for the population as a whole.


  • Of the immigrants who had a single mother tongue, close to one-quarter (23.8%) reported English as their mother tongue and 3.4% reported French. Among those whose mother tongue was other than Canada’s two official languages, Chinese languages were most common, followed by Tagalog, a language of the Philippines, Spanish and Punjabi.
  • Three-quarters (74.5%) of the foreign-born population were able to conduct a conversation in more than one language. In many cases, immigrants who could speak more than one language reported knowledge of English or French, in tandem with a non-official language: 61.2% were able to converse in English or French and one or more non-official language(s), 9.9% in English and French and one or more non-official language(s). Another 2.6% could speak English and French but not a non-official language. As well, 0.8% said they knew only non-official languages.

Religions in Canada

  • Just over 22.1 million people, two-thirds of Canada’s population, reported they were affiliated with a Christian religion. Roman Catholics (roughly 12,728,900) were by far the largest Christian group, with adherents to the United Church the second largest group (about 2,007,600).
  • Slightly over 1 million individuals identified themselves as Muslim, representing 3.2% of the nation’s total population. Hindus represented 1.5%, Sikhs 1.4%, Buddhists 1.1% and Jewish 1.0%.
  • More than 7.8 million people, nearly one-quarter of the population (23.9%), had no religious affiliation.

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