Immigration is the Leading Cause for the Increase in the Number of Racialized People in Canada, Finds IRCC Report

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An Economic and Social Report released on August 23, 2023 by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) used data from population censuses to reach the conclusion that the overall number of racialized people in Canada increased 130% between 2001 and 2021 primarily because of new immigrants.

To reach this claim, Feng Hou, Christoph Schimmele, and Max Stick relied on new data for 11 subgroups of the racialized population, their generational composition, and changes in their share of people with a mixed racialized-white identity.

They outlined how the number of racialized people in Canada has increased at a much faster rate than the white population, which witnessed a one percent increase over the same time-frame. This has contributed to a large increase in diversity of the Canadian population.

While racialized people accounted for less than five percent of the total population before 1981 – largely due to place-of-origin restrictions in Canada immigration policy – the economic-oriented shift in said policy during the 1960s and 1970s led to a change in Canada’s demographic composition.

In 2021, for example, one in four people in Canada (26.5%) were from the racialized population, which was twice the corresponding share (13.4%) in 2001. Moreover, the composition of the racialized population itself changed as smaller groups increased their population share.

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“The arrival of new immigrants was the primary driver of growth of the racialized population between 2001 and 2021, accounting for about two-thirds of the increase. The role of immigration in population growth was even stronger for groups with shorter histories in Canada,” said the report.

The racialized groups are based on the population group question in the census and the derived visible minority variable, which consists of 14 groups: South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean, Japanese, visible minority – n.i.e. (not included elsewhere) (write-in responses), multiple visible minorities, other (not a visible minority), and Aboriginal people.

The data shows that between 2001 and 2021, the racialized population in Canada went up from 3.85 million to 8.87 million people (excluding non-permanent residents), with the largest increases observed for Arab (254%), West Asian (214%), and Filipino (207%) groups.

Increases for the Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Korean, and Black groups were lower than the increase estimated for the racialized population, but were still high and ranged between 42% (Japanese) and 125% (Black).

Racialized groups in the second and third generation or more had comparatively higher growth rates, but their population size in 2001 was so small that their contribution to the total growth of the racialized population was much less than the contribution of the first generation.

Growth disparities among various demographic groups also led to shifts in their proportional representation within the racialized population.

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While the Chinese cohort held the majority in 2001, comprising 26% of the racialized population, this proportion dwindled to 18% by 2021.

This is observable in the year-on-year rise in the number of permanent residents from China being only 835, going from 31,010 in 2022 to 31,845 in 2022.

The South Asian segment, in contrast, experienced an expansion and became the largest fraction in 2021, constituting 26% of the racialized populace – a rise from 23% in 2001.

Despite a marginal decline from 17% to 16%, the Black community maintained its position as the third-largest racialized group in 2021. Additionally, the shares of the Filipino, Arab, West Asian, and Latin American segments witnessed increases, whereas the Southeast Asian and Japanese segments witnessed declines in their proportional representation.

The change in group composition also differed by generational status, with the South Asian group increasing in all three generations (especially in the third or more) and the Chinese group decreasing in all three generations (especially in the first). The share of the Black group changed little in the first and second, but decreased considerably in the third.

In 2021, most racialized people were first-generation Canadians, though the proportion ranged from one-third to more than three-quarters, depending on the group.

The high proportion of first-generation racialized people reflects that immigration from non-European countries has also been high since the 1990s; immigration from these countries has had a short history in Canada, due to which racialized people have not been in Canada for long enough to have a large second or third generation population.

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.