Asia, Mideast Immigrants Take Lead In Canada: Census

Asia, Mideast immigrants take lead in Canada: census

December 4, 2007

OTTAWA (AFP) Asians and Mideasterners made up the largest number of immigrants to Canada from 2001 to 2006, taking to one-fifth the proportion of Canadians whose mother tongue is neither English or French, said a census published Tuesday.

Traditionally, the bulk of immigration to Canada has originated from Europe, and Canada's two official languages, English and French, were unchallenged.

But a hike in immigration, dwindling birthrates, and a shift in focus from Europe to Asia as a source of migrants is quickly changing the ethnic and cultural makeup of this country.

The census estimated that 1,110,000 immigrants came to Canada between January 1, 2001 and May 16, 2006. These newcomers made up 3.6 percent of Canada's total population of 31.2 million.

During the same period, Canada's overall foreign-born population increased by 13.6 percent, four times higher than the growth rate of 3.3 percent for the Canadian-born population.

Immigrants born in Asia and the Middle East made up the largest proportion of newcomers — 58.3 percent, up from 12.1 percent in 1971.

Newcomers born in Europe, meanwhile, made up the second largest group (16.1 percent) of recent immigrants. Europe used to be the main source of immigrants, accounting for 61.6 percent of newcomers to Canada in 1971.

For the first time, people whose mother tongue is neither English nor French — so-called allophones — represented fully one-fifth of the population of Canada.

Anglophones — people who reported English as their mother tongue — still accounted for the majority of Canadians, but their share of the population declined 1.3 percent to 57.8 percent (18,056,000 people) from 2001 to 2006.

The same was true of Francophones, or people who reported French as their mother tongue. The proportion of Francophones decreased 0.8 percent to 22.1 percent (6,892,000 people).

“The increase in the share of allophones is mainly related to the number of immigrants who arrived in Canada between 2001 and 2006,” the census said.

During this period, an estimated 1,110,000 newcomers settled here, and four out of five of them were allophone.

Overall, Canadians reported more than 200 languages in the census, including German, Italian, Ukrainian, Dutch and Polish — languages long associated with immigration to Canada.

However, immigrants who spoke Chinese languages, Punjabi, Arabic, Urdu, Tagalog and Tamil recorded the largest gains.

The census reaffirmed Chinese languages as Canada's third most common mother tongue group, behind English and French.

For the first time, more than one million people (or 3.3 percent of the population) reported one of the Chinese languages as their mother tongue.

Italian remained in fourth place, and German fifth. Punjabi solidified its hold on sixth, followed by Spanish, Arabic, Tagalog and Portuguese.