Canada's mosaic now more colourful
By Caroline Greene
The face of Canada seems to be changing.
In a 1996 Statistics Canada census, over three million Canadians identified themselves as members of a visible minority a number which has increased over two per cent in the past five years and almost six per cent since 1986.
The 1996 census was the first in which Canadians were directly asked to define their race. In the past two surveys, done in 1991 and 1986, race was derived indirectly from questions on ethnic origin, mother tongue and place of birth.
This new question of race was introduced to provide information for employment equity purposes, said StatsCan analyst Vivian Renaud. "Gathering data is important and ultimately for the benefit of all Canadians," she added.
The results of the census found the Chinese culture to be the largest visible minority group, accounting for 27 per cent of the minority population, followed by South Asians at 21 per cent and blacks at 18 per cent.
Ontario and British Columbia, provinces with half of Canada's total population, accounted for almost three-quarters of the visible minority population. The proportion of visible minorities, although concentrated in B.C. at 18 per cent and Ontario at 16 per cent, varied greatly between provinces with minorities making up less than one per cent of the population in Newfoundland.
"The results show us Canada is very differentiated by geography and while we are experiencing a multi-cultural Canada in many urban centres, it is not relevant to some places," said Western professor of sociology Roderic Beaujot.
The census also indicates that visible minorities account for nearly eight per cent of London's population, with one-third of these born in Canada. This is slightly higher than the national average of 29 per cent.
Yet London's demographic make-up of visible minorities is slightly different than the national statistics with the black population at 20 per cent followed by an 18 per cent Arab/West Asian minority culture and Chinese population at 14 per cent.
The large black community in London can be accounted for in the principle number of this population having been born in Canada, a statistic which is over 50 per cent of the total London minority population, Renaud said.
Visible minority statistics are important tools for analysis, said Emmanuel Dick, president of the Canadian Ethnocultural Council. "The figures are a snap shot of 1996 where we are, who we are and in what numbers."
The statistics can be used to direct social policies such as immigration and employment equity and have the ability to tells us whether we are building a society that is just and equitable, Dick said.
Individual minority communities can also identify problems and direct planning accordingly. Dick believes while there are those who are not pleased with Canada as a multi-cultural community, the majority of Canadians are committed to tolerance. "Equity programs seek to address the concept of equity, equality, justice and the removal of the glass ceiling."
Over the next year, more of the survey's findings will be released including the socioeconomic characteristics of Canadians which will also be cross-tabulated with visible minority data.