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Canada's Ethnocultural Mosaic, 2006 Census: National picture

Visible minority population surpasses 5-million mark

In 2006, the census enumerated an estimated 5,068,100 individuals who identified themselves as a member of the visible minority population. They made up 16.2% of the total population in Canada.

The visible minority population has grown steadily over the last 25 years. In 1981, when data for the four Employment Equity designated groups were first derived, the estimated 1.1 million visible minorities represented 4.7% of Canada's total population.

In 1991, 2.5 million people were members of the visible minority population, 9.4% of the population. The visible minority population further increased to 3.2 million in 1996, or 11.2% of the total population. By 2001, their numbers had reached an estimated 3,983,800 or 13.4% of the total population.

Between 2001 and 2006, the visible minority population increased at a much faster pace than the total population. Its rate of growth was 27.2%, five times faster than the 5.4% increase for the population as a whole.

Figure 1 Number and share of visible minority persons in Canada, 1981 to 2006

The growth of the visible minority population was due largely to the increasing number of recent immigrants (landed immigrants who came to Canada up to five years prior to a given census year) who were from non-European countries. In 1981, 68.5% of all recent immigrants to Canada were born in regions other than Europe, and by 1991, this proportion had grown to 78.3%. The 2006 Census showed that 83.9% of the immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2006 were born in regions other than Europe.

Consequently, the proportion of newcomers who belonged to a visible minority group also increased. In 1981, 55.5% of the newcomers who arrived in Canada in the late 1970s belonged to a visible minority group. In 1991, slightly over seven in 10 (71.2%) recent immigrants were members of a visible minority group, and this proportion reached 72.9% in 2001. 

The 2006 Census showed that fully three-quarters (75.0%) of the immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2006 belonged to a visible minority group.

If current immigration trends continue, Canada's visible minority population will continue to grow much more quickly than the non-visible minority population. According to Statistics Canada's population projections, members of visible minority groups could account for roughly one-fifth of the total population by 2017.1

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