Recent Immigrants in Metropolitan Areas: Canada—A Comparative Profile Based on the 2001 Census


This Glossary gives terms, definitions and categories according to Statistics Canada’s 2001 Census Handbook (Catalogue Number 92-379-XIE). Immigration categories are as defined by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Items are presented in alphabetical order.

Census Metropolitan Area

A census metropolitan area (CMA) consists of a large urban core with a population of at least 100,000 together with adjacent urban and rural areas that have a high degree of social and economic integration with the urban core. Throughout this profile, CMAs are referred to by the name of the largest city: Edmonton, Halifax, etc. The boundaries of the thirteen CMAs are the same in the 1996 and 2001 Census except in the case of Ottawa and Halifax. The territory of the Ottawa CMA decreased marginally, while that of Halifax increased more significantly.


Housing is defined as crowded if the number of persons living in the dwelling—the size of the household—is equal to or larger than the number of rooms. Housing is defined as crowded when there is more than one person per room. A room is defined as an enclosed area within a dwelling that is suitable for year-round living: a living room, bedroom, kitchen, or a finished room in attic or basement. Bathrooms, halls, vestibules and spaces used solely for business purposes are not counted as rooms.


The census family was defined in the 1996 Census as married couples (with or without never-married children), common-law couples (with or without never-married children), or lone parents of any marital status with at least one never-married child living in the same dwelling. In the 2001 Census, the definition of census family has been amended so that it now also includes two persons living in a same-sex common-law relationship (with or without children).

For the 1996 Census, children in a census family had to be “never-married” in order to be included as part of the census family. Under the new definition for the 2001 Census, previously married children are now included in the census family as long as they are not living with their spouse, common-law partner, or are a parent living with child.

Under the 2001 Census definition of census family, a grandchild living in a three-generation household where the parent is never-married, will now be considered as a child in the parent’s census family (provided the grandchild is not living with his or her own spouse, common-law partner, or child). For the 1996 Census, census family was defined as the two older generations, with both grandparent and parent being treated as one census family.

A grandchild living in the same household as the grandparents, where no parent is present, is now considered to be a child in the grandparents’ census family (provided the grandchild is not living with his or her own spouse, common-law partner, or is a parent living with child). Under the previous census, such a grandchild would not have been considered a member of any census family.

It is estimated that these last three changes to the definition of “child” will, together, result in a 1% increase in the number of total census families, and in a 6% increase in the number of lone-parent families. The effect of the inclusion of same-sex couples is unknown.

When families are grouped by “age of family”, the age is determined by the age of the oldest member (in other words, the age of the lone parent or the older of the two spouses).

A recent immigrant family is either a lone-parent family in which the parent is a recent immigrant, or a husband-wife family in which either or both spouses are recent immigrants. Some recent immigrant families came to Canada as married couples, while others formed conjugal unions after arrival. Because the census only asks people to report marital status at the time of the census, it is not known if people married before or after coming to Canada. Similarly, it is not possible to determine whether recent immigrants became lone parents before or after arrival in Canada.

The majority of recently immigrated children are members of recent immigrant families. However, some are members of earlier immigrant families (if parents immigrated before 1986 and the children later followed) or Canadian-born families (if the children were adopted, for instance).

Canadian-born families are defined as families in which the lone parent or both spouses were born in Canada.


A household is a person or group of persons sharing living accommodations.

In a recent immigrant household, one or more of the members aged 15 years or over is a recent immigrant, having immigrated to Canada between 1996 and 2001. All recent immigrants 15 years of age or over are members of recent immigrant households.

Recent immigrant households are subdivided by period of landing in the same way as individuals. A household with one or more persons 15 years of age or over who immigrated during 1996-2001 is a 1996-2001 immigrant household. If all persons 15 and over immigrated during 1996-2001, the household is called a “1996-2001 immigrants only” household. If there are members 15 and over who belong to other groups, the household is called “1996-2001 immigrants with others”. The “others” are immigrants who landed before 1996, Canadian-born persons or both.

A Canadian-born household is a household in which all members aged 15 years or over were born in Canada.

An earlier immigrant household includes one or more persons who immigrated in or before 1985 and does not include any persons who immigrated after 1985. Many earlier immigrant households include Canadian-born persons, including children born in Canada who have passed the age of 14.

Immigration categories

Under Canada’s immigration policy there are three major categories of immigration. These categories correspond broadly to the economic, family reunification and humanitarian or protection objectives of the Immigration Act. Hence, persons entering the country as immigrants or refugees have different reasons to do so and accordingly are likely to face different challenges and opportunities after landing in Canada.

Immigrants entering through the economic category are persons who have actively sought to settle in Canada and have presumably prepared themselves for the transition. They are selected as individuals and may be accompanied by a spouse and dependants. Only the selected immigrants are assessed against criteria designed to maximize the probability of success in the labour market or in business. Spouses and dependants in this category are not screened against selection criteria but are nevertheless part of the family unit who shared in the decision to move and participated in the preparations for transition. Less than one-half of the economic category are screened against selection criteria.

The family class category is made up of individuals who are joining family members already established in Canada. These immigrants are not assessed against labour market criteria. They are, however, sponsored by a relative in Canada who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and who has taken the responsibility of providing support for their settlement. Hence, those in the family reunification category are less likely than their counterparts in the economic category to have moved for economic reasons.

The refugee category is made up of Convention refugees and other refugees who are deemed to require protection or relief. These persons may not have wanted to leave their country of origin and may not have had the opportunity to prepare for moving to Canada. Refugees are expected to take longer to adjust to their new environment and their economic achievements may be modest compared to those of immigrants in the economic category.

At times immigrants were also admitted, in smaller numbers, through special categories or programs established for humanitarian or public policy reasons. These other immigrants include retired persons, Post-Determination Refugee Claimants in Canada and persons landed through the Deferred Removal Order Class and the Backlog Clearance program.


Industries are subdivided into six broad groups based on the 1997 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), as follows:

Manufacturing Manufacturing Primary industries
Construction and Transportation Construction
Transportation and storage
Trade Wholesale trade
Retail trade
Business services Finance
Real estate operators and insurance
Business services
Public sector Government services
Health services
Hospitality and other services Accommodation
Food and beverage services
Other services

Labour Force Activity

Refers to the labour market activity of the population 15 years of age and over in the week (Sunday to Saturday) prior to Census Day (May 15, 2001). Respondents were classified as either employed, or unemployed, or as not in the labour force. The labour force includes the employed and the unemployed.

The participation rate for a particular group is the total labour force in that group, expressed as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over, in that group. The employment rate for a particular group is the number employed in that group, expressed as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over in that group. The unemployment rate for a particular group is the unemployed in that group, expressed as a percentage of the labour force in that group, in the week prior to enumeration.

Living arrangements

Living arrangements refer to the composition of the household a person belongs to. The most common type of living arrangement is the “nuclear family” household defined as a lone parent living with children, or a husband-wife family with or without children living at home. An “extended family” results from the addition of aunts, uncles, grandparents, grandchildren, or other relatives, to a nuclear family.

Major field of study

Major field of study refers to the predominant area of learning or training of a person’s highest post-secondary diploma or degree. Ten major areas of study have been grouped in Table B-16 as follows:

  1. Physical sciences, engineering and trades:
    • Engineering and applied science technologies and trades
    • Engineering and applied sciences
    • Mathematics and physical sciences
    • Agricultural and biological sciences/technologies
  2. Social sciences, education, and arts
    • Social sciences and related fields
    • Educational, recreational and counselling services
    • Humanities and related fields
    • Fine and applied arts
  3. Commerce, management and business administration
  4. Health professions, sciences and technologies

The data pertain only to persons who have a post-secondary—trade or college—certificate or diploma or a university degree.

Median income

The median income is the middle income when incomes, including zero and negative incomes, are ordered by size, from high to low. One-half of incomes are higher, one-half are lower. The percentage of persons with income below one-half of the median income is not fixed but depends on how incomes are distributed.

Determination of whether income is below the median is performed separately for persons in families and unattached persons. For people living in families, the family income is compared to the median family income. For unattached or non-family persons—much smaller in number, particularly among recent immigrants—individual income is compared to the median income of all non-family persons. The number of persons with income below the median are added and divided into the total of the two groups. Unattached children under 15 years of age are not included as no income data are available, but children in families are included. The proportion of persons with income below one-half of the median is determined by the same method.

As family size is not considered in these calculations, and as larger families are likely to have higher income (but not necessarily higher income per member of the family), the number of persons in the total population living in families with income below the median is less than 50%. The proportion of persons living in families with income below one-half of the median is less than 20%.

Median income is determined for each CMA and for non-CMA areas by province or territory. The number of persons with income below the median income and below one-half of the median income is then determined for these same areas. These numbers are summed over all areas to arrive at totals for all of Canada.


Occupations are subdivided into six broad groups based on the 2001 National Occupational Classification for Statistics (NOC-S) as follows:

Sales and services Sales and service occupations
Processing Occupations unique to processing, manufacturing and utilities Occupations unique to primary industry
Administrative Business, finance and administrative occupations
Management and social sciences Occupations in social science, education, government services and religion
Occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport
Management occupations
Trades, transport Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations
Health, science Health occupations
Natural and applied sciences and related occupations

School attendance

School attendance refers to either part-time or full-time attendance at school, college or university during the eight-month period between September 2000 and May 15, 2001. Attendance is counted only for courses that could be used as credits towards a certificate, diploma or degree.

Skill level of job

Level 1: Short work demonstration; no formal education required.

Level 2: Secondary school plus a period of specific job training.

Level 3: College level education or trade apprenticeship required.

Level 4: University education required.

Sources of income

Employment income, consisting of wages and salaries or income from self-employment;

Other private income, consisting of investment income (mainly interest and dividends), retirement income and income from all other private sources; and

Transfers from government, including Unemployment Insurance benefits, Canada and Quebec Pension Plan benefits, Old Age Security benefits and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and other benefits such as workers’ compensation and social assistance. Also included are the Child Tax Benefit, refunds of the Goods and Services Tax, and provincial tax credits.

World regions

The 2001 Census reports the country of birth for respondents, which may be different than the country of residence prior to immigration. Figure B-1 (Part B) is based on the 90 countries where 90% of the recent immigrant population was born. Thus, Figure B-1 depicts the origins of 5.1 million of the 5.4 million immigrant population—2,847,000 immigrated before 1986, 1,414,000 between 1986 and 1995, and 862,000 between 1996 and May 2001. Immigrants from countries that have supplied only a small number of immigrants over the years are not included. However, percentages are calculated using the total immigrant population, including the omitted countries, in the same way as in Table B-1.

The countries have been grouped as follows—within each world region, countries are listed in descending order by number of recent immigrants:

World region Countries of birth
East Asia China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan
South-East Asia and Pacific Philippines, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Fiji, Cambodia, Australia, Laos
South and Central Asia India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkemenistan
Western Asia and Middle East Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia
Africa South Africa, Somalia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania
Eastern Europe Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, countries formerly part of the USSR not separately listed, Belarus, Macedonia, Czechoslovakia, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia.
Western Europe Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Malta, Iceland
United Kingdom  
Latin America El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Argentina
Caribbean Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Barbados
United States  

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