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

Part A: Immigrants and Recent Immigrants

629,100 immigrants in the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area

According to the 2001 Census, there were 629,100 immigrants living in the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of Montreal (that is, the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area or Montreal for short) in 2001. The immigrant population in Montreal has increased substantially over the 15 years ending in 2001, and has grown at a considerably faster pace than the Canadian-born population. Over the period 1986 to 2001, the number of immigrants living in Montreal increased by 161,300 or 35%. In comparison, Montreal’s Canadian-born population increased by less than 297,000, or 12%. Immigrants accounted for one-third of Montreal’s total population growth between 1986 and 2001.

Table A-1: Immigrants, Canadian-born and total population, Montreal Census Metropolitan Area, Province of Quebec, and Canada, 1986, 1996 and 2001
  Census of Population
  1986 1996 2001
Montreal CMA
 Immigrants 460,620 586,470 621,890
 Canadian-born 2,427,250 2,664,480 2,724,200
Population 2,887,860 3,287,650 3,380,650
Province of Quebec
 Immigrants 527,140 664,500 706,970
 Canadian-born 5,927,360 6,339,180 6,378,420
Population 6,454,490 7,045,090 7,125,580
 Immigrants 3,908,150 4,971,060 5,448,490
 Canadian-born 21,113,860 23,390,330 23,991,910
Population 25,022,010 28,528,130 29,639,040
  1986-1996 1996-2001 1986-2001
 Immigrants 125,850 27% 35,420 6% 161,270 35%
 Canadian-born 237,230 10% 59,720 2% 296,950 12%
Population 399,790 14% 93,000 3% 492,790 17%
 Immigrants 137,360 26% 42,470 6% 179,830 34%
 Canadian-born 411,820 7% 39,240 1% 451,060 8%
Population 590,600 9% 80,490 1% 671,090 10%
 Immigrants 1,062,910 27% 477,430 10% 1,540,340 39%
 Canadian-born 2,276,470 11% 601,580 3% 2,878,050 14%
Population 3,506,120 14% 1,110,910 4% 4,617,030 18%

Note: In Table A-1, population totals for 1996 and 2001 include non-permanent residents as well as immigrants and the Canadian-born. Non-permanent residents are not included in Table A-1 for 1986 nor are they included in any population figures elsewhere in this report.

The immigrant populations of Montreal and the province of Quebec have grown at a slower pace than the immigrant population in Canada. To take the most recent five-year period as an example, between 1996 and 2001 the number of immigrants in Montreal increased by 35,400, or 6%. By comparison, the total number of immigrants living in Canada increased by 477,000 or 10% during the same five years.

In 2001, Montreal was the place of residence of between 11% and 12% of the population of Canada, and of a similar share of Canada’s 5.4 million immigrants and 24 million Canadian-born persons. These shares are virtually unchanged from 1986.

By contrast, Montreal’s shares of the province of Quebec’s population and its two components (immigrants and Canadian-born) have increased. In 2001, Montreal’s share of Quebec’s population was 47%, up from 45% fifteen years earlier, its share of the province’s immigrants was 88% compared to 87% in 1986, and its share of the province’s Canadian-born population was 43% compared to 41% in 1986.

Immigrants a stable share of the population

Figure A-1: Immigrants as a percentage of the population, Montreal Census Metropolitan Area, Province of Quebec, and Canada, 1986, 1996 and 2001

Figure A-1

The proportion of Montreal’s population comprised of immigrants has remained stable since 1996. Prior to that, the share increased from 16% in 1986 to 18% in 1996. The immigrant share of the populations of the province of Quebec and Canada has increased since 1996. The immigrant share of Montreal’s population is much higher than that of the province of Quebec, and it is the same as that of Canada as a whole.

Nearly one-half of immigrants landed after 1985

Many of Montreal’s immigrants have lived in Canada a long time. Fifty-three percent of the 621,900 immigrants living in Montreal in 2001 landed in Canada more than 15 years earlier. This is the same proportion as for the immigrant population living in the province of Quebec, of which Montreal accounts for the lion’s share. Recent immigrants make up nearly the same share of Canada’s immigrant population.

Table A-2: Immigrants by period of immigration, Montreal Census Metropolitan Area, Province of Quebec and Canada, 2001 (number and percentage)
Period of immigration Montreal Province of Quebec Canada
Before 1961 82,790 13% 95,250 13% 894,470 16%
 1961-1970 89,700 14% 101,560 14% 745,570 14%
 1971-1980 106,230 17% 120,730 17% 936,280 17%
 1981-1985 49,360 8% 56,120 8% 380,330 7%
Earlier immigrants 328,070 53% 373,660 53% 2,956,630 54%
 1986-1990 78,710 13% 88,410 13% 661,180 12%
 1991-1995 100,950 16% 113,250 16% 867,360 16%
 1996-2001 114,180 18% 131,660 19% 963,320 18%
Recent immigrants 293,830 47% 333,320 47% 2,491,850 46%
Total 621,890 100% 706,970 100% 5,448,490 100%

A stable share of the immigrant population

In 2001, close to one in eight of Canada’s five million immigrants were living in Montreal. Very recent immigrants were approximately as likely to be living in Montreal. Of the population of 963,300 individuals who immigrated to Canada between 1996 and 2001, 12% were living in Montreal. Of the population of immigrants who landed before 1961, only 9% were living in Montreal.

Figure A-2: Immigrants residing in Montreal Census Metropolitan Area as a percentage of Canada’s and the province of Quebec’s immigrant population, by period of immigration, 2001

Figure A-2

In 2001, seven out of eight (88%) of the province of Quebec’s immigrants lived in Montreal. Montreal’s share of Quebec’s immigrants does not vary much by period of immigration.

293,800 recent immigrants —9% of the Montreal CMA population

In 2001, there were 293,800 recent immigrants (defined as those who landed in Canada after 1985) living in Montreal, representing 9% of the population. The share of recent immigrants in Montreal’s population is high in comparison with the province of Quebec, and similar to that for Canada. In 2001, post-1985 immigrants accounted for 5% of the population of the province of Quebec, and 8% of Canada’s population.

Table A-3: Immigrants as a percentage of the population, Montreal Census Metropolitan Area, Province of Quebec and Canada, 2001
Period of immigration Montreal-CMA Province of Quebec Canada
 1986-1990 78,710 2.4% 88,410 1.2% 661,180 2.2%
 1991-1995 100,950 3.0% 113,250 1.6% 867,360 2.9%
 1996-2001 114,180 3.4% 131,660 1.9% 963,320 3.3%
Immigrated 1986-2001 293,830 9% 333,320 5% 2,491,850 8%
Immigrated before 1986 328,060 10% 373,650 5% 2,956,640 10%
All immigrants 621,890 19% 706,970 10% 5,448,490 19%

In Montreal, very recent immigrants—those who landed in Canada in the 1996 to 2001 period—numbered 114,200, representing 3% of the total population. In Canada as a whole, very recent immigrants numbered close to one million, also representing 3% of the population.

Eighty-four percent of eligible recent immigrants have become Canadian citizens

By 2001, a large majority of Montreal’s immigrants who landed in Canada from 1986 to1995—84%—had become Canadian citizens. Recent immigrants from most countries are becoming Canadians in high proportions, from 70% to close to 100%. Of Montreal’s top countries of birth of immigrants who landed during the 1986-1995 period, more than 90% of those from five countries had obtained Canadian citizenship by 2001: Lebanon, China, Algeria, Morocco and Romania. Between 70% and 90% of those from Haiti, France, Viet Nam, the Philippines, El Salvador and Sri Lanka had done the same. (See Table B-1 for the top ten countries of birth.)

A significant share of immigrants from Western Europe, the United States, and a few other countries are postponing or forgoing Canadian citizenship. The rate of acquisition of Canadian citizenship by persons who immigrated to Canada from these countries during the 1986-1995 period is less than 70%, the lowest being 47% for Japan. For western European countries especially, the rate of naturalization has dropped significantly from levels above 80% for earlier immigrants.

Immigrants from these countries may want to keep open the option of returning to their country of birth, or retaining the right to settle and work in any member state of the European Union. Depending on policies in countries of birth, people may not be able to retain their original nationality if they become Canadian citizens. As well, children born in Canada while the immigrant parents are still citizens of their country of birth may be citizens of that country, but not if their parents have become Canadian citizens.

Today, there are more and more people who live in more than one country over the course of their working lives. To work in Canada, they may become landed immigrants but they may not have the intention of becoming Canadian citizens, and may never do so.

Overall, however, the rate at which recent immigrants become citizens of Canada is not changing. The large majority of immigrants who remain in Canada clearly continue to opt for Canadian citizenship. Eighty-four percent of Montreal’s immigrants who landed six to fifteen years before May 2001 had already done so by then, compared to 85% five years earlier, at the time of the 1996 Census.

One in five immigrants who landed during the 1986-1995 period had acquired Canadian citizenship while retaining the citizenship of another country. Dual citizenship is more common among recent than earlier immigrants. Among Montreal’s immigrants who landed in Canada before 1986, 15% reported dual citizenship in 2001.

The incidence of dual citizenship among immigrants who landed six to fifteen years before the census was lower in 2001 (21%) than in 1996 (26%).

Table A-4: Acquisition of Canadian citizenship by country of birth, Montreal Census Metropolitan Area, 2001
More than 90 percent of Montreal’s immigrants who landed in Canada during 1986-1995 and were born in these countries have become Canadian citizens: Less than 70 percent of Montreal’s immigrants who landed in Canada during 1986-1995 and were born in these countries have become Canadian citizens: More than one-quarter of Montreal’s immigrants who landed in Canada during 1986-1995 and were born in these countries have dual citizenship:
South Africa, Republic of
Hong Kong
Viet Nam
Yugoslavia, Former
China, People’s Republic of
United States
Trinidad and Tobago
United Kingdom
Percent of immigrants with Canadian citizenship (including those with dual citizenship) Percent of immigrants with dual citizenship
Immigrated before 1986 92% Immigrated before 1986 15%
Immigrated 1986-1995 84% Immigrated 1986-1995 21%

Note: Countries of birth listed in from highest to lowest rate of Canadian citizenship in column 1, lowest to highest citizenship rate in column 2, and highest to lowest rate of dual citizenship in column 3. Citizenship refers to a person’s legal citizenship status, as reported in the 2001 Census. In Canada, there is a residence requirement of three years before Canadian citizenship can be acquired. As a result, many immigrants who landed in Canada between 1996 and 2001 were not yet eligible for Canadian citizenship at the time the census was carried out in 2001. For this reason, this group is not considered here. Instead, the table focuses on persons who immigrated between 1986 and 1995.

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