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

Part A: Immigrants and Recent Immigrants

168,100 immigrants in the Ottawa Census Metropolitan Area

According to the 2001 Census, there were 168,100 immigrants living in the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of Ottawa (that is, the Ottawa Census Metropolitan Area or Ottawa for short) in 2001. The immigrant population in Ottawa 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 of 1986 to 2001, the number of immigrants living in Ottawa increased by 66,100 or 65%. In comparison, Ottawa’s Canadian-born population increased by 108,400 or 21%. Immigrants accounted for more than one third of Ottawa’s total population growth between 1986 and 2001.

Table A-1: Immigrants, Canadian-born and total population, Ottawa Census Metropolitan Area, Ontario, and Canada, 1986, 1996 and 2001
  Census of Population
  1986 1996 2001
Immigrants 101,970 148,050 168,120
Canadian-born 510,700 601,540 619,090
Population 612,670 755,500 795,260
Immigrants 2,081,200 2,724,490 3,030,080
Canadian-born 6,919,980 7,844,370 8,164,860
Population 9,001,170 10,642,800 11,285,550
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 46,080 45% 20,070 14% 66,150 65%
Canadian-born 90,840 18% 17,550 3% 108,390 21%
Population 142,830 23% 39,760 5% 182,590 30%
Immigrants 643,290 31% 305,590 11% 948,880 46%
Canadian-born 924,390 13% 320,490 4% 1,244,880 18%
Population 1,641,630 18% 642,750 6% 2,284,380 25%
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.

Ottawa’s immigrant population has grown at a faster pace than the immigrant population in Ontario and Canada. To take the most recent five-year period as an example, between 1996 and 2001 the number of immigrants in Ottawa increased by 20,000, or 14%. By comparison, the total number of immigrants living in Canada increased by 477,000 or 10% during the same five years.

In 2001, Ottawa was the place of residence of 2.7% of the population of Canada, up from 2.5% in 1986. As well, the city was home to more than 3.1% of Canada’s five million immigrants, compared to 2.6% fifteen years earlier. Ottawa’s share of the country’s 24 million Canadian-born persons increased to 2.6% in 2001 from 2.4% in 1986.

In 2001, Ottawa’s share of Ontario’s population was 7% compared to 6.8% fifteen years earlier, its share of the province’s immigrants was 5.6% compared to 4.9% in 1986, and its share of the province’s Canadian-born population was 7.6% compared to 7.4% in 1986.

Immigrant share of the population increasing

Continuing the trend of the 1986-1995 period, the immigrant share of Ottawa’s population continued increasing in the five years prior to 2001 to reach 21%. The share of immigrants in the populations of Ontario and Canada has continued to increase as well. The proportion of immigrants in Ottawa’s population remains lower than the proportion in Ontario and similar to the proportion in the country overall.

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

Figure A-1

Over one-half of immigrants landed after 1985

More than one-half of Ottawa’s immigrants—85,900 people—landed in Canada in the 15 years before the 2001 Census. By comparison, less than one-half of Ontario and Canada’s immigrants landed during the same period. Moreover, 20% of Ottawa’s immigrants landed in Canada between 1996 and 2001, compared to 18% for both Ontario and Canada.

Table A-2: Immigrants by period of immigration, Ottawa Census Metropolitan Area, Ontario and Canada, 2001 (number and percentage)
Period of immigration Ottawa Ontario Canada
Before 1961 23,330 14% 502,740 17% 894,470 16%
 1961-1970 20,860 12% 427,790 14% 745,570 14%
 1971-1980 25,250 15% 496,680 16% 936,280 17%
 1981-1985 12,750 8% 194,400 6% 380,330 7%
Earlier immigrants 82,190 49% 1,621,610 54% 2,956,630 54%
 1986-1990 21,990 13% 386,100 13% 661,180 12%
 1991-1995 29,550 18% 483,640 16% 867,360 16%
 1996-2001 34,400 20% 538,740 18% 963,320 18%
Recent immigrants 85,930 51% 1,408,470 46% 2,491,850 46%
Total 168,120 100% 3,030,080 100% 5,448,490 100%

An increasing share of the immigrant population

Generally speaking, the more recent their arrival, the larger the share of Canada’s and Ontario’s immigrants living in Ottawa.

In 2001, 3.1% of Canada’s 5.4 million immigrants were living in Ottawa. Recent immigrants to Canada were more likely to be living in Ottawa than earlier immigrants to Canada. Of the 2.5 million immigrants who landed in Canada between 1986 and 2001, 3.4% were living in Ottawa in 2001. Of Canada’s immigrants who landed before 1961, only 2.6% resided in Ottawa.

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

Figure A-2

In 2001, 5.5% of Ontario’s immigrants lived in Ottawa. Ottawa’s share of Ontario’s immigrants varies according to the period of immigration. Approximately 5% of immigrants in Ontario who landed before 1981 live in Ottawa, while more than 6% of very recent immigrants in Ontario live in Ottawa.

The Ottawa shares of the various cohorts of immigrants to Canada and Ontario remain very much the same as in 1996.

85,900 recent immigrants —11% of the Ottawa CMA population

In 2001, there were 85,900 recent immigrants (defined as those who landed in Canada after 1985) living in Ottawa, representing 11% of Ottawa’s total population. The share of recent immigrants in Ottawa’s population is larger than the proportion of immigrants in the national population, which stands at 8%.

In Ottawa, very recent immigrants—those who came to Canada in the 1996 to 2001 period—numbered 34,400 and represented 4% of the total population of Ottawa. In Canada as a whole, very recent immigrants numbered close to one million, representing 3% of the population.

Table A-3: Immigrants as a percentage of the population, Ottawa Census Metropolitan Area, Ontario and Canada, 2001
Period of immigration Ottawa Ontario Canada
 1986-1990 21,990 3% 386,100 3% 661,180 2%
 1991-1995 29,550 4% 483,640 4% 867,360 3%
 1996-2001 34,400 4% 538,740 5% 963,320 3%
Immigrated 1986-2001 85,930 11% 1,408,470 13% 2,491,850 8%
Immigrated before 1986 82,190 10% 1,621,610 14% 2,956,640 10%
All immigrants 168,120 21% 3,030,080 27% 5,448,490 19%

Eighty-six percent of recent immigrants have become Canadian citizens

By 2001, a large majority of Ottawa’s immigrants who landed in Canada from 1986 to 1995—86%—had become Canadian citizens. Immigrants who landed between 1986 and 1995 are becoming Canadians in high proportions, from 70% to close to 100%. More than 90% of immigrants who landed during the 1986-1995 period from Lebanon, Somalia, Viet Nam and Hong Kong (among the top countries of birth for Ottawa) had obtained Canadian citizenship by 1996. Between 70% and 90% of those from China, Poland, the Philippines, India and Iran had done the same. (See Table B-1 for the top ten countries of birth.)

A significant share of immigrants from Western Europe and the United States are postponing or forgoing Canadian citizenship. The rate of acquisition of Canadian citizenship by persons who immigrated to Canada from these countries during the 1986-1996 period is less than 70%, the lowest being 34% for Portugal. 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.

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-six percent of Ottawa’s immigrants who landed six to fifteen years before May 2001 had become Canadian citizens by that date, compared to 85% of the comparable cohort at the time of the 1996 Census.

Seventeen percent of immigrants who landed during the 1986-1995 period had acquired Canadian citizenship while retaining the citizenship of another country. Dual citizenship was more common among recent immigrants than among earlier immigrants. Among Ottawa’s immigrants who landed in Canada before 1986, 14% 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 (17%) than in 1996 (22%).

Table A-4: Acquisition of Canadian citizenship by country of birth, Ottawa Census Metropolitan Area, 2001

More than 90 percent of Ottawa’s immigrants who landed in Canada during 1986-1995 and were born in these countries have become Canadian citizens: Less than 70 percent of Ottawa’s immigrants who landed in Canada during 1986-1995 and were born in these countries have become Canadian citizens: More than one-quarter of Ottawa’s immigrants who landed in Canada during 1986-1995 and were born in these countries have dual citizenship:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Hong Kong
Russian Federation
Viet Nam
United States
Trinidad and Tobago
United Kingdom
Yugoslavia, Former
El Salvador
United Kingdom
Trinidad and Tobago
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Percent of immigrants with Canadian citizenship (including those with dual citizenship) Percent of immigrants with dual citizenship
Immigrated before 1986 91% Immigrated before 1986 14%
Immigrated 1986-1995 86% Immigrated 1986-1995 17%

Note: Countries of birth are listed from highest to lowest rate of Canadian citizenship in column one, lowest to highest citizenship rate in column two, and highest to lowest rate of dual citizenship in column three. 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, focus is on persons who immigrated between 1986 and 1995.

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