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

Part A: Immigrants and Recent Immigrants

2 million immigrants in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area

According to the 2001 census, there were 2,033,000 immigrants living in the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of Toronto (that is, the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area or Toronto for short) in 2001. The immigrant population in Toronto 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 Toronto increased by almost 800,000 or 65%. In comparison, Toronto’s Canadian-born population increased by almost 400,000 or 18%. Immigrants accounted for two-thirds of Toronto’s total population growth between 1986 and 2001.

Table A-1: Immigrants, Canadian-born and total population, Toronto Census Metropolitan Area, Ontario, and Canada, 1986, 1996 and 2001
  Census of Population
  1986 1996 2001
 Immigrants 1,234,360 1,772,900 2,032,960
 Canadian-born 2,165,330 2,407,470 2,556,860
Population 3,399,680 4,232,910 4,647,960
 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 538,540 44% 260,060 15% 798,600 65%
 Canadian-born 242,140 11% 149,390 6% 391,530 18%
Population 833,230 25% 415,050 10% 1,248,280 37%
 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.

Toronto’s immigrant population has grown at a faster pace than the immigrant population in Ontario and in Canada. To take the most recent five-year period as an example, between 1996 and 2001 the number of immigrants in Toronto increased by 260,000, or 15%. By comparison, the total number of immigrants living in Canada increased by 477,400 or 10% during the same five years.

In 2001, Toronto was the place of residence of between 15% and 16% of the population of Canada, up from 12% to 13% in 1986. As well, Toronto was home to more than 37% of Canada’s five million immigrants, compared to less than 32% fifteen years earlier. Toronto’s share of the country’s 24 million Canadian-born persons increased to 10.7% in 2001 from 10.3% in 1986.

In 2001, Toronto’s share of Ontario’s population was 41% compared to 38% fifteen years earlier, its share of the province’s immigrant population was 67% compared to 59% in 1986 and its share of the province’s Canadian-born population was 31%, the same as in 1986.

Immigrants approaching one-half of the population

Continuing the trend of the 1986-1995 period, the immigrant share of Toronto’s population continued increasing in the five years prior to 2001 to reach 44%. The share of immigrants in the populations of Ontario and Canada has continued to increase as well. The proportion of immigrants in Toronto’s population is much higher than the proportion in the country overall.

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

Figure A-1

Although immigrants are not yet the majority share of Toronto’s population, in many other ways they have already achieved that remarkable milestone. As will be shown in this profile, immigrants make up the majority of the adult population and immigrants are present in the majority of families and households. Only when the children of immigrants who are born in Canada are grouped with the Canadian-born, as they are in this profile, are immigrants seen to account for less than one-half of Toronto’s population. By other meaningful measures, they already are in the majority in Canada’s largest city.

More than one-half of immigrants landed after 1985

More than one-half of Toronto’s immigrants—over one million people—landed in Canada in the 15 years before the 2001 Census. By comparison, less than one-half of Ontario’s and Canada’s immigrants landed during the same period. An increasing share of immigrants has settled in Toronto after landing.

Table A-2: Immigrants by period of immigration, Toronto Census Metropolitan Area, Ontario and Canada, 2001 (number and percentage)
Period of immigration Toronto Ontario Canada
Before 1961 223,520 11% 502,740 17% 894,470 16%
  1961-1970 251,390 12% 427,790 14% 745,570 14%
  1971-1980 343,130 17% 496,680 16% 936,280 17%
  1981-1985 136,380 7% 194,400 6% 380,330 7%
Earlier immigrants 954,420 47% 1,621,610 54% 2,956,630 54%
  1986-1990 286,510 14% 386,100 13% 661,180 12%
  1991-1995 376,530 19% 483,640 16% 867,360 16%
  1996-2001 415,510 20% 538,740 18% 963,320 18%
Recent immigrants 1,078,550 53% 1,408,470 46% 2,491,850 46%
Total 2,032,960 100% 3,030,080 100% 5,448,490 100%

An increasing concentration

In 2001, well over one-third of Canada’s 5.4 million immigrants were living in Toronto. Recent immigrants to Canada were more likely to be living in Toronto than earlier immigrants to Canada. Of the 2.5 million immigrants who landed in Canada after 1985, 43% were living in Toronto in 2001. Of Canada’s immigrants who landed before 1961, only 25% resided in Toronto.

The story is the same provincially. The more recent their arrival, the larger the share of Ontario’s immigrants living in Toronto. In 2001, two-thirds of Ontario’s total immigrants lived in Toronto. Of those who landed after 1985, about three-quarters resided in Toronto. Of Ontario’s immigrants who landed before 1961, only 44% lived in Toronto.

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

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

Figure A-2

1,078,5000 recent immigrants—a large share of the Toronto CMA population

In 2001, there were 1,078,500 recent immigrants (defined as those who landed in Canada after 1985) living in Toronto, representing 23% of Toronto’s total population. The share of recent immigrants in Toronto’s population is larger than the proportion of immigrants in the provincial and national populations—13% and 8%, respectively.

Table A-3: Immigrants as a percentage of the population, Toronto Census Metropolitan Area, Ontario and Canada, 2001
Period of immigration Toronto Ontario Canada
 1986-1990 286,510 6% 386,100 3% 661,180 2%
 1991-1995 376,530 8% 483,640 4% 867,360 3%
 1996-2001 415,510 9% 538,740 5% 963,320 3%
Immigrated 1986-2001 1,078,550 23% 1,408,470 13% 2,491,850 8%
Immigrated before 1986 954,410 21% 1,621,610 14% 2,956,640 10%
All immigrants 2,032,960 44% 3,030,080 27% 5,448,490 19%

In Toronto, very recent immigrants—those who came to Canada in the 1996 to 2001 period—numbered 415,500 and represented 9% of the total population of Toronto. In Canada as a whole, very recent immigrants numbered close to one million, representing 3% of the population.

More than four in five eligible recent immigrants are citizens of Canada

By 2001, a large majority of Toronto’s immigrants who landed in Canada from 1986 to1995—82%—had become Canadian citizens. Immigrants who landed between 1986 and 1995 from most countries 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 Hong Kong, Viet Nam, the Philippines and Sri Lanka (among the top countries of birth for Toronto) had obtained Canadian citizenship by 2001. Between 70% and 90% of those from India, China, Poland and Guyana 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 1986-1995 period is less than 70%, the lowest being 31% for Sweden. 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 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-two percent of Toronto’s immigrants who landed six to fifteen years before May 2001 had become Canadian citizens by that date, compared to 81% of the comparable cohort at the time of the 1996 Census.

One in eight 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 Toronto’s immigrants who landed in Canada before 1986, one in ten 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 (13%) than in 1996 (18%).

Table A-4: Acquisition of Canadian citizenship by country of birth, Toronto Census Metropolitan Area, 2001
More than 90 percent of Toronto's immigrants who landed in Canada during 1986-1995 and were born in these countries have become Canadian citizens: Less than 70 percent of Toronto's immigrants who landed in Canada during 1986-1995 and were born in these countries have become Canadian citizens: More than one-quarter of Toronto's immigrants who landed in Canada during 1986-1995 and were born in these countries have dual citizenship:
Hong Kong
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Yugoslavia, former
Viet Nam
Russian Federation
United States
United Kingdom
Ireland, Republic of (EIRE)
Korea, South
Yugoslavia, Former
Percent of immigrants with Canadian citizenship (including those with dual citizenship) Percent of immigrants with dual citizenship
Immigrated before 1986 89% Immigrated before 1986 10%
Immigrated 1986-1995 82% Immigrated 1986-1995 13%

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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