Statistics Canada today releases detailed analyses of data from the 2006 Census on ethnic origin, visible minorities, place of work and mode of transportation.
These analyses are now available in two online documents: Canada’s Ethnocultural Mosaic, 2006 Census, and Commuting Patterns and Places of Work of Canadians, 2006 Census.
More than 200 different ethnic origins reported
Each wave of immigration to Canada has increased the ethnocultural diversity of the nation’s population. In fact, more than 200 different ethnic origins were reported in the 2006 Census. In contrast, just about 25 different ethnic groups were recorded in Canada in the 1901 Census.
(Ethnic origin refers to the ethnic or cultural origins of the respondent’s ancestors. An ancestor is someone from whom a person is descended and is usually more distant than a grandparent.)
In 1901, people who reported Aboriginal ancestries, and British and French origins, comprised the largest share of the population.
The list of ethnic ancestries in 2006 includes cultural groups associated with Canada’s Aboriginal people (North American Indian, M�tis and Inuit), the European groups that first settled in Canada, such as the English, French, Scottish and Irish. It also includes origins reflecting immigrants who came to Canada over the past century, such as German, Italian, Chinese, Ukrainian, Dutch, Polish, East Indian and so on.
Among newer groups reported in 2006 were Montserratan from the Caribbean and Chadian, Gabonese, Gambian and Zambian from Africa.
By 2006, 11 ethnic origins had passed the 1-million population mark. The largest group enumerated by the census consisted of just over 10 million people who reported Canadian as their ethnic ancestry, either alone (5.7 million) or with other origins (4.3 million).
The other most frequently reported origins were English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Chinese, North American Indian, Ukrainian and Dutch. These ancestries were either reported alone or in combination with other origins, reflecting the increasing diversity of the population.
Visible minority population surpasses 5-million mark
In 2006, the census enumerated an estimated 5,068,100 individuals who belonged to the visible minority population. They made up 16.2% of the total population in Canada.
(The census collects information on this population to meet federal employment equity legislation requirements under the Employment Equity Act. According to the Act, visible minorities are defined as “persons, other than Aboriginal persons, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.”)
The visible minority population has grown steadily over the last 25 years. In 1981, when data for the 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.
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 7 in 10 (71.2%) recent immigrants were members of a visible minority group, and this proportion reached 72.9% in 2001.
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.
South Asians surpass Chinese as the largest visible minority group
The South Asians became Canada’s largest visible minority group in 2006, surpassing Chinese for the first time. The populations of both were well over 1 million.
The 2006 Census enumerated an estimated 1,262,900 individuals who identified themselves as South Asian, a growth rate of 37.7% from 917,100 individuals in 2001. They represented one-quarter (24.9%) of all visible minorities, or 4.0% of the total population in Canada.
In contrast, the number of individuals who identified themselves as Chinese increased 18.2% from 1,029,400 in 2001 to 1,216,600 in 2006. Chinese accounted for 24.0% of the visible minority population and 3.9% of the total Canadian population.
The number of those identifying themselves as Black, the third largest visible minority group, rose 18.4% from 662,200 individuals in 2001 to an estimated 783,800. They accounted for 15.5% of the visible minority population and 2.5% of the total population in 2006.
Other visible minority groups included Filipinos, who represented 8.1% of the visible minority population, Latin Americans (6.0%), Arabs (5.2%), Southeast Asians (4.7%), West Asians (3.1%), Koreans (2.8%) and Japanese (1.6%).
Getting to work: Canadian workers commuting further
Census data showed that workers were commuting farther to work in 2006 than in 2001, and a slightly decreasing proportion were driving their car to work.
The median distance travelled by workers to their place of work in 2006 was 7.6 kilometres, up from 7.2 kilometres in 2001 and 7.0 kilometres in 1996. (The median is the point at which half are above, and half below.) Workers in Ontario had the highest median distance in 2006, 8.7 kilometres.
Mode of transportation: Despite an increase in number of drivers, a lower proportion were driving to work
The census enumerated 14,714,300 people in the employed labour force who commuted to their place of work, a 9.4% increase from 2001.
The vast majority, an estimated 10,644,300 workers, drove to work in a car, truck or van. That was a 7.2% increase from 2001, the equivalent of 714,900 more drivers on the road across Canada. However, this increase was well below the gain of just under 1 million between 1996 and 2001.
Despite this growth, the proportion of workers who drove to work declined from 73.8% in 2001 to 72.3% in 2006.
Upward trend among workers travelling as passenger or using public transit
The 2006 Census also enumerated 1,133,200 workers who travelled to work as a passenger in a car, up 22.6% from 2001. Between 2001 and 2006, the share that rode to work as a passenger rose from 6.9% to 7.7%.
An estimated 1,622,700 people usually travelled to work on some form of public transportation, such as bus, streetcar, subway, light rail transit, commuter train or ferry, a 15.4% increase. Over the five-year period, the proportion that took some form of public transit increased from 10.5% to 11.0%.
The rest, an estimated 939,300, walked to work, up 6.6%, and 195,500 bicycled to work, a 20.0% increase. As a result, the proportion that walked edged down slightly from 6.6% in 2001 to 6.4% in 2006, while the proportion that bicycled edged up from 1.2% to 1.3%.
Place of work: More Canadians go to work in suburban municipalities of big metro areas
The census showed that workers are less concentrated in the core municipalities within Canada’s largest urban areas.
During the five years prior to the 2006 Census, the percentage increase in the number of people working in a suburban municipality was higher than the increase in core municipalities of the large centres.
In 2006, the total employed population whose usual place of work was located within a census metropolitan area (including working at home) reached an estimated 10,290,300. This was an increase of 7.9%, or 757,300, from 2001.
Half of this growth in employment occurred within suburban municipalities. Several of the suburban municipalities of the census metropolitan areas of Toronto, Montr�al and Vancouver showed particularly high growth rates.
An estimated 6,800,600 people worked in central municipalities in 2006, up 5.9% from 2001. The number of people who worked in suburban municipalities increased at twice that pace, 12.2%, during this five-year period, to 3,489,700.
Given this suburbanization of workplaces, more and more workers were commuting toward suburban municipalities. These people were also significantly more likely to drive their car to work.
About Statistics Canada
Statistics Canada produces statistics that help Canadians better understand their country�its population, resources, economy, society and culture. In Canada, providing statistics is a federal responsibility. As Canada�s central statistical agency, Statistics Canada is legislated to serve this function for the whole of Canada and each of the provinces. Visit