StatCan: A portrait of citizenship in Canada from the 2021 Census

An informative and useful update from their earlier study based on previous censa (Trends in the Citizenship Rate Among New Immigrants to Canada).

Of particular interest to me were the following elements:

Numbers of Canadian citizens born abroad: 322,530. This number quantifies those who will be impacted by the first generation cut-off introduced by the Conservative government in 2009 and thus not able to pass on their Canadian citizenship to their children. This is currently being challenged in court with profiles of families affected. IMO, the previous retention provisions were virtually impossible to administer consistently and efficiently, and the first generation cut-off is preferable.

Naturalization rate:

“Among all eligible immigrants admitted to Canada at least four years before a census year, 83.1% or just over 6.0 million immigrants reported Canadian citizenship in the 2021 census, while a larger proportion of the immigrant population reported Canadian citizenship in 2016 (85.8%) and 2011 (87.8%).”

Yet IRCC continues to use, in its annual reporting, the percentage of all immigrants, no matter whether they arrived five or 50 years ago, as its benchmark. Totally irrelevant to measuring IRCC’s performance. As I continue to argue, IRCC needs to set performance standards with respect to recent immigrants, based on the previous census period (essentially the approach StatCan uses).

Improved data on dual citizenship: The change from a simple question regarding dual citizenship to a more complex two-step set of questions has resulted in an increase in the number reporting dual citizenship. The results of this change:

“In 2021, 11.2% or 3.7 million Canadian citizens reported more than one country of citizenship. This was over double the number reported in 2016, when 4.5% or 1.4 million of all Canadian citizens identified as having more than one citizenship.”

I will be doing a more comprehensive analysis of 2021 Census citizenship data over the coming months, updating my analysis of the 2016 Census (What the census tells us about citizenship):

Source: A portrait of citizenship in Canada from the 2021 Census

Ontario’s population will surge by 30% in just over 20 years, according to StatsCan. Experts say we’re not ready

No serious questioning of the assumptions behind the study and those quoted whether this growth will be beneficial or not, and that many demographers disagree with the premise that large scale immigration will materially affect an aging population.

And of course, the experience over the past number of years have shown governments woefully inadequate in addressing healthcare, infrastructure and other programs to serve a growing population:

Ontario’s population is expected to experience sustained growth over the next two decades, but the province may not have the infrastructure to support the booming — and aging — population, some experts warn. 

The number of residents in the province could climb to more than 19 million by 2043, an increase of about 30 per cent since 2021, according to new projections from Statistics Canada. 

That figure is based on a forecast of medium growth, outlined in a report released Monday, which laid out various population projections for the coming decades. The province’s population, which sits at 14.8 million as of 2021, could surpass 21.0 million by 2043. 

But Ontario is ill-prepared to handle the growth, as it lacks the housing and general infrastructure to support the growing population, especially in major urban centres like Toronto, some experts say. 

“It’s obvious: we’re not prepared,” said Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage. “We can’t even handle the population growth we’ve had over the past 20 years — as households get small, people live longer and immigration numbers rise — let alone potential growth in the two decades to come.”

The lack of affordable housing and planning for population growth in Toronto could hamper the city’s future economic potential, said Sheila Block, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. She noted livability and sustainability are top-of-mind for both residents and investors. 

“If we don’t increase the supply of affordable housing, people will be living in substandard housing,” she said. “We are going to see more people under-housed.”

The city is already living with the consequences of improper planning and a growing population, said Block, who pointed to the crisis in affordable housing

“We need to talk about a sustainable future, a future where we see less damage from climate change and more equity,” she said. “Those are the kinds of issues that have to be considered, and affordable housing is one piece of that pie.”

Soper believes federal and provincial governments will soon be forced to address the crisis and “move aggressively” to support the population increase.

“The growth will force mandated densification laws, where community groups won’t be allowed to hold up the creation of housing because they don’t like it,” he predicted. 

The growth of Ontario’s population, along with that of Canada, as a whole, will largely be driven by immigration, noted Patrice Dion, a demographer with Statistics Canada. In 2021, when Canada’s border largely reopened, the country accepted more than 400,000 immigrants, representing 87.4 per cent of the country’s population-growth that year. 

While Soper and Block say Ontario isn’t prepared for the growth, they also say sustained immigration is necessary to address another key concern: an aging population. 

The country will need to rely on immigration to boost its cohort of working-age Canadians, because the natural growth rate (the number of births minus deaths) continues to decrease, said Block. 

“If you look at countries like Italy or Japan, which have broken immigration systems — Japan has been a very isolated country and it’s very challenging to become a citizen and Italy isn’t that much different — they’re going to face the kind of challenges Canada will, but to a much greater extent,” said Soper.

While Statistics Canada’s population projections vary widely — the different forecasts are based on a variety of factors, including fertility rates, life expectancy and immigration numbers — one thing is almost certain: Canada is expected to experience explosive growth in its cohort of older seniors, while the proportion of children in the country is expected to decline. 

More than 25 per cent of the population will be 65 or older by 2068, up from 18.5 per cent in 2021. Meanwhile, the number of Canadians above 85 may increase more than threefold over that period, from 871,000 in 2021 to 3.2 million in 2068. 

Canada will need to examine how it cares for its seniors, as more people join the group, said Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, director of financial security research at the National Institute on aging. 

“Over the next decade, we’re going to start seeing massive numbers of people needing care,” she said. 

“There’s going be a lot more of us being asked to care for seniors. The prospects to meet that challenge are not good,” said MacDonald, who noted the supports for seniors quickly fell apart during the pandemic. 

Source: Ontario’s population will surge by 30% in just over 20 years, according to StatsCan. Experts say we’re not ready

Statistics Canada: Portrait of the social, political and economic participation of racialized groups

No real surprises in this useful overview but important to have:

In response to Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, Statistics Canada’s Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics is releasing an initial set of 13 data tables on social inclusion. Nearly 100 indicators can now be used to examine various socioeconomic facets of racialized groups. 

The concept of racialized population is measured with the ‘visible minority’ variable in this release. ‘Visible minority’ refers to whether or not a person belongs to one of the visible minority groups defined by the Employment Equity Act. The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour” (for more details, please refer to Note to readers). 

These indicators provide valuable information to develop policies to combat racism and discrimination, and they reflect the agency’s commitment to greater insights through the use of disaggregated data. The new data sheds light on the unique experiences of racialized Canadians, whether they immigrated to Canada or were born in the country.

The indicators published today are organized into a wider framework of themes for measuring social inclusion within Canada’s diverse population. The themes are the following: participation in the labour market; civic engagement and political participation; representation in decision-making positions; basic needs and housing; health and well-being; education, training and skills; income and wealth; social connections and personal networks; local community; public services and institutions; and discrimination and victimization.

This article provides an overview of social inclusion of racialized populations under the two themes: civic engagement and political participation, and representation in decision-making positions. It looks at key indicators of participation in community groups and organizations, representation in senior management, and voting in elections and political engagement. The analysis focuses on the seven largest racialized groups in Canada: South Asian; Chinese; Black; Filipino; Latin American; Arab; and Southeast Asian Canadians.

The findings show that while the rates of civic participation of racialized Canadians are generally similar to the rest of the population, their representation in management positions is considerably lower, and their voter turnout and political engagement are somewhat lower compared with other Canadians. There are also important differences amongst the racialized groups on these measures of social inclusion.

Source for full report with tables: Portrait of the social, political and economic participation of racialized groups

Black and Indigenous people’s confidence in police and experiences of discrimination in their daily lives

Of note, even if not particularly surprising:

Black and Indigenous people are twice as likely as others to report that they have little or no confidence in police

The everyday experiences and perceptions of Indigenous and Black people in Canada differ from those of the non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people in many ways. Recently, social movements seeking racial and social equity in response to injustice—both current and historical—have demonstrated the importance of measuring and monitoring the perceptions and experiences of diverse populations. In particular, inequities among First Nations people, Métis, Inuit, and racialized groups regarding public safety measures, victimization, and the criminal justice system have been a key focus.

Two Juristat articles, released today, contain detailed analysis of the perceptions and self-reported experiences of diverse populations in Canada, with a particular focus on Black and Indigenous people: “Perceptions of and experiences with police and the justice system among the Black and Indigenous populations in Canada” and “Experiences of discrimination among the Black and Indigenous populations in Canada, 2019.” 

Black people twice as likely as non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people to report that they have little or no confidence in police

Black people have experienced and continue to experience various forms of racism, discrimination and unfair treatment in Canada, many of which are specific to the criminal justice system. On the whole, Black people living in Canada reported being less confident in police. According to the 2020 General Social Survey (GSS) on Social Identity, one in five (21%) Black people aged 15 and older reported having little or no confidence in police, double the proportion reported by non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people (11%).

Among non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people, 7 in 10 (70%) said that they had either some or a great deal of confidence in the police, compared with approximately half (54%) of Black people.

Chart 1  
Confidence in police, by population group, provinces, 2020

Chart 1: Confidence in police, by population group, provinces, 2020

Black people reported having lower general confidence when it comes to specific elements of police performance. Specifically, close to one in three (30%) Black people said that police were performing poorly in at least one part of their job, a higher proportion than non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people (19%).

Compared with the overall population, Black people had particularly negative perceptions of the police’s ability to treat people fairly and to be approachable and easy to talk to. For instance, 20% of Black people said that they felt that police were doing a poor job treating people fairly, compared with 7% of non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people.

Experiences of discrimination more common in the daily lives of Black people

In daily life, Black people were more likely to report experiencing discrimination in a variety of circumstances, including in banks, stores or restaurants, and when dealing with the police. According to the 2019 GSS on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), nearly half (46%) of Black people reported experiencing discrimination in the past five years—aproportion that was nearly triple that of the non-Indigenous, non-visible minority population (16%).

Chart 2  
Experiences of discrimination in the past five years, by population group, Canada, 2019

Chart 2: Experiences of discrimination in the past five years, by population group, Canada, 2019

Specifically, 4 in 10 (41%) Black people said that they had experienced discrimination based on their race or skin colour.

According to the GSS on Victimization, experiences of discrimination in the five years preceding the survey were more commonly reported in 2019 than in 2014. This was particularly the case among the Black population, with 46% of Black people reporting discrimination in 2019, compared with 28% in 2014.

Indigenous people are significantly more likely than non-Indigenous people to report little or no confidence in the police

Similar to the Black population, Indigenous people reported lower rates of confidence in the police, compared with non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people. Specifically—according to the 2020 GSS on Social Identity—2 in 10 (22%) Indigenous people reported having little or no confidence in the police. This proportion was double that reported by non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people (11%).

Chart 3  
Confidence in police, by Indigenous identity, provinces, 2020

Chart 3: Confidence in police, by Indigenous identity, provinces, 2020

As noted, 7 in 10 (70%) non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people reported having either some or a great deal of confidence in the police. This proportion is much higher than the proportion reported by First Nations people (48%) and Métis (54%). Estimates for Inuit from the 2020 GSS on Social Identity are not releasable because of the sample size.

When looking at indicators of police performance, Indigenous people were more likely than non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people to state police were doing a poor job at the following: enforcing the laws (10% versus 5%), promptly responding to calls (16% versus 7%), providing information on crime prevention (16% versus 9%), ensuring the safety of citizens (11% versus 5%), and treating people fairly (15% versus 7%).

According to the 2019 GSS on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), one-third (33%) of Indigenous people reported experiencing discrimination in the past five years—a proportion well above that of the non-Indigenous, non-visible minority population (16%). More specifically, experiences of discrimination in the five years preceding the survey were reported by 44% of First Nations people, 24% of Métis, and 29% of Inuit.

Chart 4  
Experiences of discrimination in the past five years, by Indigenous identity, Canada, 2019

Chart 4: Experiences of discrimination in the past five years, by Indigenous identity, Canada, 2019

Often, Indigenous people reported experiencing discrimination based on their ethnicity or culture (15%), or their race or skin colour (14%). These proportions were notably higher than among the non-Indigenous, non-visible minority population (2% and 3%, respectively).

Indigenous people were also more likely than non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people to perceive discrimination or unfair treatment because of their physical appearance (14% versus 5%), physical or mental disability (7% versus 2%), and religion (5% versus 2%).

As was also the case for the Black population, discrimination was more common among Indigenous people in 2019 (33%) than in 2014 (23%). Among the non-Indigenous, non-visible minority population, discrimination also increased, albeit to a lesser extent (from 12% in 2014 to 16% in 2019).

Source: Black and Indigenous people’s confidence in police and experiences of discrimination in their daily lives

Statistics Canada: Profile of immigrants in nursing and health care support occupations

Another useful StatsCan study that provides a more detailed analysis of what we know from media articles and personal experiences in healthcare, along with the over-qualification in many cases due to regulatory and other barriers:

“This study uses data from the Census of Population and the Longitudinal Immigration Database to paint a picture of immigrants in nursing and health care support occupations. It also examines the representation of immigrants in nursing and health care support occupations by intended occupation upon admission to Canada and by admission category. Lastly, it examines the professional integration of immigrants who completed their nursing education both in and outside Canada.

·       Immigrants who arrived in Canada as adults (aged 18 or older) are overrepresented in nursing and health care support occupations. In 2015/2016, they made up 22% of the workforce in these occupations, compared with 16% of the total employed population.

·       This overrepresentation of adult immigrants was particularly high for those working in nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates occupations (30%).

·       Overall, 5% of employed adult immigrants in 2015/2016 worked in nursing or health care support occupations, compared with 3% of other employed individuals. However, this proportion varied by place of birth. The percentage of adult immigrants in nursing or health care support occupations was particularly high among immigrants born in the Caribbean and Bermuda (13%), Western Africa (12%), Central Africa (12%), Eastern Africa (8%), and Southeast Asia (10%).

·       Among immigrants from Southeast Asia, immigrants from the Philippines stood out with a high proportion (13%) and a large number (44,380) of people employed in nursing or health care support occupations. In 2016, they accounted for nearly one-third (30%) of adult immigrants in these occupations.

·       Despite being overrepresented in these occupations, few principal applicants admitted under the economic immigration categories who were working as licensed practical nurses (2%) or nurse aides, orderlies or patient service associates (11%) had considered working in these occupations at the time they were admitted to Canada.

·       More than 4 in 10 (44%) adult immigrants in nursing and health care support occupations had completed their highest level of postsecondary education in Canada. However, this proportion varied by place of birth. For example, a large proportion of immigrants from the Caribbean and Bermuda (75%) and sub-Saharan Africa (60%) completed their highest level of education in Canada, while a minority of immigrants born in the Philippines (25%) and Southern Asia (32%) had done so.

·       Adult immigrants who graduated outside Canada had significantly higher rates of overqualification than adult immigrants who graduated in Canada. For example, immigrants who completed a bachelor’s degree or higher in a professional nursing program outside Canada were almost four times more likely to be overqualified (58%) than those who completed the same level of education in Canada (15%).”

Read or download the full report:

Opposition leaders want juror demographic data to help fight systemic biases


A lack of information on the race, gender and age of jurors hinders the fight to address systemic racism and other inequities in the criminal justice system, federal opposition leaders and others say.

While studies in the United States show juror race and age have a marked effect on trial verdicts, Canada collects no data allowing similar research here, The Canadian Press reported recently.

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh, who practised law in Ontario, expressed surprise at the data gap. Having evidence of jury makeup would help lawmakers make more informed decisions about improving the selection process, he said.

Singh said he would like to see laws and practices put in place to ensure juries represent the community, adding he would work with provinces and territories to see demographic information collected.

“The goal should be first identify: Are our juries reflecting the population, and if not what we can do to improve the demographics,” Singh said in an interview. “Better juries, better laws that all have the goal of justice and fairness in mind.”

Similarly, Green party Leader Annamie Paul said a clear picture without jury data on race, gender and occupation among other things is impossible.

“Lack of collecting this data is going to be one of the key barriers to truly dismantling systemic racism within our criminal justice system,” Paul said. “You can’t create legislation, really effective legislation, without this information.”

Sen. Kim Pate, a longtime advocate for justice reform, said collecting disaggregated data — information that does not identify individual jurors — would help understand jury selection and its impact.

“Concerns regarding the lack of this type of data are a recurring theme with nearly every criminal law bill considered by the Senate,” Pate said.

Conservative and Bloc Quebecois leaders Erin O’Toole and Yves-Francois Blanchet did not respond to requests for interviews.

The Prime Minister’s Office referred questions to Minister of Justice David Lametti, who said via a spokesman the government was on board with collecting information that would help address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people and racialized people who end up behind bars, which could include scrutinizing jury makeup.

As one example, David Taylor pointed to the federal-provincial-territorial National Justice Statistics Initiative, which sets goals and objectives related to justice data. Relevant deputy ministers have endorsed the collection and analysis of Indigenous and race-based data as a priority for the initiative, he said.

In addition, the recent budget earmarked $6.7 million over five years for Justice Canada to improve the collection and use of demographic data, while Statistics Canada would receive $172 million over five years for its “disaggregated data action plan.”

“Effective policy requires good data,” Taylor said. “This investment will support the use of advanced analytics so that we can better tailor interventions and improve social outcomes for different groups of people.”

Canada’s chief statistician, Anil Arora, said Canadians have long been reluctant to collect demographic information but people have come to understand the impact it can have in crafting solutions.

The government now wants to collect demographic information in a systematic way, including addressing gaps related to the justice system, Arora said. Statistics Canada can access data through the justice initiative, he said.

“What we need to do now is to align the disaggregated data at the source of collection, or at least be able to link it to other data sources, to get at what is the profile, whether it’s somebody serving on the jury (or) part of the judicial system itself,” Arora said.

“The country needs this type of information, so that it can see what’s going on sooner and it can react sooner, and it can take decisions.”

Source: Opposition leaders want juror demographic data to help fight systemic biases

Are the gaps in labour market outcomes between immigrants and their Canadian-born counterparts starting to close?

Another important and good analysis from Statistics Canada, highlighting some improvement in economic outcomes from “two step” immigrations (temporary residents transitioning to permanent residency):

Earlier studies have well documented the expanding earnings gap between new immigrant workers and their Canadian-born counterparts during the 1980s and 1990s. However, significant policy changes in immigration selection and settlement have been introduced since the early 2000s, and the employment rate and entry earnings among new immigrants have been improving in recent years.

Little research has been undertaken to examine whether the earnings gap between new immigrant and Canadian-born workers has recently started to close. This paper compares the employment rate and the weekly earnings of immigrant and Canadian-born workers throughout the 2000s and 2010s. It is based on information from the censuses from 2001 to 2016 and information from the Labour Force Survey from 2015 to 2019. Analyses are conducted for new immigrants (in Canada for 1 to 5 years), recent immigrants (in Canada for 6 to 10 years) and long-term immigrants (in Canada for over 10 years).

Over the 2000-to-2019 period, the employment rate for new and recent immigrant men grew faster than for Canadian-born men, and the relative employment position of new immigrant women also improved slightly. The earnings gap between immigrant workers and Canadian-born workers with similar sociodemographic characteristics widened between 2000 and 2015, with both years posting similar national unemployment rates.

In the late 2010s, there was some improvement in the earnings gaps for immigrant men and women relative to their Canadian-born counterparts. This improvement may be related to the rising demand for labour during these years, since relative labour market outcomes for immigrants tend to improve during expansions and to deteriorate during contractions. It may also be related, in part, to the increased tendency to select economic immigrants from the pool of temporary foreign workers. This has been shown to improve both entry earnings and longer-term earnings.


Statscan to spend $172-million over five years to improve how it captures data on race, gender, sexual orientation

Always good to have more and better data:

Canada’s national statistics agency will spend $172-million over five years improving the way that it captures data on race, gender and sexual orientation – a move aimed at filling long-standing gaps that have historically left the experiences of millions of Canadians invisible.

The funding, announced in the federal budget, is among the largest investments in a new initiative that the agency has seen in recent history, the country’s Chief Statistician Anil Arora told The Globe and Mail.

The plan is to expand existing research surveys with questions designed to paint a fuller picture of the population, Mr. Arora said.

Statistics Canada did this with its Labour Force Survey last year. Knowing that the economic fallout of the pandemic was affecting certain communities differently, the agency added questions about race, as well as working from home, job loss, capacity to meet financial obligations and applications to federal COVID-19 assistance programs.

“It’s not just about the average or what the ‘quote-unquote’ typical Canadian looks like,” said Mr. Arora, who is the head of Statistics Canada. “Canadians have been saying: ‘We want to see our diversity, as we see it in our society, reflected in our story – our statistics.’ … Better data, used responsibly, should lead to better outcomes.”

The census – which Canadians have been receiving in their mailboxes this week – does collect detailed demographic information, but it’s conducted only every five years. The goal, said Mr. Arora, is to incorporate more disaggregated data in other research projects.

The Globe has been chronicling the country’s data deficit for several years, examining its impact on businesses, citizens and government decisions.

This year, The Globe published an investigation called The Power Gap, which married dozens of publicly available datasets that had never before been linked to reveal how women working in the public service have struggled to advance past middle management. In the series, it was possible to assess the work force by gender, but not other indicators, such as race, because the information is not available.

(The Globe was able to determine the number of racialized women among the top 1 percentile of earners – it was about 3 per cent – by individually contacting and researching the backgrounds of hundreds of women in this bracket.)

In announcing the funding, the federal government acknowledged that the current system is inadequate.

“At present, Canada lacks the detailed statistical data that governments, public institutions, academics and advocates need in order to take fully informed policy actions and effectively address racial and social inequities,” the budget read.

“Journalists and researchers have long worked to tell the stories of where and why disparities in our society exist – whether among racialized groups or the power gap that exists between men and women that leads women’s careers to stall,” the document continued. “Better disaggregated data will mean that investigative efforts or research projects like this will have more and better data to analyze.”

Wendy Cukier, the founder and director of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, said she would like to see the federal statistics agency use the new resources to connect existing datasets. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of government agencies collect information on Canadians, but they exist as silos.

For example, regional development agencies distribute government funding to small businesses, but there is no easy way to measure how many jobs these loans and grants create or the extent to which certain groups have more access to this money. If the data could be cross-referenced with information from the Canada Revenue Agency, it would allow policy-makers to better determine the impact of the investments, she said.

“They’re all government agencies. Why are there not standardized reporting mechanisms around innovation and economic development? And ideally disaggregated, so we know which percentage is going to women, to Black-owned businesses,” Prof. Cukier said. “I would love to see Statistics Canada as the central repository.”

Mr. Arora said linking existing data is one of their key priorities and it’s something the agency has already been working on.

“We know that if you’ve got an issue in the justice system, when you go back and trace [it] there are issues of housing, there are issues of health and education,” he said. Within those records, there may be pieces about the individuals – such as whether they’re from a rural or urban community or whether they have a disability – that will make it possible to evaluate trends.

Sharing information between entities and across jurisdictions does raise privacy considerations, he said, but it can be addressed by stripping the information of names and replacing them with identifying numbers that would be consistent across datasets.

“Data isn’t going to miraculously make us inclusive, but it will help illuminate where the troubles and issues and gaps are,” Mr. Arora said. But he cautioned that there are always going to be holes in information.

“As soon as you understand something, you ask a better question. And once you ask that question, you need more data.”


Census 2021: Canadians are talking about race. But the census hasn’t caught up.

A good, nuanced discussion regarding nomenclature and methodology issues.

Census data, which links birthplace, generation, ethnic origin, visible minority status, citizenship to socioeconomic data provides a wealth of data that are used to highlight how outcomes vary between groups and cohorts, as well as providing a more quantitative assessment of systemic differences.

With more disaggregated data available (e.g., labour force survey, public service employment equity reports), the gaps are less significant than before.

Discussions around nomenclature can sometimes be easier than addressing the issues that the existing data sheds light on:

This May, Canadians will again be asked if they identify as a visible minority when filling out the long-form census. But it’s a concept and term increasingly out of step with the times.

The pandemic has laid bare racial inequalities, and racial justice activist groups, like Black Lives Matter, have put anti-Black racism high on the public agenda. Systemic racism, rather than visible minority status, is at the centre of debate. While Canadians are now talking more explicitly about race, the census has yet to catch up. 

“We’re going to have to ask ourselves, what do we want to do with that category now?” says Michael Haan, a demographer and member of a committee that advises Statistics Canada on ethnocultural diversity. According to him, the committee has had many internal debates about terminology. 

Indirectly asking questions

Canada’s anti-racism strategy, which draws on decades’ worth of research, states that race is a social construct. There is no basis for classifying people according to race, but racial bias and discrimination have very real effects. 

The question is: How do we get relevant data from the census and other surveys on the impact of systemic racism?

Statistics Canada tries to gather this information without directly asking about race. Race-based data is needed, says Jean-Pierre Corbeil, a diversity specialist at Statistics Canada. But he wonders whether that actually requires referring to race on the census.

Historically, the government has been reluctant to ask directly about race, which has led to a lack of disaggregated data. After the Second World War, the census used indirect methods of estimating the non-white, non-Indigenous population through racial proxies like language or ethnocultural origin.

That changed in 1996, says political scientist Debra Thompson, when Statistics Canada began asking Canadians whether they identified as a visible minority. The term, Thompson notes, makes it seem “that things are not about race when of course they absolutely are.” Canada advertisement explaining the 2021 census.

Identifying as a visible minority

The question on visible minorities was added to the census because of the Employment Equity Act. In order to measure how the white versus the non-white population fares in the labour market as required by this law, the government needed to know who is a visible minority.

For the purposes of the Employment Equity Act, says Haan, the question works. But he acknowledges the drawbacks: “Is it a perfect facsimile of race or racialization? No, it’s not.”

Many criticized, and still criticize the government’s approach. The United Nations has repeatedly pointed out that the term “visible minority” lumps together diverse communities and threatens to erase differences among them. Corbeil says Statistics Canada is well aware of the criticism.

Not easily done

However, changing the terminology is politically sensitive. Moving away from it would likely require changing the Employment Equity Act, says Fo Niemi, head of Montreal-based Center for Research-Action on Race Relations.

Instead, Statistics Canada is trying to respond to the demand for more race-disaggregated data through special crowdsourced surveys and increasing sample sizes of marginalized people to allow for enhanced analysis. 

For example, with support from the federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, it has produced a socio-economic analysis on the Black population.

During the pandemic, census data has also been combined with other statistics to show that mortality rates are higher in neighbourhoods where visible minorities live.

“What people want is really to have information on Black Canadians, to have information on South Asians or Latin American Canadians,” says Corbeil. But those categories are controversial too. White, South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean or Japanese are options non-Indigenous Canadians can choose from on the census. “Other” is also an option, but many feel unrepresented by the list. 

Expand or shorten the list?

The population groups, as Statistics Canada calls them, have remained largely unchanged since 1996. The agency uses the list, which was developed through an inter-departmental process in the 1980s — according to Thompson, how the groups were chosen is “a bit of a mystery.”

They are now part of Canada’s national statistical standards and are widely used by the federal government, including in the monthly labour force survey, which began recording visible minority status as of July 2020

Statistics Canada has considered changing the list. One alternative was to expand it, but that risked making the answers too similar to the separate ethnocultural origin question. Another was to shorten the list and provide broader categories. Statistics Canada even tested this approach in a 2019 trial run of the census. Respondents had to choose their “descent” from seven options: North American; Latin American; European; North African; African, Afro-Caribbean or African-Canadian; Middle Eastern or West Asian; and Other Asian. 

But according to Corbeil, the problem there was that Statistics Canada couldn’t identify who was Black because Black Canadians are highly diverse and come from all over the world. That’s important, because the agency’s consultations indicate that “many people want to identify as Black Canadians,” says Corbeil. Because the test was inconclusive, the options have not been changed for the 2021 census.

Changing the census isn’t so simple

Dr. Andrew Pinto, a public health and preventive medicine specialist and family physician, is a researcher with The Upstream Lab, which has studied the collection of racial data by health-care providers, says that if patients understand that disclosing their race will be used to address systemic racism, they are willing to provide the information.

For now, Statistics Canada is reluctant to refer directly to race anywhere on the census. The agency is cautious and for good reasons, says Haan. In order to compare data over time, the questions and the answers need to stay the same. “The census is the gold standard,” he says, “so any modification is carefully considered.”

Thompson also cautions that simply having the data won’t solve the problem of systemic racism.

“Yes, we need disaggregated racial data. [But] we also need governments that are brave enough to create targeted policies.”


Police-reported hate crime, 2019

2017 marked a major change since when these statistics were collected as shown in the above charts. Pre-COVID so recent spike in anti-Asian hate crimes not captured but largely post Black Lives Matter (but pre-George Floyd killing):

There were 1,946 police-reported hate crimes in Canada in 2019, up 7% from a year earlier. Other than a single peak of 2,073 hate crimes in 2017, police-reported numbers are the highest since 2009.

Today, Statistics Canada released a detailed analysis in the Juristat article “Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2019” and the accompanying infographic “Infographic: Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2019.”

Statistics Canada collects data on the number and nature of hate crimes reported to police in any given year and monitors trends over time. The following statistics from 2019 do not reflect the large-scale societal impacts, both nationally and globally, of the COVID-19 pandemic, as this information is not yet available. The 2019 police-reported hate crime data will, however, be a key reference point for 2020, to identify possible changes in Canadian crime patterns as a result of factors related to the pandemic. 

Results from a recent crowdsourcing survey show that, since the start of the pandemic, the proportion of participants designated as visible minorities who perceived an increase in race-based harassment or attacks was three times larger than the proportion among the rest of the population (18% versus 6%). This difference was most pronounced among Chinese (30%), Korean (27%), and Southeast Asian (19%) participants. In addition, some police services and media outlets, such as those in Vancouver(PDF 1,787 KB), Ottawa and Toronto (PDF 1,702 KB), have indicated significant increases in hate crime incidents in 2020.

Hate crimes target the integral and visible parts of a person’s identity and may disproportionately affect the wider community. A hate crime incident may be carried out against a person or property and may target race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, language, sex, age, mental or physical disability, or any other similar factor. In addition, four specific offences are listed as hate propaganda or hate crimes in the Criminal Code of Canada: advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, willful promotion of hatred and mischief motivated by hate in relation to property used by an identifiable group.

Hate-motivated crime up from 2018 and remains higher than previous 10-year average

The number of police-reported hate crimes in Canada was up 7% in 2019, rising from 1,817 incidents to 1,946. Since comparable data became available in 2009, the number of hate crimes has ranged from 1,167 incidents in 2013 to 2,073 in 2017. On average, 1,518 hate crime incidents have been reported annually by police since 2009.

Chart 1  
Number of police-reported hate crimes, Canada, 2009 to 2019

Chart 1: Number of police-reported hate crimes, Canada, 2009 to 2019

As with other crimes, self-reported data provide further insight into hate-motivated crimes. According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), Canadians reported being the victim of over 330,000 criminal incidents that they perceived as being motivated by hate in the 12 months that preceded the survey (5% of the total self-reported incidents). Two-thirds of these incidents were not reported to the police, a rate similar to that for victimization overall.

Hate-motivated crime accounts for a small proportion of all police-reported crime (around 0.1% of all non-traffic-related offences). However, police data on hate crimes reflect only those incidents that come to the attention of police and are classified as hate crimes. As a result, fluctuations in the number of reported incidents may be attributable to a true change in the volume of hate crimes, but they might also reflect changes in reporting by the public because of increased community outreach by police or heightened sensitivity after high-profile events.

Most provinces and all territories report increases in hate crimes

In 2019, eight provinces and all three territories posted increases in police-reported hate crimes. The largest contributors to the national increase were British Columbia (+49 incidents), Ontario (+43 incidents) and Quebec (+23 incidents). Alberta reported 38 fewer incidents and Nova Scotia had no change from the previous year.

Accounting for population size, hate crime rates were highest in British Columbia (6.1 incidents per 100,000 population), Ontario (5.9 incidents), Quebec (4.8 incidents) and Alberta (4.7 incidents). While the vast majority (84%) of hate crimes occurred in a census metropolitan area (CMA), non-CMA areas (small cities, small towns and rural areas) accounted for two-thirds (67%) of the increase in hate crime incidents in 2019. Stated another way, areas outside CMAs recorded 86 more incidents in 2019, while CMAs recorded 43 more incidents.

Police-reported hate crimes targeting race or ethnicity and sexual orientation were up compared with the previous year, accounting for most of the national increase. Hate crimes targeting religion were down because of fewer incidents targeting the Jewish population. There were more incidents targeting the Muslim population.

Chart 2  
Police-reported hate crimes, by region, 2017 to 2019

Chart 2: Police-reported hate crimes, by region, 2017 to 2019

Non-violent and violent hate crimes up in 2019

Non-violent hate crime accounted for over half (56%) of all hate crimes in 2019, the same proportion as in 2018. Both non-violent (+6%) and violent (+8%) hate crimes increased in 2019, contributing nearly equally to the overall increase in hate crime.

The increase in non-violent hate crime was largely the result of more incidents of general mischief (+7%). The rise in violent hate crime was driven by more incidents of common assault (+24%) and uttering threats (+12%).

As is typical of police-reported hate crime historically, mischief (general mischief and mischief towards property used primarily for worship or by an identifiable group) was the most common hate crime-related offence, accounting for almost half (45%) of all hate crime incidents.

Police-reported hate crimes motivated by hatred of a race or an ethnicity increase

Individuals designated as visible minorities generally report higher levels of discrimination than the non-visible minority population (20% versus 12%). Specifically, those who identified as Arab or Black were most likely to report having experienced discrimination, with four in five Black Canadians who had experienced discrimination indicating that their race or skin colour was the basis of the discrimination.

Almost half (46%) of all police-reported hate crime was motivated by hatred of a race or an ethnicity in 2019. Police reported 876 crimes motivated by hatred of a race or an ethnicity, up 10% from 2018, and 2 fewer than the record high in 2017. The rise was largely attributable to 40 more hate crimes targeting the Black population (+14%) and 35 more incidents targeting the Arab and West Asian populations (+38%).

With 335 police-reported incidents, hate crimes targeting the Black population reached their highest number recorded dating back to 2009. Hate crimes targeting the Black population accounted for 18% of all hate crimes in Canada, and this population was the most targeted group overall in 2019. Ontario (+29 incidents) and British Columbia (+16 incidents) accounted for the largest increases in hate crimes against the Black population, while Alberta (-19 incidents) reported the largest decrease.

The number of police-reported hate crimes against the Arab and West Asian populations rose from 93 to 128, following a 35% decrease a year earlier. This was the second-highest number dating back to 2009. These crimes accounted for 15% of hate crimes targeting race or ethnicity, and 7% of all hate crimes in 2019.

While the number of hate crimes targeting race or ethnicity rose in 2019, victimization data from the same year suggest that population groups designated as visible minorities were significantly less likely to report having a great deal of confidence in the police (35%), compared with non-visible minorities (44%). Perceptions of personal safety, prior victimization or discrimination, and confidence in the police can all impact the likelihood of an individual reporting a crime to the police.

Hate crimes targeting the Indigenous population continue to account for relatively few police-reported hate crimes

Incidents against Indigenous people—those who are First Nations, Métis or Inuit—continued to account for a relatively small proportion of police-reported hate crimes (2%), decreasing from 39 incidents in 2018 to 30 incidents in 2019.

Police-reported violent hate crimes against Indigenous people are more likely than most other hate crimes to involve female victims. From 2010 to 2019, 45% of victims of violent hate crimes against Indigenous people were female, compared with 32% of all victims of violent hate crimes.

According to the most recent victimization information, Indigenous victims of non-spousal violence were less likely to report the crime to police than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Furthermore, Indigenous people were less likely to report having a great deal of confidence in the police compared with their non-Indigenous counterparts. Previous research has described the relationship between Indigenous people and the police as one of mistrust because of a range of systemic issues that have contributed to experiences of social and institutional marginalization, discrimination, violence, and intergenerational trauma. It is therefore unclear how the number of police-reported hate crimes may be impacted.

Record high number of hate crimes targeting sexual orientation

According to the 2018 Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, an estimated 1 million people in Canada are sexual minorities—that is, they reported their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, bisexual or a sexual orientation that is not heterosexual. Compared with heterosexual Canadians, sexual minority Canadians were more likely to report having been violently victimized in their lifetime and were more likely to have experienced inappropriate behaviours in public and online. At the same time, sexual minority Canadians were less likely to report having been physically assaulted to the police.

Police reported 263 hate crimes targeting sexual orientation in 2019, up 41% from a year earlier. This was the highest number of hate crimes targeting sexual orientation dating back to 2009. Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) of these crimes specifically targeted the gay and lesbian community, while the remainder comprised incidents targeting bisexual people (2%); people with other sexual orientations, such as asexual, pansexual or other non-heterosexual orientations (6%); and people whose sexual orientation was unknown (4%).

As was the case in previous years, violent crimes accounted for more than half (53%) of hate crimes targeting sexual orientation. In comparison, just over one-quarter (27%) of hate crimes targeting religion and just over half (52%) of hate crimes targeting race or ethnicity were violent.

Hate crimes targeting religion down for the second year in a row, with fewer anti-Semitic hate crimes

In 2019, 608 hate crimes targeting religion were reported by police, down 7% compared with 2018. Although this was the second year-over-year decrease in a row, following a peak of 842 incidents in 2017, the number was higher than those recorded prior to 2017. Victimization information has shown that people affiliated with a non-Christian religion were significantly more likely than Christians to report having experienced discrimination on the basis of their religion (11% versus 1%).

Following a 63% jump in 2017 and a 3% increase in 2018, the number of incidents targeting the Jewish population decreased 20% in 2019, from 372 to 296. The decline was the result of fairly widespread decreases, including fewer incidents in Alberta (-29), British Columbia (-20), Ontario (-19) and Quebec (-18). While police-reported metrics indicate a decrease in hate crimes targeting the Jewish population, an annual audit conducted by B’Nai Brith Canada reported a record number of anti-Semitic incidents for the fourth consecutive year.

In contrast, following a large decrease in hate crimes against the Muslim population in 2018, police reported 15 more incidents in 2019, for a total of 181 (+9%). The increase in police-reported hate crimes against Muslims was largely the result of more incidents in Quebec (+15 incidents).

Violent incidents targeting the Muslim population were more likely than other types of hate crimes to involve female victims. From 2010 to 2019, almost half (47%) of victims of violent hate crimes targeting the Muslim population were female, compared with one-third (32%) of all hate crime victims.