OTTAWA - The debut of Canada's controversial census replacement survey shows there are more foreign-born people in the country than ever before, at a proportion not seen in almost a century.

They're young, they're suburban, and they're mainly from Asia, although Africans are arriving in growing numbers.

But the historical comparisons are few and far between in the National Household Survey, which Statistics Canada designed — at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's behest — to replace the cancelled long-form census of the past.

The new survey of almost three million people shows that Canada is home to 6.8 million foreign-born residents — or 20.6 per cent of the population, compared with 19.8 per cent in 2006, and the highest in the G8 group of rich countries.

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  • The Survey

    CP — Statistics Canada released the first tranche of results Wednesday from the 2011 voluntary National Household Survey, which replaced the cancelled mandatory long-form census. The survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census cancelled by the Harper Conservatives in 2010, is filled with warnings that the data may not be as accurate, given the survey's voluntary nature. HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Nation Of Immigrants

    Canada was home to an estimated 6,775,800 immigrants in 2011, comprising 20.6 per cent of the population — more than ever before and the highest proportion of all G8 countries.

  • Aboriginal Population Growth

    Canada's aboriginal population grew by 20.1 per cent — 232,385 people — between 2006 and 2011, compared with 5.2 per cent for non-aboriginal people. 1,400,685 people identified themselves as aboriginal in 2011, representing 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population. Aboriginal Peoples accounted for 3.8 per cent of the population in 2006, 3.3 per cent in 2001 and 2.8 per cent in 1996.

  • Foster Care

    Almost half (48.1 per cent) of all children aged 14 and under in foster care in Canada in 2011 were aboriginal children.

  • Aboriginal Children

    Aboriginal children aged 14 and under made up 28 per cent of Canada's total aboriginal population, while their non-aboriginal counterparts represented 16.5 per cent of all non-aboriginals.

  • Native Tongue

    Only 17.2 per cent of aboriginals reported being able to conduct a conversation in an aboriginal language, compared with 21 per cent in the 2006 census.

  • Foreign-Born

    About 1,162,900 foreign-born people immigrated to Canada between 2006 and 2011, making up 17.2 per cent of the foreign-born population and 3.5 per cent of Canada's total population.

  • Ethnic Origins

    More than 200 different ethnic origins were reported in the 2011 survey, with 13 of them representing more than a million people each.

  • Visible Minorities

    Nearly 6,264,800 people identified themselves as a visible minority, representing 19.1 per cent of the population. 65 per cent of them were born outside Canada.

  • Predominant Groups

    South Asians, Chinese and blacks accounted for 61.3 per cent of the visible minority population, followed by Filipinos, Latin Americans, Arabs, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese.

  • Religion

    More than 22.1 million people — two-thirds of Canadians — said they were affiliated with a Christian religion, including 12.7 million Roman Catholics, the largest single group.

  • No Religion

    7.8 million people, 23.9 per cent of the population, reported having no religious affiliation.

  • Slightly more than one million people, or 3.2 per cent of the population, identified themselves as Muslim, while Hindus represented 1.5 per cent, Sikhs 1.4 per cent, Buddhists 1.1 per cent and Jews one per cent.

  • NEXT: Highlights Of 2011 Census

  • Highlights Of The 2011 Census

    Here are some highlights from the 2011 Canadian Census. With files from <em>The Canadian Press</em>. (AFP/Getty Images)

  • 33,476,688 People

    As of May 2011, 33,476,688 people were enumerated in Canada, nearly twice as many as in 1961 and 10 times the number in 1861. (Alamy)

  • Population Growth Speeds Up

    Canada's population grew by 5.9 per cent between 2006 and 2011, up slightly from 5.4 per cent during the previous five years. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jtbradford/" target="_hplink">Flickr: jtbradford</a>)

  • Go West

    For the first time, more people in Canada live west of Ontario (30.7 per cent) than in Quebec and Atlantic Canada combined (30.6 per cent). (Flickr: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/derekgavey/" target="_hplink">derekGavey</a>)

  • We're Number One

    Canada's population growth between 2006 and 2011 was the highest among G8 countries. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33498942@N04/" target="_hplink">Flickr: WarmSleepy</a>)

  • Exceptions To The Rule

    Every province and most territories saw their population increase between 2006 and 2011; the rate of growth increased everywhere except in Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. (AP)

  • Ontario Falters

    The growth rate in Ontario declined to 5.7 per cent, its lowest level since the early 1980s. (Alamy)

  • Saskatchewan Out Of The Red

    Population growth in Saskatchewan hit 6.7 per cent, compared with a negative growth rate of 1.1 per cent between 2001 and 2006; the province welcomed more than 28,000 immigrants during the latest census period, nearly three times the number of the previous five-year period. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/justaprairieboy/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Just a Prairie Boy</a>)

  • Yukon And Manitoba Take Off

    The rate of growth in both Yukon (11.6 per cent) and Manitoba (5.2 per cent) has doubled since 2006. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/us_mission_canada/" target="_hplink">Flickr: US Mission Canada</a>)

  • The East Is Growing Too

    The rate of growth in Prince Edward Island (3.2 per cent), New Brunswick (2.9 per cent) and Newfoundland and Labrador (1.8 per cent) has increased substantially between 2006 and 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jw1697/" target="_hplink">Flickr JaimeW</a>)

  • Cities Rule..

    Nearly seven of every 10 Canadians lived in one of Canada's 33 main urban centres in 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/markwoodbury" target="_hplink">Flickr mark.woodbury</a>)

  • .. Except Not In Ontario..

    The rate of population growth in almost all census metropolitan areas located in Ontario slowed between 2006 and 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/husseinabdallah/" target="_hplink">Flickr abdallahh</a>)

  • Maybe Because Everyone Moved To Alberta

    Of the 15 Canadian communities with the highest rates of growth, 10 were located in Alberta. (AFP/Getty Images)


It also shows that aboriginal populations have surged by 20 per cent over the past five years, now representing 4.3 per cent of Canada's population — up from 3.8 per cent in the 2006 census.

Almost one in five people living in Canada is a visible minority. And in nine different municipalities, those visible minorities are actually the majority.

However, Statistics Canada isn't handing out detailed comparisons to the results shown in the 2006 census.

That's because many comparisons with the past can only made reliably at a national or provincial level, said Marc Hamel, director general of the census. He said the agency suppressed data from 1,100 mainly small communities because of data quality, compared with about 200 that were suppressed in 2006.

"For a voluntary survey, it has very good quality. We have a high quality of results at a national level," said Hamel.

Until 2006, questions on immigration, aboriginals and religion were asked in the mandatory long-form census that went to one-fifth of Canadian households. When the Conservatives cancelled that part of the census in 2010, Statistics Canada replaced it with a new questionnaire that went to slightly more households, but was voluntary instead of mandatory, skewing the data when it comes to making direct comparisons.

The result is a detailed picture of what Canada looked like in 2011, but it is a static picture that in many instances lacks the context of what the country looked like in the past at the local level.

What the NHS does show is that, overwhelmingly, most recent immigrants are from Asia, including the Middle East, but to a lesser degree than in the early part of the decade. Between 2006 and 2011, 56.9 per cent of immigrants were Asian, compared with the 60 per cent of the immigrants that came between 2001 and 2005.

The Philippines was the top source country for recent immigrants, with 13 per cent, according to the National Household Survey — although a footnote warns that the survey data "is not in line" with data collected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. China and India were second and third as source countries.

The decline in the share of Asian immigration was offset by growth in newcomers from Africa in particular, and also Caribbean countries and Central and South America.

As in the past, newcomers are settling in Canada's biggest cities and are generally younger than the established population. Newcomers have a median age of 31.7 years, compared to the Canadian-born population median age of 37.3.

Of Canada's 6.8 million immigrants, 91 per cent of them live in metropolitan areas, and 63.4 per cent live in the Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver areas.

The Toronto area continues to be the top destination for immigrants, but newcomers are increasingly settling elsewhere, especially in the Prairies. Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and Montreal all saw their shares of newcomers expand compared to the 2006 census.

While Statscan did not make the comparison, the Toronto area drew in just 32.8 per cent of recent immigrants in the past five years, compared with 40.4 per cent in the 2006 census and 43.1 per cent in the 2001 census.

Analysts had been anxious to see whether province-driven immigration policies had led to growing numbers of immigrants settling in smaller towns and cities, but the NHS does not make comparisons at that level.

The survey does show that suburbs in particular are a magnet for visible minorities. The Toronto suburbs of Markham, Brampton, Mississauga and Richmond Hill all have visible minority communities that make up well over half the population. The same pattern is seen in areas around Vancouver: in Richmond, Greater Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey.

Aboriginal Peoples are also claiming a larger share of the Canadian population. More than 1.4 million people told Statscan they had an aboriginal identity, comprising 4.3 per cent of the population compared to 3.8 per cent in the 2006 census.

The aboriginal population grew by more than 20 per cent between 2006 and 2011, compared with 5.2 per cent for the non-aboriginal population. However, Statscan warns that not all of this growth was because of people having more babies. Rather, changes in legal definitions and survey methodology account for some of the difference.

First Nations populations grew by 22.0 per cent, while Metis people grew 16.3 per cent and Inuit by 18.1 per cent.

While the data so far does not delve into social conditions among Aboriginal Peoples, the NHS does offer a glimpse. Aboriginal children are far more likely to be living with a single parent, usually a mother. Half the foster children under the age of 14 are aboriginal, the survey shows. And less than half of First Nations children live with both parents.

As for religion, Canadians are increasingly turning their backs. While two-thirds of Canada's population said it was Christian, almost one quarter of respondents said they had no religious affiliation at all. That's up from 16.5 per cent a decade earlier in the 2001 census.

At the same time, immigration patterns have led to growth in the numbers of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist worshippers.

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