By: Anjana Aery & Anjum Sultana
However, there has been a shift – a fundamental one – about who makes up Toronto and what this means for our future.
Over the last five years in the Toronto CMA, we have seen the number of people who identify as part of a “visible minority” or in less antiquated and less problematic terms, belonging to a racialized group, go up from 47 percent in 2011, to 51.4 percent in 2016. The top three groups represented in the Toronto CMA, using Statistics Canada categories, are South Asian (16.6%), Chinese (10.8%) and Black (7.5%). If you take a closer look at some cities in the GTA there is an even greater shift towards more racialized populations. For example, in Markham, 77.9 percent of the population identifies as belonging to a racialized community and were also the majority in Brampton (73.3%), Richmond Hill (60%), Mississauga (57.2%) and the City of Toronto (51.5%).
Those living in Canada are not only comprised of recent immigrants to this city and region, they also include long-standing residents with deep roots in the country that make them a fundamental core of our society, whether they have official citizenship or not. In fact, three in four people in Toronto are either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants.
The 2016 census release also revealed that for the first time Africa ranked second as the source continent for recent immigrants to Canada, surpassing Europe. In contrast, in the City of Toronto, Philippines was the top country of origin for recent immigrants to Toronto, followed by China, India, Iran and Pakistan. What this tells us is that demographic makeup of our society is dynamic and changing quickly and we, as a society, need to respond to the emerging needs of different communities.
The federal government recently announced a new strategy to increase immigration and Toronto is projected to welcome almost 170,000 new immigrants over the next 3 years. Given the growing diversity and demographic changes, categories like “visible minority” are no longer sufficient and fail to capture the ethnocultural diversity in the city. The Human Rights & Health Equity Office at Mount Sinai Hospital and Toronto Central LHIN have developed a comprehensive guide on demographic data collection in health care that can support health equity programming and planning.
This latest release of data also dispels the notion that the diversity of our country is contained only within the major urban centers of Canada such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Ethnocultural diversity is increasingly common in municipalities across the Greater Toronto Area and this will be important for us to consider as we plan for the future – whether it means we need to provide more culturally sensitive and appropriate health care and social services centrally or whether these services should be dispersed more to where diverse populations actually live.
We have an opportunity to not only celebrate our diversity but think thoughtfully of how we can equitably respond to it to advance our city and region to be more prosperous and equitable for all.