Immigration to Canada over the past 100 years has shaped it as a country, with each new wave of immigrants adding to the nation's ethnic and cultural composition. An ethnocultural profile of Canada at the outset of the 21st Century shows a nation that has become increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Half a century ago, most immigrants came from Europe. Now most newcomers are from Asia. As a result, the number of visible minorities in Canada is growing.

100 years of immigration: highest intake in the 1990s

Canada has welcomed a total of 13.4 million immigrants since 1901. Between 1991 and 2000 alone, 2.2 million immigrants were admitted to Canada, the highest number for any decade in the past century. In contrast, 1.3 million immigrants came in the 1980s, and 1.4 million in each of the 1970s and 1960s.

In 2001, proportion of foreign-born highest in 70 years

New data from the 2001 Census show that the proportion of Canada's population who were born outside the country has reached its highest level in 70 years.

As of May 15, 2001, 5.4 million people, or 18.4% of the total population, were born outside the country. This was the highest proportion since 1931, when foreign-born people made up 22.2% of the population. In 1996, the proportion was 17.4%.

Immigrants to Canada increasingly from Asia

For the first 60 years of the past century, European nations such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as the United States, were the primary sources of immigrants to Canada. Today, immigrants are most likely to be from Asian countries.
The shift during the past 40 years has been due to a number of factors, including changes in Canada's immigration policies and international events related to the movement of migrants and refugees. The majority of the immigrants who arrived in Canada during the 1990s were in the working ages of 25 to 64 years.

The table below shows the top 10 ethnic origins of Canadians from the 2001 Census Survey. 

Top 10 ethnic origins in Canada in 2001
   Number %
 Total population
 29,639,030 100.0
 Canadian 11,682,680 39.4
 English 5,978,875 20.2
 French 4,668,410 15.8
 Scottish 4,157,215 14.0
 Irish 3,822,660 12.9
 German 2,742,765 9.3
 Italian 1,270,369 4.3
 Chinese 1,094,700 3.7
 Ukranian 1,071,055 3.6
 North American Indian
 1,000,890 3.4
Table shows total responses. Because some respondents reported more than one ethnic origin, the sum is greater than the total population or 100%.


Emigrating and Studying in Canada