Immigration and Diversity

Increased levels of immigration, and new sources of immigrants, have produced an even more dramatic and visible transformation of the social, ethnic, and racial composition of the Central Ontario Zone's population. The scale of this transformation, which is also widely acknowledged but seldom evaluated, has been unprecedented. Although the rate of immigration into the Central Ontario Zone is not historically unique (as a proportion of resident population) compared to the early 20th century, the degree of geographical concentration and the characteristics and sources of those immigrants are different. In fact, the flow of immigrants into the country has become even more concentrated in a few of the larger metropolitan areas (the so-called gateway centres), but especially in the greater Toronto region.9 In 2000-2001, for example, the Toronto CMA received more than 47% of all immigrants to Canada, and the Central Zone as a whole received more than 53%.

In the same year, more than 78% of those immigrants were from so-called non-traditional sources - in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and south and central America - and almost all fall into the category of visible minority. In the urbanized core of the Toronto region, and in some of the newer suburbs, the visible minority population is rapidly approaching majority status. Although statistically significant, what difference does this make? We do not know in any detail how this new and culturally diverse population will behave over the longer term with respect to consumption patterns, the labour market, the housing market, participation in the political system, and in the demands placed on infrastructure and public services. At the very least we know that new and relatively homogeneous concentrations of recent immigrants (and refugees) have emerged throughout the Central Ontario Zone.

9. See L.S. Bourne et al., People and Places: A Portrait of the Evolving Social Character of the Greater Toronto Region, Toronto: Neptis Foundation, 2000; Canada, Canada, Citizenship and Immigration, Immigration Overview: Facts and Figures 2000, Ottawa: CIC, Communications Branch, 2001. Similar levels of concentration among immigrant flows have also been observed in the United States, where the gateway centres or high immigrant metropolitan areas include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco.