Recent Immigrants in Metropolitan Areas: Montreal—A Comparative Profile Based on the 2001 Census


Canada’s immigration policy has various objectives that include meeting labour market needs, family reunification, humanitarian goals. Policies have changed over time and so has the background of new immigrants to Canada. Since the categories through which immigrants are admitted are not identified in the census, this report does not relate the experience of immigrants to their immigration category. However, Canada’s immigration policies, along with socio-economic and cultural conditions in countries of origin and in Canada, have an impact on the background and circumstances of recent immigrants as described in this report.

This document presents a profile of recent immigrants—persons who immigrated (that is, who became permanent residents or “landed”) after 1985—living in the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area at the time of the 2001 Census of Population. It provides information, derived from the census, on the origin and background of immigrants, the structure of their families and households, their participation in the economy, their incomes and their housing situations. Unless otherwise indicated, all data presented in the tables and figures accompanying this report originate from Statistics Canada’s 2001 Census of Population.

To assist the reader in interpreting the characteristics and circumstances of recent immigrants, comparisons are made throughout this document with earlier immigrants—those who landed before 1986—and with persons born in Canada. As well, recent immigrants have been subdivided into two groups: immigrants who landed during the 1986-1995 period and “very recent immigrants” who landed after 1995 and before the census date of May 15, 2001. Grouping immigrants by period of landing is useful in various ways, facilitating, for example, our understanding of who the very recent (1996-2001) immigrants are, where they come from, how they adjust to their new country and how quickly and in what ways they begin to participate in the economy. The attributes and economic outcomes of the other cohort of recent immigrants, those who landed during the 1986-1995 period, are of interest for the same reasons, and they also tell us about the adjustment of immigrants to Canadian society and the economy.

This profile also presents data on earlier immigrants. This is intended not so much as a second profile, but rather as an indication of the likely future circumstances of recent immigrants. There is no guarantee, of course, that recent immigrants will assume the same place in Canada’s society and economy as have earlier generations of immigrants. There have been changes in the characteristics of immigrants over time. The Canadian population, society and economy have evolved as well. This profile, however, indicates there is also a good deal of continuity in the characteristics of immigrants, and it shows that recent immigrants are making a place for themselves in this country. There are strong indications that the relative economic conditions of recent immigrants will improve as their length of stay in Canada increases.

This profile of recent immigrants in Montreal follows a format similar to that of profiles produced earlier based on the 1996 Census and the 1991 Census. This makes it possible to compare the characteristics and circumstances of immigrant groups with the same length of stay at different points in time. Such comparisons are made in this profile, but only in the text accompanying the many charts and tables. Those interested in a more in-depth comparison can retrieve the 1996 profile from Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website ( Some care is required when comparing the findings reported in the 2001 and 1996 Census profiles. In each profile, immigrants are grouped by length of stay in Canada as of the date of the Census: up to 5 years; from 5 to 15 years; and more than 15 years. However, when comparing the very recent immigrant populations from the 2001 and 1996 Censuses, one is comparing two almost entirely different groups of people. When comparing those who landed 5 to 15 years ago, about one-half of the people—those who landed from 1986 to 1990—are the same, and the other half—those who landed from 1991 to 1995 were very recent immigrants in 1996. When comparing earlier immigrants and the Canadian-born, one needs to be aware that most of the people in these groups are the same people, who are five years older in the most recent census. Similar comments apply to a comparison of the present profile with that based on the 1991 Census.

Readers are advised that there are many possible reasons behind the differences featured in any display in this document: for example, the background of immigrants, the experience of immigration, Canada’s immigration policy. One important source of difference is age structure. There are more adults between the ages of 25 and 44 and fewer children among recent immigrants than there are among those born in Canada. The share of children among the Canadian-born includes children born in Canada to immigrant parents. Earlier immigrants on average are considerably older than recent immigrants and the Canadian-born. Age structure is examined in this profile, and where differences in age are important, information is provided separately for age groups. However, readers are advised that differences in age can be a significant factor even when age is not explicitly addressed.

The main body of this document comprises six parts, each consisting of a number of tables and figures with accompanying text.

  • Part A sketches the broad picture: the number of immigrants and recent immigrants and the size of the population in 2001 and in previous years; changes over time; and comparisons with the province and the country as a whole. Acquisition of Canadian citizenship is also examined.
  • Part B gives the background of recent immigrants: their countries of birth, languages, religion, age, gender and education.
  • Part C describes the families and households of recent immigrants.
  • Part D examines participation in the labour market and job characteristics.
  • Part E reports on the sources and level of income, the income distribution and the incidence of low income.
  • Part F looks at housing conditions.

The report also includes a Highlights section that summarizes the information presented in the report. A Glossary follows the main body of the report to provide definitions and technical details about the data. For additional information concerning census definitions and terms, please refer to Statistics Canada’s 2001 Census Dictionary (Catalogue Number 92-378-XPE).

In the telegram style used in the headings, all comparative statements refer to recent immigrants (immigrants who landed between 1986 and 2001) or very recent immigrants (immigrants who landed between 1996 and 2001) and the Canadian-born. For example, the heading “fewer children among recent immigrants” means that children under 15 years of age make up a smaller proportion of the 1986-2001 immigrant population than of the Canadian-born. Similarly, the heading “fewer children among very recent immigrants” means that children under 15 years of age make up a smaller proportion of the 1996-2001 immigrant population in comparison to the Canadian-born.

The text describes and comments on the data displayed in the figures and tables. The text does not always quote the precise numbers in the tables, but states them in an approximate or rounded manner. For instance, “41%” may be described as “two-fifths” or “two in five.” As well, whereas the tables and figures display information for two groups—immigrants who landed from 1986 to 1995 and very recent immigrants who landed from 1996 to 2001—the text often refers to these jointly as “recent immigrants.”

Almost all tables in the report give the number and percentage distributions or other percentages like labour force participation and unemployment rates, as this type of presentation is most convenient for comparisons among population groups. Numbers of people are rounded to the nearest 100 or the nearest 10 and as a rule no decimals are shown for percentages. Percentage shares may not add to 100% because of rounding.

This profile of recent immigrants living in the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area is one of a series of thirteen profiles for major urban centres where the overwhelming majority of recent immigrants live. Each of the thirteen profiles highlights a Census Metropolitan Area (CMA). A CMA is a large urban core with a population of 100,000 or more, together with adjacent urban and rural areas that have a high degree of social and economic integration. The thirteen CMAs included in the series of profiles are Halifax, Québec, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria.

An additional profile of recent immigrants in Canada covers the same material as the profiles for the urban centres. In addition, the profile describes the geographic dispersion of recent immigrants within Canada and the origins of immigrants in different parts of the country. The report also provides a comparison of the characteristics and circumstances of immigrants in six areas of residence in Canada defined by size and location of the recent immigrant population. The six areas include Canada’s three largest cities—Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal—each with more than 250,000 recent immigrants; the five second-tier immigrant destinations of Edmonton, calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton, and Ottawa grouped together—each with 40,000-100,000 recent immigrants; the five third-tier immigrant destinations of Victoria, Saskatoon, Regina, Québec, and Halifax grouped together—each with 5,000-15,000 recent immigrants; and the rest of Canada.

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