‘A major hub’: Western University prof outlines London immigration data in 2021 Canada census

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While new census data shows that immigrants made up nearly one-quarter of Canada’s population last year, it also highlights how the London region has become a more attractive destination for immigrants.

In 2021, more than 8.3 million people, or around 23 per cent, were or had been landed immigrants or permanent residents in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. This was the largest proportion since Confederation, topping the previous 1921 record of 22.3 per cent, the report showed.

Read more: Nearly a quarter of the Canadian population were immigrants in 2021: census

Click to play video: 'Immigration makes up largest portion of population since Confederation: Statistics Canada'
Immigration makes up largest portion of population since Confederation: Statistics Canada

However, Western University sociology professor Dr. Howard Ramos told Global News that the latest data also shows how London has become similar to the rest of the country.

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“Twenty years ago, we didn’t have that many newcomers [and] we didn’t have that many people who were racialized,” he said. “Now, with the census, we find that over 20 per cent of people who are living in the CMA of London are newcomers.”

Of those recent newcomers, Ramos said that 19 per cent are from India and 17 per cent are from Syria.

“As a community, we received a lot of Syrian refugees,” he said. “We see more people coming from Latin America, and more people from Africa. So, this is really exciting [because] for a city it shows that we have some vibrancy.”

He added that while London is not technically a major city, “we are starting to look like them” from an immigration perspective.

“We’re different compared to some of the more rural areas in southwestern Ontario, and we’re becoming a major hub,” Ramos said. “I think that this really illustrates something that’s really unique about London is we’re small enough [and] big enough.

“We have all the good things in London that you can get in a big city,” he continued. “But we also are close to beaches, close to good walking areas, and I think that that’s part of what’s attracting some of the newcomers to the city.”

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Ramos added that these newcomers are “bringing this vibrancy that’s also changing the demographic portrait of our city.”

In regards to the census, Ramos said that he was particularly fascinated by the report’s findings circling around religion, as almost 40 per cent of Londoners reported not having one.

“This is the highest percentage we would have seen in any census,” he said. “It seems that people are moving away from religion, but, at the same time, we see a lot of new religions popping up.

“We see more people practising Islam, Hinduism, more Sikhism, and a whole range of other religions and that makes sense, given that we have newcomers coming from regions where these religions are practised,” Ramos continued. “So this also is an interesting story in the census as well.”

Read more: Immigration drives rise of South Asian languages in Canada: census

He highlighted the recent census, saying it’s exciting that we are not only having a record share of newcomers to the country, but we’re seeing a change in where people are coming from.

“Ten years ago, the biggest source country would have been China. Now it’s India,” he said. “One of the really cool things is it shows that we have 450 different ethnic groups reporting ethnicity in the census. When you look at the language, we see lots of different languages that are becoming dominant languages and to me, that’s exciting, because what it means is that we’re plugged into the entire world.”

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According to the census, immigration is driving population growth, partly because of the aging population and low fertility rates. Based on the recent population projections and if these trends continue, immigrants could make up 29.1 per cent to 34 per cent of Canada’s population by 2041.

Click to play video: 'Religious affiliation in Canada in its highest-ever decline: Statistic Canada'
Religious affiliation in Canada in its highest-ever decline: Statistic Canada

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