Centre and peripheries
Settlement patterns and social integration of the population with an immigrant background in the Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver metropolitan areas
From a residential standpoint, it is well known that highly urbanized population centres are home to the majority of immigrants. In 2011, 63% of the immigrant population in Canada was living in one of the country's three largest census metropolitan areas (CMAs): Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver.
The settlement pattern of immigrants in these CMAs has changed in recent years. There is now a greater tendency among newcomers to settle in peripheral municipalities, most often those bordering a central municipality. This phenomenon is referred to as the suburbanization of immigrants.
This suburbanization trend of immigrants changes the context of integration into Canadian society. Traditionally, immigrants being dispersed in the peripheral municipalities was associated with greater integration into the host society. However, living on the outskirts of central municipalities does not necessarily mean that immigrants are more fully integrated than in the past. The outskirts of central municipalities now have a higher proportion of immigrants than before, are relatively heterogeneous in terms of socio-economic status and have a similar urban concentration of the population with an immigrant background (immigrants and second generation populations).
Suburbanization on the rise
The suburbanization trend of immigration intensified from 2001 to 2011. As a result, settling initially in a central municipality is no longer the predominant settlement pattern of immigrants to Canada.
The Toronto CMA saw the sharpest rise in the proportion of immigrants living in a peripheral municipality (also called the suburbanization rate) from 2001 to 2011. More than half the immigrant population (51%) was living in a municipality peripheral to Toronto in 2011, up 10 percentage points from 2001 (40%). In Montréal, the proportion of immigrants living in a peripheral municipality rose from 27% in 2001 to 33% in 2011. In Vancouver, the suburbanization rate increased from 66% in 2001 to 72% in 2011.
Recent immigrants contribute to the rise in suburbanization
In the Montréal CMA, the percentage of recent immigrants aged 15 and older living in a peripheral municipality increased from 13% in 2001 to 21% in 2011. However, the suburbanization rate of recent immigrants in the Montréal CMA in 2011 was half that of established immigrants (42%), that is, those who settled in Canada more than five years earlier.
In the Toronto CMA, the percentage of recent immigrants living in a peripheral municipality also rose, from 32% in 2001 to 42% in 2011. The percentage of established immigrants also increased by 10 percentage points (from 42% in 2001 to 52% in 2011).
In the Vancouver CMA, suburbanization rates vary little from one group to another (72% for recent immigrants compared with 71% for established immigrants). However, the proportion of recent immigrants living in a peripheral municipality was also up, from 68% in 2001 to 72% in 2011.
Are these new settlement patterns favourable to the social integration of immigrants?
Moving to a new country involves a number of residential changes and social transitions. In addition to moving to a new dwelling and neighbourhood, immigrants and their families redefine their points of reference and put down new social roots. In this regard, family and friendship ties, relationships with neighbours, social participation and community involvement, as well as a sense of belonging to where they live provide important information on the social experiences of immigrants and their second-generation descendants in the environment where they settle.
This study reveals that the concentration at the census tract level in both central and peripheral municipalities is similar. Furthermore, according to the indicators examined, the level of social integration of immigrants is similar for all concentrations.
About one-third of the population with an immigrant background reported knowing most or all of their neighbours
Regardless of their place of residence, approximately one-third of the population with an immigrant background reported knowing most or all of their neighbours.
In addition, regardless of the type of municipality of residence (central or peripheral) or the proportion that the population with an immigrant background represents in their neighbourhood, a majority of immigrants and their descendants (over 80%) reported feeling a very or somewhat strong sense of belonging to Canada, their province, their city and their local community.
Overall, the sense of belonging to the local community is stronger when immigrants and their descendants are part of a larger local personal network. The same finding applies for relationships with neighbours and participation in social activities.
As such, while the settlement patterns of immigrants follow more diverse courses than in the past, they are not necessarily the factors that encourage or impede social integration.
Source Statscan 2017