Growing gap: immigrants, racialized residents in the 2016 Census



Toronto / October 31, 2017 / - OCASI welcomes the release of immigration and ethocultural diversity data by Statistics Canada on October 25, 2017. Thanks to the reinstatement of the mandatory long-form Census (after a ten year interruption) we once again have the much-needed demographic and economic information about the lives of immigrant and racialized residents. The data highlights the need for government action on several OCASI priorities such as:

  • Investing in immigrant and refugee settlement services
  • Addressing inequalities by race/ethnicity, gender and immigration status
  • Racialization of poverty
  • Access to healthcare

Immigrant and Refugee Settlement Services

Ontario continues to see a decline in the share of new immigrant arrivals to Canada despite receiving the highest overall number of immigrants of any province or territory. The decrease in numbers is cause for concern for Ontario’s immigrant and refugee serving sector since it will likely result in less federal settlement funding for Ontario region.

The federal government is the biggest funder of immigrant and refugee settlement services. The federal funding formula is based on a rolling average of three years of immigrant arrivals by province/territory. Ontario receives the highest number of immigrants of all provinces and territories. But the decline in Ontario immigrant arrivals, a trend that began in 2001, resulted in significant cuts to federal settlement funding to the province in 2011 and in later years. The Ontario immigrant and refugee-serving sector saw significant loss of services and programs, job loss, and in some cases the closing of immigrant-serving organizations. Last year, Ontario faced a cut in its funding allocation which was mitigated by the allocation of additional funding for refugee resettlement. At the same time demand for settlement services increased with the arrival over 11,000 Syrian and other refugees in the province.

OCASI urges the federal government to review the funding allocation model to ensure funding stability for the sector, thus assuring stability of programs and services and reducing precarious work in the sector.

The data shows that recent immigrants were 3.5% of the total population in Canada in 2016, while 21.9% reported an immigrant background. In Ontario recent immigrants were approximately 3.6% of the population, while 29.1% reported an immigrant background.

Inequalities by race, gender, immigration status

The proportion of people of colour (Statistics Canada uses ‘visible minority’) in Canada is now 22.3%, more than one-fifth of the population. In Ontario the proportion was 28.9% (3,885,585 persons).

The income gap between racialized and non-racialized residents increased from 25% to 26%. Racialized women have fared the worst, facing an income gap of 47% compared to non-racialized men.

Recent immigrants (arrived in 2011-2016) faced an income gap of 37% compared to non-immigrants. It was slightly lower than the 39% gap in 2005. However recent immigrant women faced a 59% income gap compared to non-immigrant men. Racialized immigrant women likely experienced the highest income gap.

There continues to be a deep and persistent income gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. The data shows a 45% income gap between Indigenous women and non-Indigenous men, while the average income gap between all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people was 33%.

Mandatory employment equity across all job sectors is a critically-needed policy tool that can help to redress employment inequalities faced by racialized residents. Race/ethnicity, gender and immigration status, as well as factors such as disability, have a profound impact on income and economic well-being.

OCASI urges the Ontario government to introduce mandatory employment equity across all sectors. (Ontario’s 1993 Employment Equity Act was repealed in December 1995).

OCASI encourages all members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support  Bill 164, Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2017 which would strengthen economic and social rights for all Ontarians by including four new grounds to address discrimination on the bases of immigration status, social condition, police records, and genetic characteristics.

OCASI also urges all parties to support Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which would increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by January 2019, ensure equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal workers doing the same job as full-time workers, and equal pay for temporary help agency workers doing the same job as permanent workers, as well as other worker-positive changes.

Racialization of poverty

Data shows that racialized residents are over-represented in low-income statistics, with a low-income rate of 20.8% in 2015 compared to 12.2% for non-racialized residents.

Recent immigrants had a low-income rate of 31.4%, which was more than twice the rate of 12.5% for non-immigrants. Racialized immigrants, particularly racialized immigrant women, are most likely to experience the highest low-income rates.

Indigenous peoples continue to be over-represented in low-income numbers, and experience a low-income rate of 23.6% compared to 13.8% for non-Indigenous people. Indigenous children experience poverty at a rate the is almost twice that of non-Indigenous children.

We need urgent action from all levels of government to address the deep, pervasive and persistent income inequality and levels of poverty faced by Indigenous peoples, people of colour and immigrants.

OCASI urges the government of Canada to provide First Nations children, youth and families with equitable education, health care, child welfare and basics, in particular to implement the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision to equitably fund First Nations child and family services.

OCASI urges the government to swiftly implement the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

OCASI calls on the government to ensure that the National Poverty Reduction Strategy and National Housing Strategy use a racial equity framework that includes the intersections of gender, immigration status and other factors.

OCASI urges the Ontario government to include a racial equity lens in the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). The Ontario PRS recognizes inequalities based on immigration status but does not recognize racial inequality, despite the fact that it is included in the Poverty Reduction Act (2009).

Access to healthcare

Ontario continues to deny access to public healthcare for newly arrived immigrants in their first three months in the province. Residents who move to Ontario from other Canadian provinces are not affected because they receive coverage from the province of origin. (Read more here).

OCASI as well as stakeholders such as Ontario doctors and many others have called for an end to the three-month wait for healthcare. Ontario is one of three provinces that persists in excluding recent immigrants from healthcare (the others are Quebec and British Columbia). The healthcare gap is arbitrary, unfair to low-income immigrants, and can have a lasting impact on health and well-being. The exclusion will act as a disincentive for potential immigrants to choose Ontario as a destination over other regions – a serious concern given Ontario’s declining share of immigrants.

OCASI calls on the Ontario government to amend the Health Insurance Act, Regulation 552 to allow newly arrived immigrants to access OHIP.


OCASI welcomes the return of the mandatory long form census and the resulting rich and detailed immigration and ethnocultural diversity data. This information is invaluable for OCASI’s ongoing policy and advocacy efforts to work for greater equity for immigrant, refugees, migrant workers and racialized residents.

OCASI is pleased that data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), from the immigrant admission category and applicant type is now linked to Census data.


Click here for Ontario Census profile.

Click here for immigration and ethnocultural diversity series.

Click here for disaggregated income data.