ⓘ Visible minority


ⓘ Visible minority

A visible minority is defined by the Government of Canada as "persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour". The term is used primarily as a demographic category by Statistics Canada, in connection with that countrys Employment Equity policies. The qualifier "visible" was chosen by the Canadian authorities as a way to single out newer immigrant minorities from both Aboriginal Canadians and other "older" minorities distinguishable by language and religion, which are "invisible" traits.

The term visible minority is sometimes used as a euphemism for "non-white". This is incorrect, in that the government definitions differ: Aboriginal people are not considered to be visible minorities, but are not necessarily white either. Also, some groups that are defined as "white" in other countries such as Middle Eastern Americans, are defined as "visible minorities" in the official Canadian definition. In some cases, members of "visible minorities" may be visually indistinguishable from the majority population and/or may form a majority minority population locally as is the case in some parts of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Since the reform of Canadas immigration laws in the 1960s, immigration has been primarily of peoples from areas other than Europe, many of whom are visible minorities within Canada. Legally, members of visible minorities are defined by the Canadian Employment Equity Act as "persons, other than Aboriginal people, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour".


1. In Canada

Over seven million Canadians identified as a member of a visible minority group in the 2016 Census, accounting for 22.3% of the total population. This was an increase from the 2011 Census, when visible minorities accounted for 19.1% of the total population; from the 2006 Census, when visible minorities accounted for 16.2% of the total population; from 2001, when visible minorities accounted for 13.4% of the total population; from 1996 when the proportion was 11.2%; and over 1991 9.4% and 1981 4.7%. In 1961, the visible minority population was less than 1%. The increase represents a significant shift in Canadas demographics related to increased immigration since the advent of its multiculturalism policies.

More than 68.8% of Canadian visible minority population are foreign-born, 27.7% are children of immigrants. Less than 4% are third-generation or beyond. Less than 3.000 Canadians are third-generation and visible minority and over 75 years old, they are mainly Black Nova Scotians.

Based upon the annual immigration intake into Canada since the last census in 2006, accompanied by the steady increase in the visible minority population within Canada due to the higher fertility levels of minority females when compared to Canadian women of European origin, researchers estimate that by 2012, approximately 19.56% of the population in Canada will be individuals of non-European visible minority origin. The Aboriginal population within Canada, based upon projections for the same year i.e. 2012, is estimated to be 4.24%. Hence, at least 23.8% of Canadas population in 2012 were individuals of visible minority and Aboriginal heritage. Projections also indicate that by 2031, the visible minority population in Canada will make up about 33% of the nations population, given the steady increase in the non-European component of the Canadian population.

Of the provinces, British Columbia had the highest proportion of visible minorities, representing 30.3% of its population, followed by Ontario at 29.3%, Alberta at 23.5% and Manitoba at 17.5%. In the 2006 census, South Asian Canadians superseded ethnic Chinese as Canadas largest visible minority group. In 2006, Statistics Canada estimated that there were 1.3 million South Asian people in Canada, compared with 1.2 million Chinese. In 2016, there were approximately 1.9 million South Asian Canadians, representing 5.6% of the countrys population, followed by Chinese Canadians 4.6% and Black Canadians 3.5%.


1.1. In Canada Alberta

  • Calgary 36.2%
  • Chestermere 35%
  • Wood Buffalo 26.7%
  • Edmonton 37.1%
  • Brooks 36.8%
  • Banff 24.4%

1.2. In Canada British Columbia

  • Abbotsford 33.7%
  • North Vancouver city 31.3%
  • Greater Vancouver A 67.3%
  • New Westminster 38.9%
  • Delta 36%
  • Coquitlam 50.2%
  • Burnaby 63.6%
  • North Vancouver district municipality 25.6%
  • West Vancouver 36.4%
  • Richmond 76.3%
  • Port Moody 30.4%
  • Surrey 58.5%
  • Port Coquitlam 32.4%
  • Vancouver 51.6%

1.3. In Canada Ontario

  • Whitchurch-Stouffville 36.9%
  • Pickering 42.9%
  • Windsor 26.9%
  • Milton 42.8%
  • Ottawa 26.3%
  • Richmond Hill 60%
  • Markham 77.9%
  • Aurora 26.9%
  • Whitby 25.3%
  • Brampton 73.3%
  • Toronto 51.5%
  • Newmarket 25.8%
  • Mississauga 57.2%
  • Oakville 30.8%
  • Vaughan 35.4%
  • Ajax 56.7%
  • Waterloo 26.4%

1.4. In Canada Quebec

  • Montreal 34.2%
  • Dorval 23.4%
  • Brossard 42.9%
  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux 38.8%
  • Mount Royal 24.7%
  • Kirkland 24.2%
  • Laval 26.1%

2. Legislative versus operational definitions

According to the Employment Equity Act of 1995, the definition of visible minority is:

"members of visible minorities" means persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour;

This definition can be traced back to the 1984 Report of the Abella Commission on Equality in Employment. The Commission described the term visible minority as an "ambiguous categorization", but for practical purposes interpreted it to mean "visibly non-white". The Canadian government uses an operational definition by which it identifies the following groups as visible minorities: "Chinese, South Asian, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Southeast Asian, Arab, West Asian, Korean, Japanese, Visible minority, n.i.e. n.i.e. means not included elsewhere, and Multiple visible minority". However, a few exceptions are applied to some groups. According to the Visible Minority Population and Population Group Reference Guide of the 2006 Census, the exception is:

"In contrast, in accordance with employment equity definitions, persons who reported Latin American and White, Arab and White, or West Asian and White have been excluded from the visible minority population. Likewise, persons who reported Latin American, Arab or West Asian and who provided a European write-in response such as French have been excluded from the visible minority population as well. These persons are included in the Not a visible minority category. However, persons who reported Latin American, Arab or West Asian and a non-European write-in response are included in the visible minority population."

The term "non-white" is used in the wording of the Employment Equity Act and in employment equity questionnaires distributed to applicants and employees. This is intended as a shorthand phrase for those who are in the Aboriginal and/or visible minority groups.


3. Controversy

The classification "visible minorities" has attracted controversy, both nationally and from abroad. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has stated that they have doubts regarding the use of this term since this term may be considered objectionable by certain minorities and recommended an evaluation of this term. In response, the Canadian government made efforts to evaluate how this term is used in Canadian society through commissioning of scholars and open workshops.

Another criticism stems from the semantic applicability of the classification. In some cases, members of "visible minorities" may be neither "visually" discernible from the majority population nor form a "minority", at least locally. For instance, many Latin Americans living in Canada self-identify as White Latin Americans and are visually indistinguishable from White Canadians. Moreover, some members of "visible minorities" may form a majority minority population locally as is the case in most parts of Vancouver and Toronto. Since 2008, census data and media reports have suggested that the "visible minorities" label no longer makes sense in some large Canadian cities, due to immigration trends in recent decades. For example, "visible minorities" comprise the majority of the population in Toronto, Vancouver, Markham, Coquitlam, Richmond, Ajax, Burnaby, Greater Vancouver A, Mississauga, Surrey, Richmond Hill and Brampton. In the United States, such cities or districts are described as majority-minority. But, the term "visible minority" is used for the administration of the Employment Equity Act, and refers to its statistical basis in Canada as a whole and not any particular region.

Yet another criticism of the label concerns the composition of "visible minorities". Critics have noted that the groups comprising "visible minorities" have little in common with each other, as they include both disadvantaged groups and groups who are not economically disadvantaged. The concept of visible minority has been cited in demography research as an example of a statistext, meaning a census category that has been contrived for a particular public policy purpose.

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