Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver featured image
Diversity, Immigration and Integration

Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver

Daniel Hiebert August 19, 2015

Canada has maintained a relatively high level of immigration for nearly 30 years, a process that is fundamentally changing the ethnocultural composition of the Canadian population. This change is registered profoundly in Canada’s major metropolitan areas, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, where two-thirds of the 4.64 million immigrants arriving in Canada between 1980 and 2011 reside. It is no surprise that the social landscapes of these cities have undergone fundamental transformation. The most notable feature of this process has been the growth of enclave neighbourhoods, places that have become identified with particular ethnocultural groups and, especially, visible minority groups. Broadly, there are two interpretations of minority enclaves: some believe that they provide their residents with important tools to facilitate the integration of their residents into mainstream society, while others see them in more problematic terms, as places of socio-economic marginalization and cultural isolation.

In this study Daniel Hiebert has conducted a statistical analysis of enclaves in these three metropolitan areas in order to see which of these interpretations is more valid for Canada. His principal findings are these: enclave landscapes are becoming prevalent in Toronto and Vancouver but less so in Montreal; certain visible minority groups are more prone to reside in enclaves than others; the socio-economic characteristics of enclaves vary significantly; minority enclaves are places of cultural diversity rather than cultural isolation; there are some systematic differences between the profiles of the socio-economic profiles of visible minority residents of enclaves and those living in other residential settings, but these populations do not appear to be fundamentally different; and there are more members of visible minority groups experiencing poverty who live outside enclaves than there are inside them.

This study is an effort to provide evidence-based knowledge for better policy decisions in Canada. Hiebert’s findings suggest that the accelerated development of enclaves in Canadian metropolitan areas does not pose a threat but should instead be seen as an opportunity and a challenge. He recommends that we consider enclaves as places of opportunity for intercultural engagement, especially for newcomers to Canada. They offer their residents a chance to build bonding and bridging social capital, since there are significant numbers of co-ethnics as well as a diverse array of other groups in the relatively small scale of these neighbourhoods. The challenge is that we must reimagine our understanding of integration in Canada. More and more, this process is taking place in the setting of suburban enclave neighbourhoods. This is not simply the result of the preferences of immigrants and members of visible minority groups but is also related to the dynamics of housing markets and the behaviour of “mainstream” populations. The study concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of Canada’s changing urban social landscapes and a further recommendation that municipal governments be granted a larger voice in immigration and integration policies.

In Canada, we may live in a multicultural society, but the evidence suggests that fewer and fewer of us are living in multicultural neighbourhoods…We have allowed [our society] to slide into self-segregated communities, isolated along ethnic lines.
Allan Gregg (quoted in Jedwab and Hardwick, 2014, 248)

Canadian-born Italians and Jews are unlikely to consider themselves segregated today, though their parents and grandparents probably did when they lived in the same sort of rough, poor areas that are now home to Chinese and Pakistanis. “Clustering” helped them make it. Are we watching the same thing happen to new waves of immigrants, as they churn through the urban machinery, throwing off waves of creation and commerce? Or has the machinery broken down, leaving communities trapped and alone? Before we start talking about ghettos, we need to answer that question.
Saunders (2009, xx)

The quotations above reflect quite different interpretations of Canadian metropolitan landscapes. Both commentators accept that the number and significance of ethnic enclaves are growing, and Saunders suggests this is perhaps the most recent chapter in an old story. For generations newcomers have carved out co-ethnic spaces in cities and then dispersed over time. What is different now is that these areas mainly house people who are non-White. Gregg believes a tipping point has been reached and that the growing degree of ethnic segregation in Canadian cities is generating isolation among people of different ethnic backgrounds. Like many others, he indicates a concern that this could damage social relations in Canada. A common set of facts leads these two authors to opposite opinions about their significance.

While Canadians have argued over the impact of immigration on cities for over a century, the national government has rarely considered the urban, or local, scale when framing immigration policy. Throughout the long postwar era, immigration policy has followed the logic of economic need, demography and international humanitarian commitments (see Green and Green 1999; Li 2003), paying little heed to the impact of immigration on the neighbourhood scale or on cities overall.

The relative isolation the local and national scales in immigration and diversity policy may be changing in the twenty-first century, partly because of concern across many affluent countries about the increasing concentration of minority populations in metropolitan areas. This calls for a spatialized understanding of policies that have long been seen as essentially national in scope.

Increasingly, policy analysts have begun to appreciate an argument made by urban sociologists and geographers for decades: there is a connection between the spatial arrangement of society and social relations within it. People are more likely to interact across ethnocultural or religious lines, for example, if they live in proximity rather than in separate areas of the city. Commonplace encounters in the everyday can lead to cross-cultural understanding (Sandercock 2003; Germain 1997). On the other hand, sequestered environments foster interaction within -cultural communities and, arguably, a lack of understanding between cultures. Where people live — the nature of their neighbourhoods — matters, even for national governments, which tend to be far removed from the local scale.

Unfortunately, there have been few systematic studies of social life in minority ethnocultural enclaves or the personal characteristics of their residents. There are, of course, stereotypes. In fact, the initial conceptualization of immigrant settlement in the American city was predicated on the idea that residents of enclaves are different from residents in other city areas. In the early twentieth century, the leading scholars in urban sociology, who came to be known as the Chicago School, argued that when they first arrive, immigrants gravitate to enclaves — places where they can come to terms with their new society in the comforting company of peers. The Chicago sociologists noted that important institutions develop in such enclaves — religious communities, mutual aid societies and ethno-religious schools, for example. As well, enclaves foster a market for ethno-specific goods and local services that are typically labour intensive; so there are jobs for newcomers that do not require proficiency in the host language and there are entrepreneurial possibilities. “Ethnic economies” therefore become enmeshed with the perpetuation of ethnocultural identities.

The Chicago School believed firmly in the process of assimilation, asserting that newcomers needed enclaves when they arrived but would leave them when they became fluent in the host language and improved their employment situation. Enclaves would remain, but there would be a steady cycling through of residents, with newcomers arriving to take the place of those moving on to better — and more mixed — residential spaces.

Theories of immigrant settlement and integration have progressed considerably since then. Researchers have become less certain about the trajectory of assimilation, and we have in fact stopped using the term “assimilation” in the Canadian context. We now understand ethnocultural identities to be more resilient and flexible than previously thought. If people hold their ethnocultural distinctiveness longer, especially in an age of multicultural policies, what does this mean for the nature of enclaves? Will they be more stable? That is, will they be something beyond mere way-stations on the road to integration: places that help people maintain their distinct ways of life and identities for long periods of time, perhaps even permanently? If people choose to live in enclaves for long periods of time, how does this affect their interaction with people from other ethnocultural groups? And, importantly, how does it affect social cohesion more generally?

The perceived impact of visible minority and immigrant enclaves on social cohesion has become particularly charged in Europe, where commentators have linked race riots in the United Kingdom and France to the effects of segregated urban environments characterized by social isolation or “parallel lives” (Amin 2003; Haddad and Balz 2006). Those on the political right see concentrated visible minority and immigrant neighbourhoods as being the result of deliberate choices made by their inhabitants to embrace cultural isolation, while progressive critics believe segregation is a response to racism and economic marginalization. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, socio-spatial segregation is seen as a factor in social unrest.

In order to determine the implications of emerging residential patterns in Canadian cities, we need more complete information. The intent of this study is to assist in this regard. My analysis covers the three Canadian metropolitan centres that have the largest immigrant and visible minority populations: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. I will first provide an overview of the key terms used to describe residential patterns and summarize the main points made by Canadian researchers, and then present an empirical analysis of enclave areas in these cities. I introduce the neighbourhood typologies methodology and identify the types of data I have used in this analysis. After introducing the six questions that animate this research, I discuss the socio-demographic profiles of the three cities, and then proceed to the main analysis of data from the National Household Survey (NHS) and the Immigrant Landing File (ILF).1

Framing the Analysis: Key Terms and Canadian Research Findings

Five key terms are used to describe the residential patterns of immigrant and minority groups: segregation, dispersion, concentration, enclave and ghetto (or ghettoization). As there is confusion over the meaning of these terms, since the ways they are used in academic discourse and in popular parlance are different, I will define them carefully and endeavour to use them consistently.

The term segregation should be seen as a range of points on a continuum. The degree of segregation can range from no segregation (dispersion), through medium levels (concentration), to a high level (enclave) and finally to an extreme level (ghettoization).

Dispersion indicates that a group is spread across the urban area in proportions similar to those in the rest of the population. The term dispersed is also used to describe members of a group who live in areas of the city where they constitute a small proportion of the population.

Concentration indicates a medium degree of segregation. In a general sense, a group is said to be concentrated when it is closely associated with an area (or several areas); but its degree of segregation is still modest. More importantly, the neighbourhoods inhabited by the group may also house many members of other groups. Concentration often indicates that some members of a group are dispersed while others congregate, which is a common situation.

Enclave denotes areas in which a specific group dominates the population of a neighbourhood area.

Moving further along the continuum, a group is said to be highly segregated when most of its members live in proximity, and when the areas it inhabits are widely recognized by others to be its “turf.” In their residential setting, members of the group mainly encounter people from the same ethnocultural group, although some other groups may also be present.

Ghettoization is the extreme case of segregation. This term should be used carefully, though, and only when three conditions apply: (1) the vast majority of the members of a group live in the same area or a small number of areas; (2) the group constitutes the vast majority of the population of the area or areas; and (3) the areas are also associated with socio-economic deprivation (Hiebert 2010).

Historically, ghettos have been associated with coercion. The term is believed to have originated in sixteenth-century Venice, where Jewish people were confined to a foundry district known as Ghetto. In the US, until the 1950s, many suburban municipalities had exclusionary bylaws prohibiting African Americans from living in them, so they were forced to live in inner-city areas (Philpott 1978). Instances of contemporary ghettoization are rare. However, modern examples include the areas designated for Black residential settlement in South African cities during the apartheid regime and, more recently, the decision by several local authorities in Italy — for example, the government of Milan — to designate separate spaces for Roma people, with fences and gates regulating movement into and from these areas (Sigona 2005).

Ghettos also emerge when political and/or other institutions, such as the housing market, operate to restrict the residential choices of certain groups, channelling them into the most undesirable neighbourhoods (Thabit 2003; Wacquant 2008). There is always a degree of involuntary behaviour in the formation of ghettos, whereas ethnic enclaves arise under more complex circumstances that involve a combination of choice and constraint (Boal 1976). This point is made particularly well by Peach (1996), who distinguishes between “good” (voluntary) and “bad” (coerced) segregation.

The consequences of ethnocultural segregation have been discussed at length by geographers and sociologists. For the Chicago School, enclaves were deemed beneficial as long as individuals resided in them temporarily. Further, those who remained in enclaves were seen as insufficiently assimilated. Since then, the analysis has been more complex. Some scholars continue to see segregation as indicative of a reluctance to integrate, and believe that enclaves and ghettos reproduce social exclusion because their inhabitants adopt anti-mainstream attitudes (for an example, see Lewis 1969; for a critique, see Bauder 2002). This point is echoed in the American “underclass” debate. This term refers to multiply deprived individuals living in stigmatized neighbourhoods, who experience a form of poverty from which there is virtually no escape. It applies mainly to African and Latin Americans who lack higher education, skills that are in demand and any apparent means to achieve upward social mobility. Many are raised in single-parent families on social assistance. Conservative commentators believe that these places foster a cycle of poverty and high rates of social assistance, where youth are often criminalized and destined to replicate the marginalized situation of their parents (for Canadian research reaching similar conclusions, see Kazemipur and Halli 1997, 2000). I refer to this negative portrayal of these urban landscapes as the “stereotypical American view” of enclaves.

Another, more nuanced interpretation focuses on the institutional practices that perpetuate segregation (Massey and Denton 1993). From this point of view, segregated landscapes are both the result of inequality and a mechanism for the reproduction of inequality. These scholars see a close association between the racialization of minorities and their relegation to ghettoized environments (Wacquant 2001, 2008).

A third group of scholars have sought to reconcile the classic view of the Chicago School — that residents of segregated areas gain certain benefits — with these later perspectives, arguing that segregation can have both beneficial and deleterious effects (Peach 1996; Logan, Alba and Zhang 2002). For them, an area of high ethnocultural concentration (an enclave) may or may not be associated with limited economic opportunities and disenchanted youth. This is the view I adopt in this analysis, with the intention of surveying selected characteristics of minority enclaves rather than viewing them as inherently problematic. I view concentration and even moderate levels of segregation in essentially neutral terms, unless they are also associated with economic marginalization.

Given the prominent role of immigration in Canadian society, there is a large literature on the social geography of ethnocultural groups in Canadian cities. Here I will summarize a few of the most salient points that have guided my approach in this analysis.

  • There is general agreement in the literature that a variety of factors have led immigrants to settle in large numbers in suburban locations. This is in contrast to the more traditional pattern of initial settlement in inner-city neighbourhoods (Hiebert 2000; Qadeer and Kumar 2006; Walks and Bourne 2006; Mendez 2009; for an American approach, see Logan, Alba and Zhang 2002 and Li 2009).
  • With pervasive gentrification of inner-city neighbourhoods in large metropolitan areas, we have also seen a greater degree of suburbanization and dispersal of low-income households (Ades, Apparicio and Séguin 2012). This has contributed to an increasing proportion of immigrants to Canada settling initially in suburban parts of metropolitan areas, in contrast to the now outmoded assumption that they begin their lives in Canada in inner-city neighbourhoods (Walks and Maaranen 2008).
  • Detailed empirical analysis has shown that immigrants have not formed ghettoized neighbourhoods in Canadian metropolitan areas (Walks and Bourne 2006) and that they do not share key characteristics with the “underclass” residents of American cities (Smith and Ley 2008). It is important to acknowledge that these crucial studies were based on 2001 census data and that circumstances may since have changed.
  • There is a consensus that patterns of residential behaviour are group- and place-specific (Fong and Wilkes 2003; Leloup, Apparicio and Delavar Esfahani 2011). That is, groups differ in their residential locations in a given metropolitan area, and one group can exhibit different residential trajectories in different cities.
  • There is a striking lack of consensus on the methods used by researchers to analyze residential patterns of social groups in Canadian cities. Some prefer indices of segregation or dissimilarity, while others advocate indices of isolation from, versus exposure to, different groups. Still others, including myself in this study, utilize neighbourhood typologies (Walks and Bourne 2006). It is challenging to compare the findings of studies that use different methodologies.
  • Unfortunately, nearly all the studies of ethnocultural residential patterns in Canada are cross-sectional in nature, so we know very little about the dynamics leading to these patterns (Oreopoulos 2011). So far, we have lacked sufficient longitudinal data to explore residential behaviour over time. For example, do people live in enclaves when they are poor but leave as their economic conditions change? To some degree we can infer an answer to this question using cross-sectional data, but longitudinal information would provide a much clearer answer (Hou 2006).
  • Because of the lack of longitudinal research, scholars have been able only to speculate about the degree of choice versus constraint in shaping the social geography of immigrant and visible minority groups in Canada. Some scholars emphasize choice (that is, that groups reside in concentrated patterns due to a desire to retain cultural traditions or a fear of outside influences; see Hou 2006 for an example), while others emphasize constraint (that groups congregate in low-cost locations because they cannot afford to live elsewhere; see Kazemipur and Halli 2000). Without knowing the particular mix of these factors, it is difficult to ascertain the consequences of residential patterns (Qadeer and Kumar 2006).
  • We also lack data that would enable us to explore links between people’s attitudes and their residential location (Oreopoulos 2011; Jedwab and Hardwick 2014). As well, there is very little research on the residential patterns of religious groups (Fong and Chan 2011).
  • Researchers have investigated the relationship between the incomes of immigrant and minority groups and their ability to secure housing (Murdie et al. 2006; Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation 2007; Mendez, Hiebert and Wyly 2006; Walks and Bourne 2006; Hiebert 2009a; Leloup, Apparicio and Delavar Esfahani 2011; Teixeira 2014). However, the consequences of this relationship for the residential behaviour of groups have not been thoroughly explored. The work of Myles and Hou (2004) represents an interesting exception; they analyze home ownership among Black and Chinese Canadians in Toronto, and conclude that the former group is associated with residential dispersion while the latter is associated with concentration.

Data, Methodology and Key Questions

In this project I incorporate data from the Census of Canada for 1996 to 2006 and the 2011 National Household Survey of Canada (NHS). Recently, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Statistics Canada linked the administrative records of permanent residents landing in Canada (the Immigrant Landing File, or ILF) with the NHS survey conducted in May 2011.2 This presents a new opportunity for research, since we have never before had the capacity to analyze the social landscapes of immigrants arriving through different pathways to Canada. For the purposes of this study, the dozens of specific categories of admission have been distilled to four: Economic Class, Family Class, refugee and other.

This project is based primarily on two types of data for 2011. First, profile statistics from the NHS at the metropolitan and census tract scales were directly downloaded from the website of Statistics Canada (see the appendix for the definitions of the variables used). The data generally include the entire population. Census tract profile data were used to construct tables 4 to 7, 9, 14 and 15. In addition, I have been able to acquire a series of special tabulations of enhanced NHS/ILF data that generally include all residents of Canada aged 18 or over. However, the variables on income, participation in the labour force and educational attainment use a more restrictive definition and account only for individuals between 18 and 65. These data were used to construct tables 2, 8, 11 to 13 and 16.

The fundamental method of analysis employed in this report has been to first categorize all of the census tracts of each census metropolitan area (CMA), specifically Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, according to their neighbourhood type, and then to explore the differences between the residents of each type of neighbourhood. In some cases, these comparisons include the total populations of the census tracts in each category (profile-based tables), while in others a deeper type of analysis is used, isolating specific social groups within the various types of neighbourhoods (special tabulation-based tables). All of the analysis in this study is based on descriptive statistics, except for table 14, which employs a simple inferential measure, the contingency coefficient.

Neighbourhood typology

To operationalize the concept of enclaves, I have adopted an approach based on the neighbourhood typology developed by Poulson, Johnston and Forrest (2001) and adapted for Canada by Walks and Bourne (2006). To this end, I have classified each census tract of the three cities into one of the following categories:

  • Type 1: White areas, where visible minorities constitute less than 20 percent of the population.
  • Type 2: White-dominant areas, where visible minorities constitute between 20 and 50 percent of the population.
  • Type 3: mixed, visible-minority-dominant areas, where visible minorities constitute 50 to 70 percent of the population.
  • Type 4: mixed-minority enclaves, where visible minorities constitute 70 or more percent of the population, with no dominant ethnocultural group.
  • Type 5: minority group enclaves, which are the same as type 4, except that a single group is at least twice the size of any other.

There are two particularly useful elements of this neighbourhood typology. First, it enables a quick identification of enclave areas using a common sense definition that is difficult to fault. Note that I also use the simple term enclave to refer to the combination of neighbourhood types 4 and 5. Second, the neighbourhood typology is a relatively straightforward and understandable way to distinguish between different residential environments of the three cities. We could reasonably speculate, for example, that immigrants who first settle in type 1 rather than type 5 neighbourhoods will have quite different day-to-day social experiences, and that their integration processes might be shaped by these different social settings. And, further, if the concerns expressed in the “parallel lives” debate are real, we would find very distinct social patterns in enclave areas.

The six main questions animating the analysis are the following:

  • Are enclaves becoming more prominent in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver?
  • To what extent do immigrants and members of specific visible minority groups live in enclaves?
  • What are the socio-economic profiles of the various neighbourhood types, and do these differ across the three cities?
  • What is the degree of ethnocultural diversity in enclaves compared with other parts of the city?
  • Are there systematic differences between members of visible minority groups who live inside enclaves and those that live outside them?
  • What is the relationship between enclaves and poverty?

Note that this project was not designed to help us understand specific places such as the historic immigrant reception neighbourhoods of Kensington Market in Toronto, Saint-Louis in Mon-treal and Strathcona in Vancouver. I generally refrain from mentioning examples of the kinds of neighbourhoods under discussion. My intention is to examine broad socio-spatial patterns in a more abstract way, to help frame possible policy responses to the concentrations of immigrants and visible minority group members in enclaves.

A Statistical Profile of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver in 2011

Basic information about the residents of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and the total Canadian population can be found in table 1. Demographically Toronto and Vancouver are distinct from Montreal in that they contain a much larger ratio of immigrants and members of visible minority groups. However, Montreal has attracted nearly the same relative proportion of immigrants in recent years (see table 2: 5 percent of its population arrived between 2006 and 2011, compared with 7 percent in Toronto and 6.6 percent in Vancouver), so the challenge of newcomer integration is similar in the three cities.

Data on the composition of the immigrant population itemizing the main admission categories of those landing between 1980 and 2011 reveal that arrivals in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver followed very different migration circuits (table 2). The proportion of Family Class immigrants is not so different across the three cities, but in the other admission categories the cities do differ considerably (see the appendix for a description of the admission classes).3 The ratio of Economic Class immigrants is lowest in Montreal, and that city has attracted the highest proportion of refugees and a higher relative number of immigrants in the “other” category. By contrast, more than 60 percent of Vancouver’s immigrants have arrived through the Economic Class. Although the data are not sufficiently detailed to corroborate this point, we know that Vancouver has received a highly disproportionate share of immigrants admitted under Canada’s Business Class programs (not shown in table 2; see Hiebert 2009b). Meanwhile, the relative numbers of refugees and “other” immigrants in Vancouver is lower than those in Montreal or Toronto. The composition of immigrants settling in Toronto is generally closer to that of Montreal, though Toronto has a somewhat higher ratio of economic immigrants and fewer refugees (in proportional terms).

Table 1

These distinct immigrant profiles suggest several important issues that will be revisited through this study. We can expect that immigrants to Montreal will face greater financial need, given the scale of refugee settlement coupled with the fact that relatively few economic immigrants have chosen to locate there. The situation of Vancouver, other things being equal, should be the opposite, with more favourable indications of economic integration given the high ratio of immigrants admitted for their economic potential.

Table 2

With Montreal’s relatively slower pace of immigration over the past two decades, its ratio of visible minority residents is less than half of those of Toronto and Vancouver (just over 20 percent, compared with more than 45 percent for the other two cities). The compositions of the visible minority populations in the three cities are also quite different. In Montreal the two largest groups are Black and Arab, and the only other groups that account for at least 2 percent of the overall population are those who identify as Latin American or South Asian. In Toronto, the South Asian group represents 15 percent of the entire metropolitan population. To understand the scale here, this group alone numbered well over 800,000 in 2011, which is larger than Montreal’s total visible minority population in the same year. Metropolitan Toronto is also home to very large numbers of residents who identified themselves as Chinese, Black and Filipino, as well as a scattering of residents from every other group. Vancouver is in many ways the opposite of Montreal, with nearly 30 percent of its population associated with just two visible minority groups: those of Chinese and South Asian identity. The largest groups in Montreal (Black and Arab) are hardly present in Vancouver, in relative terms at least.

Table 3

Turning to questions of economic well-being, on one level the three cities are quite similar: their rates of labour market participation, employment and unemployment vary little. But on another measure they differ: median household incomes are highest in Toronto, followed by Vancouver, then Montreal (table 1). Toronto’s labour market, therefore, is more rewarding to individuals, while Montreal’s is least rewarding. Human capital may account for at least some of these differences. The ratio of the population that has attained at least a bachelor-level university diploma is highest in Toronto, somewhat lower in Vancouver, and several percentage points lower in Montreal (the gap in educational attainment between the cities is also present in the Canadian-born population; not shown in table 1). These differences in incomes are mirrored by social assistance usage in the three cities, with a much higher rate in Montreal. The unexpected pattern, however, is the lower ratio of welfare recipients in Vancouver compared with Toronto, despite Vancouver’s lower median and average incomes. This outcome is likely more a legacy of the welfare state in British Columbia — the difficulty of accessing social assistance — than an indicator of a lower level of need. The share of the population categorized as suffering from after-tax low income is nearly the same in Montreal and Vancouver (17.9 and 17.3 percent, respectively), and lower in Toronto (14.9 percent).

The statistics on low income help us comprehend the combined outcomes of the labour and housing markets of the three cities. Relative to Toronto, residents of Montreal are challenged by lower incomes, while those of Vancouver are challenged by higher costs of shelter (table 3). It is not surprising, then, that we find the highest level of home ownership in Toronto, at over 68 percent. Given the high cost of housing in Vancouver, it is remarkable that the level of home ownership there is not far behind, at 65 percent. Rapid increases in house prices have apparently translated into high demand, based on the common wisdom that homes need to be purchased as soon as possible because house prices may rise more quickly than a household’s ability to save for a down payment. By contrast, low levels of income in Montreal, coupled with sluggish house price increases, have translated to a relatively low level of home ownership in that city (55 percent).

The social geographies of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver in 2011

Enclave landscapes

Table 4 demonstrates one of the main uses of the neighbourhood typology, by disaggregating the overall distributional patterns of Whites versus visible minority groups in the three metropolitan areas. To discuss enclave landscapes, I first describe the changes that took place between 1996 and 2006, and then turn to more recent patterns for 2011.

Table 4

The degree of change between 1996 and 2006 in the social geography of Montreal was far less than in Toronto and Vancouver. Visible minority enclaves did not feature prominently in Montreal’s residential landscapes through this period. This likely reflected several factors, notably the relatively small scale of its visible minority population, the composition of its visible minority population (that is, having no particularly dominant visible minority group) and the nature of its housing market. In 2006, three-quarters of Montreal’s White population lived in neighbourhoods that were at least 80 percent White, which is not surprising given that Whites constituted well over 80 percent of the metropolitan population. A small proportion, around 4 percent, of its visible minority population lived in enclave neighbourhoods. In 2006, the small number of census tracts categorized as enclaves in Montreal housed a high proportion of poor residents (see Hiebert 2009).

In contrast, the social landscapes of Toronto and Vancouver changed much more rapidly in the 1996 to 2006 period. In 2006, nearly two-thirds of the visible minority populations of the two cities lived in areas where more than half of the population identified with a visible minority background (types 3-5 areas). Further, just over 37 percent of Toronto’s visible minority population lived in areas that were at least 70 percent visible minority populations (enclave areas, or types 4 and 5 neighbourhoods); this was also the case for nearly 30 percent of Vancouver’s visible minority residents.

What, then, were the main features of the social landscapes of these three cities in 2011? In all three the ratio of visible minorities in the population increased by around 4 percentage points. How was this registered in the distribution of Whites and visible minorities across neighbourhood types?

In Montreal, between 2006 and 2011 there was a major decline in the population living in type 1 areas (those highly dominated by Whites) in favour of type 2 areas (where 50 to 80 percent are White). This change is associated with a somewhat greater degree of mixing of White and visible minority residents. Turning specifically to the visible minority population, we see that over half reside in type 2 neighbourhoods, and another quarter in type 1 neighbourhoods. So, in Montreal, most members of visible minority groups live in areas where they represent a relatively small fraction of the population. This is not surprising, since if all groups were evenly spread across the metropolitan area, the proportion of visible minorities in every census tract would be only around 20 percent. Less than one-quarter of the visible minority residents of Montreal live in “majority-minority” social spaces (types 3-5) and only about 6 percent live in enclaves; of these, most live in mixed-group enclaves. The degree of enclave development in Montreal, therefore, continues to be muted.

The situation is quite different in Toronto and Vancouver, where we see much more pronounced differences in the social geography of White and visible minority residents.

In Toronto, the ratio of Whites to visible minority groups in 2011 was about 55:45. Yet 76 percent of the White population lives in types 1 and 2 areas where Whites constitute the majority, whereas nearly 70 percent of visible minorities live in neighbourhood types where they are in the majority. Scanning the figures from 1996 to 2011, we see that this pattern reflects two intersecting dynamics: as the proportion of the visible minority population has increased, the distribution of Whites has shifted from type 1 to type 3 areas, while visible minorities have shifted from type 2 to type 5 areas.4 Note that fully 30 percent of Whites live in areas that are at least 80 percent White, though this figure is down from 38 percent in 2006. But in 1996 in Toronto, while 57 percent of its visible minority population lived in White-dominated neighbourhoods (types 1 and 2), in 2011 the figure was just 31 percent. Meanwhile the proportion in enclaves jumped from 17 to 44 percent, with most of this change attributable to the growing numbers in type 5 areas.

The degree of change over time was less pronounced in Vancouver but in the same direction as in Toronto. The majority of Whites in Vancouver live where they are dominant demographically (72 percent live in types 1 and 2 areas), as do visible minorities (nearly 70 percent live in types 3-5 areas). The main difference between Vancouver and Toronto is the higher propensity in Vancouver for both Whites and visible minorities to live in type 3 neighbourhoods, areas that are dominated by visible minorities but generally have highly mixed ethnic compositions. At the same time, in Vancouver there are fewer people living in mixed enclaves, type 4 neighbourhoods.

Who lives inside and who lives outside enclaves?

The general profiles of the residents of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver shown in table 1 have been disaggregated into the five neighbourhood types in tables 5 to 7. Each table shows, in the first three lines, the proportion of all residents and the number of census tracts for each of the neighbourhood types.

Table 5

We have seen that the degree of enclave formation in Montreal is far less than in Toronto and Vancouver. In Montreal only 10 census tracts are located in type 4 neighbourhoods and just 5 in are type 5 areas (table 5). Altogether, less than 2 percent of the metropolitan population lives in these areas. There are more type 3 census tracts (47), with a majority of visible minority residents, but this type still accounts for less than 6 percent of Montreal’s population. Well over 90 percent of its population as a whole lives in White-majority parts of the city.

It is clear that the socio-economic and ethnocultural characteristics of the neighbourhood types differ a great deal. Residents of enclave areas (types 4 and 5) are far more likely to be immigrants, and especially those who have arrived recently. Given the large population of newcomers in enclaves, we find that the use of nonofficial languages in the home is much higher in the three neighbourhood types where visible minorities are more than half of the population.

Turning to the specific visible minority categories, those who identify themselves as Black and Arab are generally the most likely to be found in mixed visible-minority-dominated spaces; Blacks are also disproportionately present in type 2 areas, which tend to be diverse social spaces, while South Asians and particularly Filipinos are most likely to reside in enclaves.

In general, residents of enclaves and type 3 areas in Montreal are less educated than those in the parts of the city where Whites predominate, but the difference is not particularly large. Other socio-economic measures are more sharply differentiated across neighbourhood types in Mon-treal. Residents of types 3-5 areas are more likely to be unemployed; depend more substantially on government transfers; far less likely to own their dwellings; far more likely to live in crowded dwellings; and more likely to be under financial pressure to meet their mortgage or rental payments. Further, residents of these census tracts typically make do with approximately half the income of those in the first two neighbourhood types (by both personal and household measures) and are far more prone to experience after-tax low income. The socio-economic indicators in Montreal tell a consistent story: areas where visible minorities are the dominant population, whether they are ethnoculturally mixed or single-group enclaves, are generally places of socio-economic marginalization. The only brighter note in this rather depressing set of figures is the modest differentiation in educational attainment across neighbourhood types. This, plus the large presence of newcomers in these three neighbourhood types, suggests that they may be sites of initial immigrant settlement and that residents may be passing through them as they move toward economic mobility. However, this is simply a conjecture and calls for a longitudinal analysis.

The situation of residents of enclaves in Toronto (table 6) is not as bleak as that in Montreal. The distribution of Toronto’s population across the neighbourhood types is decidedly different from that in Montreal. In round numbers, 1 million people reside in type 1 areas, 2 million in type 2 areas, 1 million in type 3 areas and 1.4 million in enclaves. In contrast, only around 62,000 people live in enclaves in Montreal. To put this into perspective, the 1.4 million residents of enclaves in Toronto easily surpass the total population of Ottawa-Gatineau, Canada’s fourth largest metropolitan area.

Most residents of Toronto’s enclave areas tend to be immigrants who have arrived relatively recently, as in Montreal. Just over one-quarter of the Toronto metropolitan population is made up of immigrants who have arrived since 1991, but the corresponding figure for residents of enclaves (types 4 and 5 together) is over 40 percent. The percentage of households that speak a nonofficial language ranges from about one-quarter in White areas to nearly three-quarters in single-group-dominated enclaves.

In Toronto the two largest visible minority groups — South Asians and those of Chinese descent — rarely live in type 1 neighbourhoods, are somewhat more present in type 2 areas, but are far more prevalent in the three neighbourhood types where visible minorities dominate. The South Asian group has the greatest propensity to reside in enclaves and accounts for over one-third of the nearly 1 million residents of type 5 areas (that is, the population of South Asians who live in single-group-dominated enclaves in Toronto is larger than the total population of metropolitan Halifax). Similarly, the Chinese group is disproportionately located in enclaves.

Table 6

Looking at the social geography of the other two relatively large visible minority groups, Blacks and Filipinos, their share is largest in types 3 and 4 neighbourhoods, places where the degree of ethnocultural diversity is generally quite high. This is also true of most of the smaller visible minority groups.

While in Montreal the small number of census tracts defined as enclaves (types 4 and 5 census tracts) were often socio-economically marginalized, this pattern is less clear in Toronto. There we find strongly differentiated characteristics on some measures, but not on others. For example, a far higher proportion of residents of enclave areas live in crowded housing. Median personal incomes are about 20 percent below the metropolitan average, and the proportion of enclave residents facing after-tax low income is about one-third higher than the average for Toronto as a whole. It is therefore not surprising that the use of government transfers is high in enclaves. The same trends are apparent for type 3 areas.

But when we look at other socio-economic indicators for Toronto, the picture becomes less clear. While labour market participation and unemployment rates are less favourable in enclaves, the degree of difference across neighbourhood types is quite small. This is also true of the educational attainment statistics; the gap between type 1 and type 5 neighbourhoods in the proportion of the population with a completed university degree is only 4 percentage points (though the lowest university completion rates are actually in type 4 areas).

The most surprising statistics for Toronto are associated with household economies and home ownership. Household size tends to be larger among immigrants and members of visible minority groups, and it is therefore larger in enclave neighbourhoods compared with households in types 1 and 2 neighbourhoods. Household incomes for these groups are typically higher, approaching those of the metropolitan region as a whole. Median household income is lowest in type 4 neighbourhoods, or mixed visible minority enclaves, at about $63,000, compared with the metropolitan average of nearly $77,000. But for the roughly 1 million residents of type 5 areas, single-group-dominated enclaves, median household incomes are much closer to the level of Toronto as a whole, at about $72,600 (a difference of less than 6 percent). In complete contrast to what we have seen in Montreal, home ownership rates are fairly consistent across neighbourhood types in Toronto, and residents of types 4 and 5 enclaves (taken together) are almost as likely to own their dwelling as the average person in the city as a whole. In fact, the rate of home ownership in single-group-dominant enclaves is above the metropolitan average and virtually the same as in type 1 areas. If enclaves are economically marginalized places in Montreal, in Toronto they appear to be places where homes can be purchased by members of visible minority groups.

The situation in Vancouver is broadly similar to that in Toronto, with a few interesting exceptions (table 7). The distribution of the population across neighbourhood types is very similar. About 18 percent of the population resides in White areas, and, as in Toronto, the most prevalent neighbourhood type is type 2, or areas dominated by Whites. A larger proportion of Vancouver’s population is associated with type 3 neighbourhoods, or mixed areas where at least half of the residents identify with a visible minority background. Type 4 neighbourhoods, or mixed-group enclaves, are relatively rare in Vancouver, and 18 percent of the population is located in type 5 areas.

Table 7

The tendency for certain ethnocultural groups to locate in enclaves is also seen in Vancouver, but with several important variations. South Asians and those of Chinese ancestry are the most likely to live in enclaves, but the Chinese-origin population is the most dispersed across the neighbourhood types. So while members of the Chinese group are the most prevalent in enclaves, other members of the group are dispersed in nearly all of the neighbourhood types. The Black population in Vancouver is tiny in comparison with Montreal and Toronto, and its distribution is not associated with any particular neighbourhood type. Vancouver’s Filipino population is relatively large and, in contrast to the situation in Toronto, is likely to live in type 4 enclaves, those that have no dominant visible minority group.

The other visible minority groups are much smaller, but there are several intriguing residential dynamics at work in Vancouver. For example, Southeast Asians, who are primarily of Vietnamese background, reside mainly in enclave neighbourhoods. On the other hand, West Asians (mainly of Iranian origin in the Vancouver case), Koreans and those of Japanese origin rarely live in type 4 or type 5 neighbourhoods. The nature and degree of socio-economic differentiation across neighbourhood types in Vancouver is very similar to the pattern described for Toronto: incomes are lower in enclave and type 3 neighbourhoods; more people rely on government transfers; and poverty rates are higher. But at the same time many socio-economic indicators are quite consistent across neighbourhood types and, as in Toronto, enclaves are not especially associated with an economic penalty for their residents.

When we look at the tendency for visible minority groups to live in enclaves (table 8), along with the social geography of admission categories,5 it is quite evident that certain groups are much more associated with enclave settlement than others, notably Filipinos in Montreal and people of Chinese and South Asian origin in Toronto and Vancouver.

The bottom portion of table 8 helps us understand some of these patterns. In Montreal, nearly everyone living in enclaves is either an immigrant or a nonpermanent resident. Among immigrants, the proportion of live-in caregivers residing in enclaves is exceptionally high compared with immigrants in other admission categories. As table 8 shows, although only 1.5 percent of Montreal residents live in enclaves, the corresponding figure for live-in caregivers is over 27 percent. Given that such a high proportion of immigrants from the Philippines have entered Canada through this program, the exceptional figure for the proportion of Filipinos in enclaves in Montreal can be more readily understood. Nevertheless, the pattern is still surprising, since one would expect most live-in caregivers to reside in more affluent parts of the city where middle-class families can afford to pay for their services. Refugees are also disproportionately found in enclaves in Montreal, though to a lesser degree than live-in caregivers. This stands to reason because refugees typically enter Canada with few financial resources, and almost all of the enclave areas in Montreal are associated with poverty.

Altogether in Toronto nearly one-quarter of the population lives in enclave areas. This ratio is a little lower for immigrants who arrived before 1980 and much lower for individuals born in Canada. In complete contrast to what we have seen in Montreal, live-in caregivers have only an average tendency to locate in enclaves in Toronto. There, family-class immigrants and the “other” category are the most likely to live in enclave environments, followed by refugees and economic immigrants. These patterns reflect the fact that residents of enclaves are not particularly socio-economically marginalized in Toronto, at least compared with the situation of Montreal.

The patterns in Vancouver are similar to those in Toronto, with one twist. In Vancouver, refugees are the least likely immigrant category to be located in enclaves. This is because enclaves in Vancouver are mainly associated with people from South Asia and China, which have not been the source of many of Vancouver’s refugees. It is also possible that refugees are drawn to the cheapest housing in the metropolitan area: that is, neighbourhoods that are the most socio-economically marginalized (not generally enclaves).

Table 8

For another perspective on the nature of enclaves in the three cities I look at the distribution of religious groups across neighbourhood types (table 9).6 There is a much closer correspondence between certain religious orientations and specific ethnocultural groups than for other orientations. The clearest examples in the table are Hindus and Sikhs, who are overwhelmingly South Asian, and people who identify as Jewish (who generally specify their ethnicity as Jewish as well). All of the other religions and the nonreligious category have more diverse ethnocultural profiles.

Table 9

Once again the patterns evident in Montreal are very different from those found in the other metropolitan areas. In Montreal, three-quarters of the population identifies with Christianity, far more than the corresponding figures of 57 and 42 percent for Toronto and Vancouver, respectively. Accounting for the 15 percent of Montreal residents who do not have a religious affiliation, only 10 percent of the population is associated with a non-Christian religion. Of these people, the largest groups are Muslim (6 percent) and Jewish (just over 2 percent). Montreal’s Jewish, Christian and nonreligious groups are primarily located in types 1 and 2 neighbourhoods. Members of the other non-Christian religious groups are scattered across neighbourhood types, but the only groups with a significant presence in enclaves are Hindus and Sikhs. This stands to reason since we know that, of all visible minority groups, South Asians are the most likely to be located in enclaves in Montreal, and particularly in type 5 neighbourhoods.

The non-Christian religious population is much larger in Toronto, at about 22 percent. The only group that is largely absent from enclaves in this metropolitan area is people who identify as Jewish. The degree of spatial isolation of the Jewish ethnic category in Toronto is actually the highest of any of the groups examined, but this group is not located in visible minority enclaves.7 As in Montreal, in Toronto Christians and nonreligious people tend to live outside enclaves, but in Toronto there are modest numbers of both these groups in type 5 areas. This is likely because these religious identities are often associated with immigrant, visible minority individuals (for example, there are many Chinese and Filipino Christian churches in suburban Toronto and Vancouver, and at the same time there are also many Chinese Canadians who do not have a religious affiliation, given the avowed atheist stance of the Chinese government).8

Toronto’s remaining non-Christian groups have contrasting social geographies. Hindus and Sikhs are highly concentrated in enclaves. More than 60 percent of Toronto’s Sikh residents are located in single-group-dominated enclaves, one of the highest degrees of association between a religious group and a neighbourhood type in any of the three cities. Followers of Islam and Buddhism — non-Christian religions that draw adherents from many ethnocultural groups — are widely dispersed across types 2-5 neighbourhoods. That is, some live in social environments where Whites and visible minorities are intermixed, while others reside in visible minority enclaves.

Again, we see that the patterns found in Toronto are similar to those found in Vancouver, with some important differences. First, there is a very large nonreligious population in Vancouver (in Montreal the ratio of Christians to those without a religious affiliation is nearly 5:1, in Toronto it is about 2.5:1, but in Vancouver it is 1:1, with around 42 percent in both categories). Second, Vancouver’s relatively small Jewish population is much more dispersed across neighbourhood types than in the other two cities. In all other cases, the spatial distribution of religious groups in Vancouver is strikingly similar to that in Toronto.

Micro-geographies of ethnocultural diversity

In the popular imagination, enclaves are generally thought of as monocultural residential spaces. This assumption is deeply embedded in European concerns over cultural isolation and “parallel lives.” Is it valid in Canada? Are enclaves less culturally diverse than other parts of our cities? To address this question I designed a very simple method to measure the degree of cultural diversity in small geographical units, using NHS data on ethnic origin to count how many distinct ethnic origins were present in each dissemination area (DA). I conducted this part of the analysis at the DA scale, the most finely grained scale of data provided by Statistics Canada (see the appendix). The average DA in Vancouver, for example, houses about 700 people, or a little over 300 households (there are over 3,400 DAs in the Vancouver CMA).

This process resulted in an average count of the number of ethnic groups per DA at the metropolitan scale and for each neighbourhood type, as a measure of diversity at the local scale. For each city I also computed another statistic that adds perspective to the diversity measure: I identified the largest ethnic category and computed its share of the population, to provide an indication of the average degree of ethnocultural dominance in these city neighbourhoods. (Note that approximately 200 ethnic categories are provided in the DA profile tables.)

Starting at the metropolitan scale, we are reminded of the distinctiveness of Montreal relative to the other two cities. On average, the largest ethnic group in a DA in Montreal accounts for nearly half of the total DA population (table 10). At the same time, the average DA in Montreal contains about 10 ethnic groups. The degree of micro-scale diversity is considerably greater in both Toronto and Vancouver, where the average degree of ethnic dominance in a DA is about 35 percent, and the average number of ethnic identities in a DA is close to 15. It is worth reflecting on this number. A typical DA is only about 10 city blocks, and in that small area, people encounter residents of 15 different cultural backgrounds.

Table 10

In Montreal, the degree of diversity increases as we move up the neighbourhood types. Type 1, or White, areas are the least diverse, with an average of about 8 groups per DA. The degree of diversity is a little higher in type 2 neighbourhoods but highest in types 3 and 4, places where visible minorities predominate but there is not a high degree of ethnic dominance. Nevertheless, even type 5 neighbourhoods, single-group-dominated enclaves, tend to be more culturally diverse than type 1 areas, where Whites form the majority of the population.

In Toronto, we find the greatest degree of consistency in cultural diversity across neighbourhood types. Again, though, DAs in the type 1 neighbourhoods tend to be less diverse than in all the other types.

In Vancouver, the relationship between diversity and neighbourhood type is the inverse of the Montreal case. In Vancouver, enclaves are the least culturally diverse parts of the metropolitan area, particularly single-group-dominated enclaves. That said, it is worth noting that the average DA in a type 5 area in Vancouver houses people from 10 different cultural groups. No doubt this outcome is related to the high degree of dominance of two particular visible minority groups, those of Chinese and South Asian origin.

To summarize this section, any assumption that enclaves are monocultural is decidedly incorrect. We see that in Montreal, enclaves are more diverse than other parts of the city, and in Toronto they are just as diverse as other parts of that city. Even in Vancouver, enclaves tend to be highly diverse social settings. Other kinds of diversity are also present in these landscapes, including religious diversity, socio-economic diversity and significant differences in legal immigration status (for example, temporary residents, permanent residents and citizens). This layering of diversity has led Steven Vertovec (2007) to introduce the term “super-diversity” as a way of conceptualizing the complexity of contemporary urban society. I believe this is a highly relevant idea for large Canadian metropolitan areas.

Visible minorities inside and outside enclaves

The special tabulations commissioned for this study enable us to investigate the role that enclave areas may play for members of visible minority groups. At the outset of this study I noted that researchers have not reached a consensus about the causes of enclave -development. This is related to the fact that various factors may lead people to congregate. For example:

  • Members of minority groups may be forced to live separately from the mainstream because of deliberately exclusionary policies (ghettoization). Although there were several instances of this process in Canadian history, this is not a factor for immigrants and members of visible minority groups in Canada today.
  • Members of minority groups may be socio-economically marginalized, and their economic situation may reduce their housing options. Where low income obliges them to settle in areas of the city where housing is the most affordable, economic processes may translate into ethnocultural segregation, not because of residential racial discrimination but because of the challenges of low income and savings.
  • If members of the majority shun minorities (the popular term is “White flight”), enclaves will develop wherever minorities find housing, since these areas will be vacated by the majority.
  • Members of minority groups may elect to live in proximity with their co-ethnics in an effort to maintain their social networks and, perhaps, to maintain their cultural practices and orientations. This may occur consciously, with people actively seeking areas associated with their ethnocultural group, or passively (for example, when real estate or rental agents assume that people wish to live with co-ethnics and present only these choices to them; Teixeira 1995). Further, enclaves may appeal especially to newcomers who appreciate and need the services available in them, while long-settled individuals may move on to other parts of the city as they become more financially and culturally independent. Enclaves may also appeal to people through their entire lifetime if they wish to be part of an alternative social and cultural system.

The exclusionary case is largely irrelevant to Canada, a point that has effectively been made by Walks and Bourne (2006). We are therefore left with three distinct pathways to enclave settlement. The first two have little to do with the agency of minority groups, while the latter emphasizes the choices they make. While it would be exceedingly difficult to ascertain through a quantitative analysis the reasons each person lives in an enclave, it is important to understand that several factors are at work in generating these outcomes. Also, the data might provide us with some clues about why enclaves form and are maintained. For example, if all of the members of visible minority groups living in enclaves are poor, and all of those living in other parts of the city are better off, that would give us a strong indication that enclaves are associated with economic marginalization.

In order to see whether there are systematic socio-economic or socio-cultural differences between members of visible minority groups inside and outside enclave environments, I have isolated the visible minority residents in each of the three cities (tables 11-13; these tables more or less replicate tables 4-6 but with selected populations).9

Table 11

In Montreal we see a fairly clear inverse relationship between the long-term integration process and the propensity for members of visible minority groups to live in enclaves (table 11). That is, relative newcomers are disproportionately located in enclaves compared with long-settled immigrants, and compared especially with the Canadian-born members of visible minority groups. This pattern is also reflected in the statistics on the use of nonofficial languages in the home. The distribution of admission categories across neighbourhood types has already been discussed.

I have noted that the relationship between educational attainment and neighbourhood type is not especially strong in Montreal (see table 5). When we isolate members of visible -minority groups, however, we see a fairly clear differentiation between types 1 and 2 and types 3-5 neighbourhoods. That is, visible minority residents living in enclaves are less educated than those living in other, White-majority parts of the city. Here I have added a section on the educational attainment of Canadian-born members of visible minority groups, most of whom are the children of immigrants. In the case of Montreal, we see that the educational gradient of the entire visible minority population is replicated for the Canadian-born cohort. Those who live in areas dominated by visible minorities — and especially those who live in enclaves — are much less likely to have completed a university degree than their counterparts in “majority” neighbourhoods.

Table 12

The trends for all of the other socio-economic indicators are similar. Members of visible minority groups who live outside enclaves are, simply stated, better off. The only socio-economic variable that is somewhat at odds with this clear pattern is the ratio of residents paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. While figures for this variable are considerably lower in type 1 neighbourhoods, they vary little across the other neighbourhood types. Apparently, individuals in nearly all parts of Montreal stretch their budgets to secure the best housing they can (Walks 2013).

In Toronto, recently arrived members of visible minority groups are also more likely to live in enclave neighbourhoods (table 12). There appears to be a transition point in the settlement pattern of visible minorities: those who arrived before 1980 and those who were born in Canada rarely live in enclave environments. In Toronto we would be hard pressed to identify the formation of enclaves with any particular immigrant admission category. The Family Class is the only category with higher representation in enclave neighbourhoods, and this is fairly marginal. Significantly, Economic Class immigrants and refugees are widely spread across neighbourhood types.

In metropolitan Toronto as a whole, 34 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 65 has a completed university degree.10 Interestingly, this figure is roughly the same for members of visible minority groups in general (34.8 percent) and second generation visible minorities (33.5 percent). Members of visible minority groups and their children living in type 1 neighbourhoods and, to a lesser degree, in type 2 areas are better educated than their counterparts in “majority-minority” (types 3-5) parts of the city. At the same time, the level of university completion among visible minorities living in enclaves is still quite robust, at over 30 percent for types 4 and 5 areas taken together.

The other socio-economic indicators show similar patterns: visible minority residents of type 1 and type 2 neighbourhoods are more likely to be employed, more likely to have incomes above the metropolitan median and less likely to fall into the low-income category. But these tend not to be dramatic differences; note, for example, that the proportion in low income is virtually identical for type 2 and type 5 neighbourhoods, and also that the low-income rate for residents of type 5 neighbourhoods is actually marginally below the average for visible minorities across the entire metropolitan area. The same is true of the range of values for the proportion paying a large share of their income for housing: it is relatively low in type 1 neighbourhoods, and it hardly varies across the other neighbourhood types.

In Toronto, the ratio of home ownership across neighbourhood types is an important indicator showing that enclaves are not simply marginalized spaces. The level of home ownership for members of all visible minority groups is generally high, at over 70 percent (compared with just 23 percent in Montreal). But it is highest in single-group-dominated enclaves, at nearly 80 percent, followed by White areas, and it is relatively high in all neighbourhood types.

Table 13

In Vancouver, the tendency for newcomers from visible minority groups to congregate in enclaves, compared with long-settled immigrants, is not strong (table 13). As in Toronto, the relationship between admission category and neighbourhood type is modest. Family Class immigrants are more likely to be found in enclaves, while a higher ratio of those who arrived through the general economic programs (except live-in caregivers) and refugees reside in neighbourhood types 1 to 3. None of these are very strong tendencies, though.

As we have seen in the Toronto case, in Vancouver the relationship between socio-economic indicators and the propensity for members of visible minority groups to live in enclaves is complex and not unidirectional. Again, visible minority residents of enclaves, in comparison with those living in type 1 and type 2 neighbourhoods, are not as well educated and are less likely to receive incomes above the metropolitan median. But the values of several socio-economic variables are quite consistent across neighbourhood types; there is little differentiation in unemployment rates, the percentage of those paying a high proportion of their income on housing and, perhaps most surprisingly, the rate of after-tax low income. Also in keeping with the Toronto case, members of visible minority groups have attained high levels of home ownership across all of the neighbourhood types, and the rate of ownership is disproportionately high in types 1, 3 and 5 neighbourhoods.

Enclaves and the landscapes of urban poverty

My analysis so far has incorporated measures of income, including low income, into a general exploration of the socio-economic status of residents inside and outside enclaves. I will now examine this issue more directly by looking at, first, the characteristics of those parts of the city that are both enclaves and poor and, second, the characteristics of members of visible minority groups who are categorized as low income, comparing those who live inside with those who live outside enclaves.

A useful starting point for a discussion of the issue of enclaves and poverty is to classify each census tract into one of four categories (table 14):

  • Areas that are not enclaves (type 1 to type 3) and where the proportion of the population in after-tax low income is less than 30 percent (this cut-off point was selected because it is twice the Canadian average and therefore identifies areas of deep poverty; it also coincides with the methodology used by Smith and Ley [2008] in their important work on immigrant poverty in Canadian cities).
  • Areas that are not enclaves and where at least 30 percent of the population is experiencing low income.
  • Areas that are enclaves and where less than 30 percent of the population is experiencing low income.
  • Areas that are enclaves and where at least 30 percent of the population is experiencing low income.

For the three cities under review, the visible minority population in each of these four types of census tracts has been recorded. If enclaves fit the stereotypical American view that they are places of sustained socio-economic marginalization, we should expect the first and fourth types to dominate, with few people in the second and third types. In statistical terminology, these are the “concordant” versus “discordant” cells in a contingency table,11 and the contingency coefficient statistic is routinely used to test for statistical significance in the relationship between the row and column variables of this kind of table in order to gauge the strength of that relationship. Generally, relationships are considered weak when the coefficient is less than 0.1 and strong when it is more than 0.3.

In Montreal, there is a fairly strong relationship between these variables (the contingency coefficient is more than 0.3). Of the visible minority population that resides outside enclaves, about 28 percent live in high-poverty areas, while 95 percent of the visible minority residents of enclaves are in high-poverty areas. In Toronto and Vancouver, however, these variables are much more weakly associated, with low contingency coefficients in both cases. Putting this another way, in Montreal, if we know that a member of a visible minority group lives in an enclave, we can be reasonably sure that he or she is also living in an area where a high proportion of people are poor. This is much less true for Toronto and Vancouver.

Table 14

The data used to build table 14 have also been incorporated into maps that enable us to visualize the relationship between enclaves and the landscapes of poverty in the three cities (figures 1 to 3). These maps do not isolate the visible minority population (as table 14 does) but simply show the degree of independence and overlap between the two variables, across all of the census tracts of each city. The areas with blue hatched lines are those where at least 30 percent of the population is classified as experiencing after-tax low income. The areas in orange are type 4 enclaves — they do not have a dominant group — while areas in red are type 5, single–group-dominant enclaves.

The map of Montreal (figure 1) shows the very extensive landscapes of poverty in that metropolitan area. Nearly all of the enclave areas of Montreal are part of the larger landscape of poverty. In Toronto (figure 2) and Vancouver (figure 3) this is not the case. In these two cities, the number of places where these variables overlap is significantly less than the number of places where they do not overlap. It is worth noting that in all three cities there are virtually no enclaves in inner-city locations. For the most part, enclaves are associated with middle-distance suburbs.

Turning to the ethnocultural and socio-economic profile of high-poverty enclaves for each city, in all three the majority of residents of these areas are immigrants, with a disproportionate number of relative newcomers (those arriving since 1991). Nonofficial languages are commonly used in the households in these areas (table 15).

Hiebert new fig1

The distribution of visible minority groups in these poor enclave areas is perhaps the most interesting phenomenon. In Montreal the ranking of visible minority groups with a substantial presence in these areas is, in descending order, Black, South Asian, Filipino, Arab and Southeast Asian. In Toronto we find the following groups most prevalent in poor enclaves: South Asian, Black and Chinese. In Vancouver those of Chinese origin form the majority of the population of poor enclave areas.12 The data point to the conclusion that different visible minority groups tend to be located in poor enclaves in the three cities.

Hiebert new fig2

For the most part the socio-economic profile of residents of poor enclaves is depressing; by definition, these individuals make do with personal and household incomes that are far below the metropolitan averages (recall that these are areas where at least 30 percent of the population is in after-tax low income). The average level of educational attainment in these areas is far below that of the cities’ populations as a whole, suggesting that the scope for economic mobility is limited. The attachment to the labour market is generally weak in poor enclaves, and, except in Vancouver, dependence on government transfers is concomitantly high.

Hiebert new fig3

As might be expected, the ratio of crowded homes in these areas is far above the figures for the metropolitan areas, and a high proportion of residents dedicate more than 30 percent of their total income to housing. Finally, the rate of home ownership is low in poor enclaves, although Vancouver, where a surprising number of the residents of poor enclaves own their dwellings, is an exception to this pattern.

For a final perspective on the relationship between enclaves and poverty, I used special tabulations commissioned by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for this study (table 16). These data enable us to compare the characteristics of members of visible minority groups who have low after-tax incomes and live in the types 1-3 neighbourhoods with the characteristics of those who live in types 4 and 5, the two enclave types.

Across the three cities we see that most of the members of visible minority groups experiencing low income are either nonpermanent residents or first-generation immigrants, and a disproportionate number of them have come to Canada since 1991. Relatively few children of earlier immigrants and hardly any in the third-plus generation are experiencing low income.

Table 15

Overall, the proportion of visible minority immigrants admitted under the Family Class who are experiencing low income is disproportionately low. These immigrants are most likely to benefit from the help of their sponsors and other family members: that is, they have access to social capital. The ratio of low-income economic immigrants is disproportionately low in Montreal and Toronto, but not in Vancouver. The ratio of low income for refugees is high in Montreal and Toronto but, again, not in Vancouver. The patterns in the data conform somewhat to expectations, but not universally.

Table 16

Looking at the socio-economic profile of the low-income visible minority populations, these groups have a relatively weak attachment to the labour market, above-average rates of unemployment and an especially high ratio of households that are pressed to manage their expenses for shelter. Again, though, there are nuances to this picture. In Vancouver, while the labour force participation rate of low-income visible minorities is low, relatively few individuals in this category are unemployed. Meanwhile, the home ownership rate among low-income visible minorities in that city is unexpectedly high owing to, I suspect, the legacy of the Business Class immigration program.

The more important contribution of these data, however, is the light they shed on the distinctiveness of members of visible minority groups who are struggling economically and who live in enclaves, compared with those who do not live in enclaves (keeping in mind that in all three metropolitan areas, the low-income visible minority population living inside enclaves is much smaller than that living outside them). In Montreal and Toronto, those living inside enclaves are worse off on all of the socio-economic indicators than those living outside them. In those cities, there may be a fraction of the visible minority population that is “trapped” in poor enclave environments, though this point can be verified only through a longitudinal analysis. In Vancouver, although the low-income visible minority population living in enclaves is a little less economically marginalized than their counterparts in other neighbourhood types. We can conclude that there is no consistent pattern across the three cities that would suggest that the poorest members of visible minority groups are disproportionately drawn to enclave environments.


In introducing this study I considered the relationship between important national policies — most notably immigration and multiculturalism — and local landscapes. In Europe the perception that socio-cultural groups are not mixing, not integrating, in urban spaces has led to profound concern and a repudiation of the policy regimes that appear to have led to this outcome.

My primary focus has been to see whether there is evidence that enclaves lead to their residents living “parallel lives” characterized by distinct cultural practices as well as socio-economic disadvantage. I have attempted to answer six specific questions, and I report my findings here.

First, the proportion of visible minority residents living in enclaves has not increased dramatically in Montreal, but it has in Toronto and Vancouver. Perhaps in the latter two metropolitan areas, once a critical mass has been achieved, enclaves beget enclaves, generating a series of residential landscapes that foster institutional development within ethnocultural communities. This in turn may facilitate the development of social capital for people inhabiting these areas.

Second, the likelihood of living in an enclave varies dramatically across visible minority groups; in fact, we sometimes find highly differentiated rates of enclave settlement in the three cities under review for the same ethnocultural group. No group in any of the three cities is located only in enclaves. In virtually every visible minority group, there is a component of the population located in enclaves and another component living in other parts of the city. Thus, the neighbourhoods of each city generally, and its enclaves in particular, are characterized by a complex mixture of patterns of ethnic clustering or dominance and, at the same time, pervasive ethnocultural diversity. In Montreal, several visible minority groups contribute to the population of enclaves, although individuals of Filipino, South Asian and Southeast Asian origin are the most numerous. In Toronto and Vancouver enclaves mainly house South Asian and Chinese groups, and this is especially the case in Vancouver. It is also noteworthy that enclaves are a key component in the suburbanization of immigrant settlement.

There is more consistency, however, in the fact that relatively recent immigrants are more prone to settle in enclaves, although the intensity of this pattern varies. This suggests that enclaves, at least for some, are starting points in the process of coming to terms with Canadian society. However, this is only part of the story, since there are also residents of enclaves who have been in Canada for more than two decades; and there is even a small proportion who are second- and third-generation Canadians.

The research reported here allows several important new insights into the nature of enclaves. For example, we can now see the surprisingly strong presence of live-in caregivers in Mon-treal’s enclaves; the importance of enclave environments for the settlement of Family Class immigrants in Toronto and Vancouver; and the fact that, in those cities, refugees are less likely to settle in enclaves than are those in other immigrant categories. These patterns suggest that enclaves are not places of last resort, a point to which I will return.

The 2011 NHS included a question on religious identity, which adds additional perspective to our understanding of enclaves. Most of the residents of Montreal identify with Christianity and live in neighbourhoods associated with the White majority, where they are joined by people of Jewish faith and those without a religious affiliation. The groups that are most likely to be found in enclaves are Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. In Toronto and Vancouver, with their much more extensive landscapes of enclave neighbourhoods, members of all religious persuasions except Judaism can be found in enclaves. The two groups with the highest probability of locating in enclaves are highly associated with a particular visible minority background, Sikhs and Hindus. There are also substantial numbers of Buddhists and Muslims in enclaves in these cities, but they are from many different ethnocultural groups and are scattered across the other neighbourhood types.

Third, there is no simple way to summarize the socio-economic characteristics of individuals living in enclaves compared with those of people living in other parts of a city. Montreal is somewhat exceptional in this instance as its enclaves are connected to two more widespread socio-economic features: members of visible minority groups are the most economically challenged to find work and achieve economic mobility in Montreal, relative to the other two cities; and the relative scale of poverty in Montreal is quite extensive, for Whites as well as for visible minorities. In Montreal, enclaves are one component of a much larger landscape of poverty.

The socio-economic profile of residents of enclaves in Toronto and Vancouver is much more complex. In both of these cities, some socio-economic indicators would suggest that enclaves are places of socio-economic marginalization, but other factors challenge such a simplistic view. The fact that residents of enclaves have average and, in some cases, high levels of home ownership and education contradicts any portrayal of enclaves as places of nonconforming values, since the quest for a home and raising successful children are intrinsic elements of the Western middle-class imagination. Another adjective could well be added to this phrase: Western suburban middle-class imagination.

Fourth, the data examined here challenge the assumption that enclaves are monocultural places, that is, places occupied by single dominant groups that are able to maintain their cultures in isolation from the rest of society. The vast majority of enclaves, even those where a particular group is dominant, are characterized by profound ethnocultural diversity — a feature they have in common with most other parts of the city. This finding has important implications. The combination of dominance and diversity in enclaves suggests that they may foster both “bonding” (in-group) and “bridging” (out-group) social capital. Residents of enclaves typically encounter many people from their own group in their residential setting, as well as people from many other groups. In some sense this could be seen as an ideal setting for socio-cultural integration in a multicultural society. The challenge, however, is that enclaves typically have few residents who are White, which may inhibit the extent to which newcomers and members of visible minority groups can extend their social networks into the traditionally dominant group in Canada. In this sense the “parallel lives” literature may have some relevance for Canada, although the data examined here do not support the view that enclaves are monocultural spaces of social isolation.

Fifth, in an effort to be more precise in identifying the causes and consequences of enclave development, I narrowed the comparison of people living inside enclaves and those living outside them by focusing on only the visible minority population. I outlined three alternative reasons for people to live in enclaves: economic reasons; avoidance of minorities on the part of the majority population; and a desire to live in clustered ethnocultural communities. These factors could be operating individually or in combination. Although the data are insufficient to definitively determine which of these factors are the most relevant in the growth of enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, they do provide some important hints.

In Montreal, enclaves have typically been formed by visible minorities concentrated in specific areas of a much larger low-income landscape. They are virtually all places of socio-economic marginalization. The difference, therefore, between visible minorities inside these areas and those outside them is fairly distinct, with a much higher ratio of poor visible minorities inside enclaves. However, this appears to be particularly the case for two groups: immigrants from generally South Asian backgrounds and Filipinos associated with the live-in caregiver program.

We need to think more broadly about why enclaves have become such important elements of the urban landscape in Toronto and Vancouver, to remember the rapidity of growth of the visible minority population and appreciate its scale. To put it starkly, very large numbers of visible minority newcomers have to live somewhere! It is also crucial to remember that the incoming immigrant population arriving in these cities is highly variegated from a socio-economic point of view. Some are virtually penniless; others are wealthy. Some have access to social capital (for example, those sponsored by family members already settled in Canada); others do not (such as refugees who are from groups that have never had a presence in their destination city). Enclave neighbourhoods are therefore also variegated. Some resemble enclaves in Montreal and have mainly low-income populations, but these are actually more exceptional than one might think. Census tracts that are categorized as both enclaves and poor account for only about 3 percent of the populations of Toronto and Vancouver. For the most part, enclaves are places for members of visible minority groups who have arrived in Canada since 199113 and who are struggling to either purchase a home or pay for a mortgage. They are places of aspiration.

Sixth, in the final part of the analysis I focused directly on enclaves with high ratios of poverty, and members of visible minority groups who are classified as experiencing low income. In that section, we encountered people and places that are either struggling financially or, worse, captured in systemic poverty. Amidst the depressing aspects of this analysis, it is important to note that enclaves do not appear to play a determining role in the processes that lead to systemic poverty. I find absolutely no evidence that enclaves are the problem; rather, certain enclaves house many people who are poor, so in that sense they may look like the problem. I reach this conclusion for two reasons: more poor members of visible minorities live outside enclaves than inside them; and the socio-economic characteristics of visible minority residents of poor enclaves are complex, particularly in Vancouver, where a majority own their dwellings.

It is also worth noting that, in general, the residents of type 4 neighbourhoods — ethnoculturally mixed enclaves — are more likely to be struggling economically than their counterparts inside single-group-dominated enclaves. This result suggests that living in the midst of a large co-ethnic group may actually be beneficial, perhaps by enabling people to access social capital, or perhaps through the employment opportunities that may arise in what sociologists have called ethnic economies.14 This is consistent with the argument of Myles and Hou (2004) that suburban single-group-dominated enclaves may be a sign of socio-economic attainment (also see Logan, Alba and Zhang 2002).


Canada, like Europe, has seen a pronounced increase in the extent of enclave neighbourhoods in major metropolitan areas. There is no indication this trajectory of change will stop. Also as in Europe, Canadians have noticed this change, even if they have not yet fully processed its significance. In Europe, enclaves are seen as places set apart from mainstream society, where members of minority groups lead “parallel lives” that are socially separate and often economically deprived. Although the evidence is far from complete, the data at our disposal give a strong sense that Canadian enclaves are different from the areas that are seen as deeply problematic in Europe. For the most part, enclaves in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal would hardly be recognizable to a European — particularly the extent of home ownership. To put it another way, “Canadian exceptionalism” in the resilience of multiculturalism might be facilitated by “Canadian exceptionalism” in the socio-economic fabric of Canadian cities.

I do not wish to imply that Canada has somehow resolved its long-standing challenge of fostering social equality for members of visible minority groups or that the issue of immigrant economic integration is no longer problematic. These are central concerns for Canadians and they remain highly relevant. What I hope to have shown is that the growing landscape of enclaves in Canadian cities — especially in Toronto and Vancouver — is not contributing significantly to these challenges. If anything, single-group-dominated enclaves may provide economic assistance to their residents. I have also emphasized that enclaves, like other parts of the city, contain diverse populations — ethnoculturally, socio-economically and in terms of people’s religious affiliations. They are, in effect, super-diverse, highly complex residential environments, a key component in what could be called the new residential order of Canadian cities.

These findings are important for the development of Canadian immigration and integration policy. They help us understand why certain policy interventions would not be advisable.

  • In Europe a number of governments and housing authorities have attempted to disperse minority ethnocultural groups from enclaves, under the assumption that over-concentration has negative effects. Harrison, Law and Philips (2005, 3), in an extensive review of these policies, “find little solid evidence that could justify seeing involuntary spatial mixing as an appropriate route towards social integration.” In Canada, such an approach would be unlikely to survive a legal challenge based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In addition, while it might appear attractive to disperse enclaves characterized by deep poverty in an effort to prevent the propagation of a “culture of poverty,” attempts to relocate economically marginalized populations do not resolve the problem of poverty. It is also worth noting that, particularly in Toronto and Montreal, a number of poor enclaves are located in large social housing complexes where there may be vitally important services for economically struggling individuals and families.
  • There is an insistent call from dedicated anti-immigration activists in Canada to reduce immigration based on the perceived over-concentration of newcomers in cities.15 This logic is presented by Francis (2002, 80): “Ethnic networks exist in these urban areas and provide members with information about how to tap into public housing, welfare and health care or how to find a job, earn cash under the table, or commit crimes.” This is one of the justifications for her argument to reduce net immigration to Canada to zero. This assumes that enclaves inhibit integration, but the evidence does not point in that direction. I believe that Canada should continue to set its policy on the level of immigration according to other criteria, and the increased immigration target for 2015 suggests that this is indeed the case.
  • Krikorian claims that “mass immigration itself is incompatible with national security,” because it “creates large immigrant communities that shield and incubate terrorists” (2008, 37). He links this argument directly to the formation of enclaves. It might be tempting, if this were true, to intensify surveillance in these areas, to effectively securitize enclaves to prevent terrorism. However, the evidence I have presented here indicates that enclaves are generally places of aspiration and diversity, rather than places of deprivation and cultural isolation. Moreover, recent terrorist incidents in Canada (or carried out by Canadians abroad) have not been perpetrated by residents of Muslim enclaves. Recall the 2014 attempt to bomb the British Columbia legislature, the Canadians killed in the gas plant explosion in Algeria in the same year and the attacks in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa in October 2014 — none of which were perpetrated by individuals residing in enclave environments. Given the statistical evidence on home ownership and second-generation educational attainment, there is no signal in these data that residents of enclaves harbour anti-mainstream values to a greater extent than do other Canadians.

On the other hand, certain policy directions or reorientations are likely to yield productive results.

  • Integration policy should more fully acknowledge the changing socio-cultural settings experienced by newcomers (places that are characterized by both the dominance of one particular group and, more generally, super-diversity).
  • We should resist identifying enclaves by their dominant groups. It may be convenient to label a neighbourhood Chinatown or Little Punjab, but this erases from view the many smaller groups residing in those areas.
  • We should resist thinking of enclaves as arising exclusively from culturally based choices made by members of minority groups. They arise for complex reasons, including the dynamics of the housing market and the behaviour of the majority.
  • We should stop using the term ghetto when discussing ethnocultural enclaves in Canada. These social landscapes simply do not conform to the full definition of a ghetto and, in any case, they are far too complex to be labelled with such a pejorative term.
  • We should dispense with the widely held assumption that enclaves are antithetical to economic and cultural integration. We should resist the temptation to import European worries about enclaves or American concerns about an emerging “underclass” into Canadian policy-making and recognize that ethnocultural enclaves in European cities and highly excluded neighbourhoods in US inner cities have characteristics that are fundamentally different from those found in most enclaves in Canada, particularly those in Toronto and Vancouver.

These suggestions can be summarized in a more general point: more attention should be given to local processes and outcomes when we evaluate the results of national policies, particularly immigration and multiculturalism. At the outset of this study I noted that the national and local have been seen as completely distinct policy milieux in Canada, and that events or outcomes at one scale have been ignored at the other. This reflects jurisdictional decisions made nearly 150 years ago when Canada was a very different country. At that time immigration was assumed to be essential to the expansion of rural settlement but not to urban development. Immigration continues to fuel population growth in Canada but, in our era, this happens primarily through initial settlement in metropolitan centres, particularly in the rapidly expanding suburban landscapes of these cities.

Further, it is overwhelmingly in cities that newcomers find public spaces and encounter each other and Canadian society more generally. This is where, one hopes, they become part of convivial local cultures. Cities also provide most of the services that enable newcomers to thrive in Canada, most notably education but also libraries, parks and recreation, public transportation and of course public safety and security. Newcomers also learn English or French locally.

Despite all this, municipal governments are not included in the key federal-provincial-territorial (FTP) conversations that have helped steer immigration policy. To put this in the starkest terms, there were 382,000 newcomers (those arriving between 2006 and 2011) in metropolitan Toronto in 2011, compared with a little over 250,000 for the three territories, the four Atlantic provinces, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined. The latter jurisdictions send 10 representatives to FPT immigration tables, while the municipality of Toronto sends none. Governments need to find meaningful ways of engaging municipal representatives in policy and program development in this field. I hope that this study demonstrates the utility of learning from the local level and shows that national policies such as immigration and multiculturalism can be enriched by understanding that these processes mainly unfold on the streets and in the neighbourhoods of Canadian cities.

Variables Used in the Analysis

Immigrant generation. This variable includes categories for first-generation immigrants (persons born outside of Canada who have been granted the right to live in Canada permanently, and who may or may not have been naturalized); second-generation Canadians (persons with at least one parent born outside Canada); and third-plus-generation Canadians (persons born in Canada to parents who were both born in Canada). For this study nonpermanent residents are a combined group that includes both individuals who were born abroad as Canadian citizens (they are nonimmigrants, but also not Canadian-born) and individuals who are in Canada on temporary visas.

Immigration period. This variable is defined in the standard way used by Statistics Canada, including individuals born abroad, and includes the following cohorts, based on the official landing date of the individual: up to 1970; 1971 to 1980; 1981 to 1990; 1991 to 2000; and 2001 to 2011.

Immigration category. As noted, the categories for this variable are Economic Class16 (for the most part this group is considered as a whole, but in some tables the specific admission category of live-in caregivers is listed separately); Family Class; refugee; and other. Note that a tiny number of people with an unknown category of admission have been excluded from this analysis.

Ethnocultural group. This variable includes two major categories: those who do and those who do not identify as members of a visible minority group.17 The former is disaggregated into specific groups (the largest of these are South Asian, Chinese, and Black, and an additional nine categories are used). It is important for readers to know that the NHS question for this variable includes a list of possible categories (plus the ability for the respondent to specify “other”), and the individual respondent chooses the category(ies) that make sense — that is, classification as a visible minority is based on a self-identification process. The profile tables simply utilize the Statistics Canada definition of visible minorities and “nonvisible” minorities. However, for the definition of neighbourhood types and the distribution of visible minorities and Whites across them (table 4), individuals with Aboriginal ancestry have been omitted (this group represents a small proportion of the population in Montreal and Toronto — less than 1 percent, and a modest one in Vancouver — 2.3 percent). This was done to ensure that immigrants and members of visible minority groups can be compared with the majority, or mainstream, populations in the three metropolitan areas. This precision is especially important in Vancouver, where Aboriginal people constitute a considerable fraction (around 4 percent) of the nonvisible-minority category. Aboriginal people have historically faced the most extreme forms of discrimination in Canadian society, and to include them along with the majority population would be unwise. Given this adjustment to the data, we can think of the nonvisible-minority population in this study as representative of Whites, or people of European origin. For all of the tables showing the profile of individuals in neighbourhood types, though, the total population has been used (i.e., the nonvisible-minority category includes both Whites and those of Aboriginal origin).

Educational attainment. This variable has been derived from questions in the NHS about the educational qualifications of the individual. For the study four categories are used: no certificate of any kind; a high school diploma; post-secondary education, not including a university degree; and a completed university degree or diploma.

Labour market participation. Standard measures are used here (I used only data for the population aged 15 to 64): participation rate; employment rate; and unemployment rate.

Housing indicators. Statistics Canada profile data were used to extract the variable on crowded dwellings, which are defined as dwellings with more than one person per room. I consulted annual reports of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to obtain statistics on average housing prices, rents and vacancy rates for Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver in 2011. The remaining housing variables were included in the special tabulations of the NHS. Individuals living in owned dwellings are differentiated from those living in rented dwellings. Note that this variable is based on the individual rather than on the family as the unit of analysis. Therefore, readers cannot extrapolate, based on the statistic of home ownership, from the individual to a group. That is, if 60 percent of, say, Chinese Canadians are classified as living in a family that owns its dwelling, this does not mean that Chinese Canadians have a home ownership rate of 60 percent (though it is worth noting that the true figure would be close to this level). The latter statistic is normally assigned to a group based on the household as the scale of analysis. A second housing variable distinguishes between those living in a household that spends less than 30 percent of gross household income on shelter (including mortgage or rental payments, plus municipal tax and the cost of services) and those living in a household that spends 30 percent or more.

Income indicators. Median individual income and median household income were extracted from standard Statistics Canada profile data, and these figures include income from all sources, for the calendar year 2010. Note that median household income was extracted from Statistics Canada for profile tables, but was also provided in the special tabulations used for the other tables in this report. Income composition was also used in this study as a second indicator of well-being. In this case, income was classified into market income (wages, salaries, interest and dividends, profits from self-employment, pensions and so on) and income from government transfers. Finally, the variable “low income after-tax” was used. A person is included in the low-income category when he or she lives in a household that has a total income that is no more than half the Canadian median income, adjusted for the size of household (that is, there are no regional adjustments made for this variable, and the same cut-off points were applied in all three cities).

Home language. This is a derived variable that classifies anyone who answered in the NHS that English or French is the language most often spoken in their home, or that English or French is regularly spoken in their home (these are two separate questions). The remainder of the population is classified as using a nonofficial language at home.

Ethnic origin. In order to measure the degree of ethnocultural diversity in the different neighbourhood types of the three cities, data on ethnic origin were downloaded from Statistics Canada. This was the only variable extracted at the dissemination area (DA) scale. Data on ethnic origin include the total population and are structured in a complex way. For each dissemination area, Statistics Canada provides the number of people who identify with each of the 200 or so ethnic origin categories used, whether they have done so singly or in combination. Individuals are entitled to name multiple ethnic origins in the NHS, and Statistics Canada records up to four origins for each person in its NHS master file. A person who indicates only Chinese ethnicity, for example, would be registered just once, in the Chinese category for a DA. However, a person who indicates multiple origins of, say, Chinese, English and Swedish would be registered three times, once for each of the three categories. Given the complexity of Canadian society, where so many people have multiple ancestries, the sum of the counts across all ethnic categories in a DA is typically greater than the total population of the DA. The variable I have created for this study is based on a simple count of all of the ethnic origin categories that are indicated by the residents of each DA. DAs with little ethnic diversity will have a low value on this variable, while those with a great deal of diversity will have a high one. In practice, the range of this variable across the three CMAs was from 1 to approximately 50.

I thank the two anonymous reviewers of this study, who were extremely thoughtful in their criticisms of an earlier draft and who took the time to offer valuable suggestions for revision. The study is definitely better for their intervention, though it was impossible to accommodate all of their suggestions without substantially increasing the scale of the analysis and the size of the study. I also thank the IRPP for its highly professional standards and its patience in receiving this project. I also owe a debt to the Research and Evaluation Branch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for access to the data explored in this study. This study was originally commissioned by CIC and conducted through a contractual arrangement. I am responsible for the analysis and interpretations offered in this study and for any errors that may have been committed.

  1. In 2011 the National Household Survey replaced the long form portion of the Census of Canada. The long form census was mandatory and achieved a response level of approximately 96 percent. The Conservative government decided that a mandatory census that included detailed questions was too intrusive and mandated Statistics Canada to replace it with a voluntary format. The sample proportion for the NHS was raised to 33 percent, from the 20 percent used for the long form census, in an effort to enhance representativeness. However, the response rate fell to approximately 74 percent. Efforts were also made by Statistics Canada to address the potential for bias in NHS results. Nevertheless, most social scientists believe that individuals in vulnerable situations, as well as those without the capacity to communicate in an official language and those who are exceptionally wealthy are underrepresented in the NHS (see Hiebert 2014). For the purposes of this study, this would indicate that the degree of enclave development may be underestimated in the data used here, as well as the ratio of members of visible minority groups living in poverty. My personal view is that these issues are real but not sufficiently large to cast doubt on the basic conclusions reached in this study.
  2. The immigration category variable is based on a record linkage between the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) and the administrative Immigrant Landing File (ILF) of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The ILF includes immigrants who officially landed in Canada between 1980 and 2011. The process of linkage is based on exact matching techniques (full name, age and so on) that are precise but also incomplete. Approximately 20 percent of individuals indicating in the NHS that they immigrated to Canada between 1980 and 2011 could not be matched in this way. More specifically, the linkage rates for the three cities examined here are Montreal, 81.7 percent; Toronto, 81.0 percent; and Vancouver, 77.8 percent. In some of the tables in this study that show immigrants by their admission category, I have provided all the information possible, including immigrants landed in 1980 to 2011 in total, and immigrants landed in 1980 to 2011 who were linked between the NHS and ILF, plus the variety of admission classes available. In some cases I have abbreviated this information and provided only the total of linked immigrants and the main admission categories.
  3. Note that percentile figures in the table relate to the total population. In order to see the patterns described in the text, readers should scale the admission figures to the immigrant population for each city. Doing this, we see that 26 percent of the ‘linked’ 1980-2011 immigrants in Montreal were admitted through the family class, while the corresponding figures for Toronto and Vancouver, respectively, are 33 and 31 percent.
  4. Of course, this does not mean that individuals actually made these moves, only that the aggregate patterns of these groups evolved in this way.
  5. In this case I have presented just the proportion of each group that resides in the types 4 and 5 neighbourhood in each city. These data are derived from a special tabulation of the NHS that has been enhanced by a linkage with Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s record of immigrant landings (the ILF), and includes only individuals who are at least 18 years old. Therefore the figures on enclave location do not quite match those provided in tables 5 to 7. For example, according to table 5, 24.4 percent of the Filipino population of Montreal is located in enclave neighbourhoods, but the value for this group in table 8 is 22.6 percent. The former statistic includes children while the latter does not.
  6. Note that for this table percentages have been calculated by rows rather than columns; therefore, for example, the value of 21.5 for Buddhists in type 1 areas in Montreal means that 21.5 percent of the roughly 45,000 Buddhists in Montreal live in type 1 areas.
  7. This conclusion is based on a different statistical analysis, using the Index of Segregation measure; see Hiebert (2009c).
  8. I have access to cross-tabular data on ethnic origin and religion, but it is only tangentially relevant for this study. However, the data show a wide variety of religious affiliations among a number of visible minority groups in Toronto and Vancouver.
  9. Note that in these tables, the figures presented are column percentages. The figures in each row can be scaled against the value of the final column, which indicates the percentage of that category for the entire city.
  10. This figure is not shown in table 12, but it was calculated using the same procedure so it is directly comparable with the figures in the table.
  11. Cells are defined as concordant when the values of the two variables are in sync (low:low or high:high). When the number of observations in concordant cells is high and the number in discordant cells is low, the variables are positively associated; when the number of observations in discordant cells is high and the number in the concordant cells is low, the variables are negatively associated. When observations are equally distributed in concordant and discordant cells, there is no statistical relationship between the variables.
  12. It is beyond the scope of this study to delve more deeply into these outcomes, which would require a careful study of the relationship between immigration pathways, cultural groups, labour market integration and other relevant variables.
  13. The association between enclaves and time of landing is stronger in Toronto than Vancouver.
  14. Ethnic economies are situations where entrepreneurs in a group employ co-ethnics and specialize in particular industrial sectors; for example, Vietnamese immigrants in nail salons in New York City or Indian immigrants in the American hotel sector. See Light and Gold (2000).
  15. An Internet search with the terms “Canada stop immigration” revealed a number of websites advocating this view.
  16. The economic category includes both the principal applicant (PA), the person who was actually admitted to Canada based on his or her human capital, and those members of the family who accompanied the PA during the process of officially landing in Canada. Family members who may have been sponsored by the PA at a later date would be in the Family Class category.
  17. According to the federal Employment Equity Act (section 3), members of visible minorities are “persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour” ( In practice, the census visible minority category includes people of the following backgrounds: “Chinese, South Asian, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Southeast Asian, Arab, West Asian, Korean, Japanese, in addition to those who identify as being part of multiple groups on this list and those who identify as a part of a visible minority group not specified. Anyone not from one of these groups or anyone self-identifying as aboriginal is considered to be not a visible minority” (

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This publication was published as part of the Diversity, Immigration and Integration research program under the direction of F. Leslie Seidle. The manuscript was copy-edited by Amely Jurgenliemk and proofread by Barbara Czarnecki. Editorial coordination was by Francesca Worrall, production was by Chantal Létourneau and art direction was by Schumacher Design.

Daniel Hiebert is a professor of geography at the University of British Columbia who specializes in issues of public policy. His research interests focus on immigration policy, the integration of newcomers into the housing and labour markets of Canadian cities, and the consequences of the growing “super-diversity” of Canadian society.

To cite this document:
Hiebert, Daniel. 2015. Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. IRPP Study 52. Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Canada’s ethnic neighbourhoods are not ghettos, says study

Montreal – Canada’s ethnocultural neighbourhoods are not ghettos, according to a new study from the IRPP. As the rapid growth of enclaves in our largest cities continues to transform Canada’s social landscape, we should stop assuming that these neighbourhoods are problematic for the integration of new Canadians.

“In Canada, as in Europe, enclaves are often viewed as poor inner-city neighbourhoods, where members of minority groups are socially isolated and economically deprived. But when we take a look at the Canadian data, the picture that emerges is very different,” says immigration expert Daniel Hiebert.

Hiebert studies enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver – areas in which a specific group dominates the population of a neighbourhood. He observes that enclaves are often characterized by “profound ethnocultural diversity.” Moreover, enclaves are more common in suburban neighbourhoods, where residents have average, and in some cases high, levels of home ownership and education. “This contradicts any portrayal of enclaves as places of marked poverty and ethnic isolation,” he argues.

According to Hiebert, the growth of enclave neighbourhoods in Canadian metropolitan areas should be seen as an opportunity. “They provide economic assistance to their residents and an opportunity for intercultural engagement, especially for newcomers to Canada.”

In light of the significant changes in Canada’s urban fabric, he calls for municipal governments to have a greater voice in immigration and integration matters and for more attention to be paid to local processes and outcomes when evaluating national policies.

“We should dispense with the widely held assumption that enclaves are antithetical to economic and cultural integration,” he concludes.

Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver by Daniel Hiebert can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (


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