The sociology and language profile of Saanich confirm but also contradict larger national trends according to new census data from Statistics Canada released Wednesday.
Consider ethnic origin. Fifty-seven per cent of all Canadians (19.6 million) claim European origins, a figure that has been trending downward, as immigration patterns have shifted towards Asia, Africa, and the Americas. These changes, however, have not been as apparent in Saanich, where 73 per cent of residents (81,165) claim European origin.
While Saanich’s share of immigrants – 22.1 per cent – roughly matches the national share of 21.8 per cent (7.54 million), it diverges from the national picture when it comes to source regions. Whereas Europe accounted for about 27 per cent of immigrants to Canada, Europe accounted for 36 per cent of immigrants (8,945) to Saanich, as identified by place of birth.
This said, the local share of immigrants from Asia – 46.7 per cent (11,565) – almost matches the national share of 48 per cent (3.63 million). In fact, Saanich’s population share that qualifies as a visible minority – 22.1 per cent (24,750) – matches the national share of 22.2 per cent (7.67 million).
What accounts for these differences? Saanich draws fewer immigrants from the Americas and Africa than Canada as a whole. Whereas 15 per cent of all immigrants claim places of birth in the Americas – a geographic category that ranges from Brazil to the United States and includes the Caribbean – Saanich’s share is 12 per cent. Whereas eight per cent of all immigrants claim places of birth in Africa, Saanich’s share is four per cent. The Americas and Africa meanwhile are important sources of immigrants for eastern Canada. This suggests geography appears to be one factor.
History and culture also play a role. Seventeen per cent of Saanich’s immigrants identify the United Kingdom as their birthplace. Looking at the larger Victoria region with its long-standing ties to the United Kingdom, the figure rises to 25 per cent (17,630 out of 68,925). The national figure? Six per cent.
Saanich has also fewer Aboriginal peoples (three per cent) than Canada as a whole (just under five). But this population is growing. Since 2006, the Aboriginal population has grown by 42.5 per cent – more than four times the growth rate of the non-Aboriginal population over the same period. Higher fertility and changes to self-reported identification have contributed to this growth. According to population projections, the number of Aboriginal people will continue to grow quickly, says Statistics Canada, which predicts Canada’s Aboriginal population will likely exceed 2.5 million in the next two decades.
Turning to language, 97 per cent of Saanich residents (109,340) speak English as their first official language. French-first speakers total 1,325, English and French speakers total 380, while 1,825 residents speak neither English nor French. Looking at the mother tongue of individuals who gave a single response, 87,265 consider English their mother tongue, while 1,315 consider French their mother tongue.
Among the 22,315 Saanich residents who claim a single mother tongue other than English or French, Mandarin (3,605), Cantonese (3,290), Punjabi (2,615), German (1,355) and Tagalog (1,225) make up the top five, if larger language groups are excluded. This means about 20 per cent of Saanich claim a mother tongue other than English and French.
This language profile puts Saanich out of the step with the national picture when it comes to official languages (22 per cent claim French as their mother tongue), but in line when it comes to non-official languages, as 22.8 of all Canadians claim neither French nor English as their mother tongue.