Release and Concepts Overview
2016 Census of Population:
Immigration and ethnocultural diversity

Release date: August 31, 2017

1. Objectives

Census of Population release topics will be accompanied by their own Release and Concepts Overview and will be available from Statistics Canada’s website in advance of each release.

The purpose of the Release and Concepts Overview series is to provide an overview of:

  • the concepts, definitions and key indicators used by each of the major 2016 Census of Population releases

  • the products that will be available on each major day of release and later.

The Release and Concepts Overview series will help partners, stakeholders and other data users to better understand the information being released.

This Release and Concepts Overview is for the Immigration and ethnocultural diversity release which will be on October 25, 2017.

The information provided in this overview is subject to change.

2. Concepts and definitions: Immigration and ethnocultural diversity

Population universe

For the 2016 Census, the data on immigration and ethnocultural diversity are available for the population living in private households.

The population living in private households includes Canadian citizens, landed immigrants (or permanent residents) and the non-permanent residents having a usual place of residence in Canada.

The population living in private households excludes:

Immigration and ethnocultural diversity

  • Immigration and citizenship
    • Immigration status
    • Year, period and age at immigration
    • Admission category and applicant type (new)
    • Citizenship
  • Place of birth
    • Place of birth of person
    • Place of birth of parents
    • Generation status
  • Ethnic origin (ancestry)
  • Visible minority
  • Language

Immigration and citizenship

Immigration status

Immigrant status refers to whether the person is a non-immigrant, an immigrant or a non-permanent resident in Canada.

Note: For the 2016 Census, the immigrant population includes people having immigrated no later than May 10, 2016.

Year, period and age at immigration

The census compiles information on the year of immigration, but does not compile any on the year of arrival.

Single years of immigration can be collapsed to form the period of immigration of five or ten years. It allows us to identify recent immigrants.

Recent immigrant refers to a person who obtained a landed immigrant or permanent resident status up to five years prior to a given census year. In the 2016 Census, this period is January 1, 2011, to May 10, 2016.

Age at immigration is derived from the immigrant's date of birth and year of immigration.

Admission category and applicant type (new)

The four main admission category components are:

  • Economic immigrant
  • Immigrant sponsored by family
  • Refugee
  • Other immigrant

Economic immigrant includes immigrants who have been selected for their ability to contribute to Canada’s economy through their ability to meet labour market needs, to own and manage or to build a business, to make a substantial investment, to create their own employment or to meet specific provincial or territorial labour market needs.

Immigrant sponsored by family includes immigrants who were sponsored by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and were granted permanent resident status on the basis of their relationship either as the spouse, partner, parent, grandparent, child or other relative of this sponsor. The terms “family class” or “family reunification” are sometimes used to refer to this category.

Refugee includes immigrants who were granted permanent resident status on the basis of a well-founded fear of returning to their home country. This category includes persons who had a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in particular social group or for political opinion (Geneva Convention refugees) as well as persons who had been seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict, or have suffered a massive violation of human rights. Some refugees were in Canada when they applied for refugee protection for themselves and their family members (either with them in Canada or abroad). Others were abroad and were referred for resettlement to Canada by the United Nations Refugees Agency, another designated referral organization, or private sponsors.

Asylum seekers are persons who claimed refugee status upon or after their arrival to Canada, but had not been granted permanent resident status at the time of the census.  Asylum seekers are included in the non-permanent resident population and not in the immigrant population. 

Other immigrant includes immigrants who were granted permanent resident status under a program that does not fall in the economic immigrants, the immigrants sponsored by family or the refugee categories.

Applicant type refers to whether an immigrant was identified as the principal applicant, the spouse or the dependent on the application for permanent residence in Canada.

For the 2016 Census, information on admission category and the type of applicant are only available for immigrants who obtained their immigrant status or permanent resident status between 1980 and May 2016.


Citizenship refers to the country of citizenship of a person. A person may have more than one citizenship. A person may be stateless, that is, they may have no citizenship. Citizenship can be by birth or naturalization.

Naturalization refers to the process by which an immigrant is granted citizenship in Canada under the Citizenship Act. Only immigrants who have met certain criteria such as residency, language and other requirements are eligible for Canadian citizenship by naturalization.

The 2016 Census allows us to compare information on:

  • the number of Canadian citizens by birth;
  • the number of immigrants having received Canadian citizenship by naturalization;
  • the number of persons having multiple citizenship;
  • the number of persons by citizenship country;
  • the number of stateless persons.

Place of birth

Based on the place of birth of person and the place of birth of parents, it is possible to derive generation status.

Ethnic origin (ancestry)

Note: A person may have reported a single ethnic origin or multiple ethnic origins. In the 2016 Census, up to six ethnic origins by person were retained.

Visible minority


Many linguistic concepts were released on August 2, 2017, such as mother tongue, home language, knowledge of official languages and first official language spoken.

On October 25, 2017, the knowledge of non-official languages concept will be released. It refers to whether the person can conduct a conversation in a language other than English or French.


In addition to making data available for Canada, the following other levels of geography will be available:

  1. Province or territory
  2. Census metropolitan area (CMA)
  3. Census agglomeration (CA)
  4. Census division (CD)
  5. Census subdivision (CSD)
  6. Census tract (CT)
  7. Population centre (POPCTR)
  8. Statistical Area Classification (SAC)
  9. Federal electoral district (FED)
  10. Economic region (ER)
  11. Forward sortation area (FSA)
  12. Designated place (DPL)
  13. Aggregate dissemination area (ADA) (new!)
  14. Dissemination area (DA)

3. Key indicators

Key indicators for groups of persons

Examples of groups or persons:

  • Immigrant population
  • Recent immigrant (arrived in the last five years)
  • Economic immigrants, immigrants sponsored by family, refugees
  • Visible minority groups

Key indicators:

  • Recent immigrant population (in number)
    • Example: In 2011, there were 381,700 recent immigrants in the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA).
  • Distribution (in percentage) of groups or persons
    • Example: Among the recent immigrants to Canada in 2011, 32.8% lived in the Toronto CMA.
  • Proportion (percentage) of the population in a geographic area that is part of the population interest group.
    • Example: In 2011, recent immigrants accounted for 6.9% of the population of the Toronto CMA.

Key indicators from the responses to the ethnic origin

Since up to six ethnic origins per person could be retained for the 2016 Census, statistics on ethnic origins are usually analyzed using response individually.

The total number of responses for a specific ethnic origin

The total number of responses reflects the number of persons who reported a specific ethnic origin either as their only ethnic origin or with at least one other ethnic origin.

  • Example: In 2011, 4,714,970 people reported Scottish as an ethnic origin, either alone or in combination with other ethnic origins.

Distribution (in number and percentage) of specific ethnic origin by unique or multiple response indicator

  • Example: Of the 4.7 million persons who reported Scottish as an ethnic origin in 2011, 11.5% reported that origin as their only ethnic origin. The remaining 88.5% reported it in combination with at least one other ethnic origin.

Since respondents could provide multiple responses, the number of responses on ethnic origins is greater than the total population.

4. Products and activities available with this release

The following products will be available with the Immigration and ethnocultural diversity release on October 25, 2017:

  • Analytical products
    • The Daily article
    • Census in Brief
    • Video
    • Infographics
  • Data products
    • Highlight tables
    • Data tables
    • Census Profile
    • Focus on Geography Series
  • Geography product
    • GeoSearch

  • Reference products
    • Release and concepts overview series
    • Guide to the Census of Population, 2016
    • Census Dictionary
    • Reference guides (various topics)
  • Social media
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • YouTube
    • Chat with an expert (on October 27, 2017)

The following provides additional details on some key products to be available at the time of the immigration and ethnocultural release. Together, they will provide main findings, important messages, latest trends and additional background information.

  • The Daily article: Will include the main census results on immigration at the national, provincial and territorial levels, and subprovincial geographies.

  • Census in Brief: Three short articles will provide analysis focusing on challenges that are relevant from a public policy perspective:

    • Children with an immigrant background: Bridging cultures
    • Linguistic integration of immigrants and official language populations in Canada
    • Ethnic and cultural origins of Canadians: Portrait of a rich heritage

  • Video: This video shows a historical perspective of changes in source countries of immigration and the location patterns on immigrants in Canada.

  • Infographics: Two infographics will allow users to quickly visualize some key findings from the 2016 Census, including immigration, recent immigrants and different admission categories.

  • Highlight tables: They present focused information for various levels of geography. These tables allow users to perform simple rank and sort functions and include percentage distributions and percentage changes from previous censuses to facilitate comparisons between years, and different geographic areas.

  • Data tables: These cross-tabulations allow for a more detailed examination of Canada, by comparing up to eight variables across various levels of geography.

  • Census Profile: This product provides key statistics about the dwellings and the people living there. Users are able to select a standard geographic area and compare two geographic areas. They can search by place name or postal code for an area of interest as large as Canada or as small as a grouping of city blocks.

  • Focus on Geography Series: This product presents highlights through short text, tables and figures for various release topics and levels of geography, including Canada, provinces and territories, census metropolitan areas (CMAs), census agglomerations (CAs) and Canadian municipalities (census subdivisions).

  • Reference Guides: These guides explain the census concepts and changes made for the 2016 Census. They also include information about data quality and historical comparability, as well as comparisons with other data sources.

    There are three reference guides for the topic of Immigration and ethnocultural diversity:

    • Visible Minority and Population Group Reference Guide
    • Ethnic Origin Reference Guide
    • Place of Birth, Generation Status, Citizenship and Immigration Reference Guide
  • Guide to the Census of Population, 2016: This reference document provides an overview of the 2016 Census of Population processes including, for example, content determination, collection, processing, data quality assessment and data dissemination. It also includes response rates, global non-response rates, the distribution of the number of census subdivisions for which data have been published by province and territory and at the national level, as well as other data quality information.

    The majority of the content was released with the Population and dwelling counts release. Additional content will be added with subsequent releases.

  • Census Dictionary: This provides detailed definitions of census concepts, variables and geographic terms, as well as historical information to facilitate the comparison between census years. Content is released cumulatively through to November 2017, with the majority of the definitions released on May 3, 2017.

Social media activities with this release

  • Facebook, Twitter and YouTube: The official social media accounts will also be used to communicate and engage with the public for the 2016 Census of Population dissemination of results.

  • Chat with an expert: Users are invited to chat with Statistics Canada experts on the topic of Immigration and ethnocultural diversity on October 27, 2017, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., Eastern time. For more information, refer to Statistics Canada’s website: Chat with an expert.

5. Products available after release

The following products will be available with later releases:

Analytical products

  • Articles in Insights on Canadian Society (ICS)
  • Data visualization tool. More information about this initiative will be made available during the release cycle.

Data products

  • Additional data tables at various levels of geography
  • 2016 Census Aboriginal Population Profile
  • 2016 Census Individuals Public Use Microdata File (PUMF)
  • 2016 Census Hierarchical Public Use Microdata File (PUMF)
  • 2016 Census Long-form Research Data Centre (RDC) Microdata File

Reference products

  • Reference guides (various topics)
  • Technical reports

6. 2016 Census Program web module

To access the 2016 Census of Population products, please consult the 2016 Census Program web module.

7. 2016 Census Program release schedule

Release dates, 2016 Census Program
Release date Release topic
November 16, 2016 Geography
February 8, 2017 Population and dwelling counts
May 3, 2017

Age and sex

Type of dwelling

May 10, 2017 Census of Agriculture

August 2, 2017

Families, households and marital status


September 13, 2017 Income
October 25, 2017

Immigration and ethnocultural diversity


Aboriginal peoples

November 29, 2017



Journey to work

Language of work

Mobility and migration

8. Contact information

General enquiries

Media Relations – Media Hotline

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