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Iranians in Canada By the Numbers


By Azim Ahmed, Salam Toronto

While the first Iranians arrived in Canada in the early part of the 20th century, it was not until the 1980's that there developed a significant Iranian-Canadian community.

This week, Salam Toronto delved into the numbers from Canada's 2006 Census, and found some interesting facts about the Iranian population in this country.

People with Iranian Ancestry
In the 2006 Census, 121,505 people reported Iranian ancestry, with 99,225 reporting Iranian as their only ancestry, and 22,280 as part Iranian. For people who reported part Iranian ancestry, this may include people who are not considered Iranian but have at least some ancestors who were from Iran.

This is a significant jump compared to five years earlier, the last Census, when 88,220 people gave Iranian as their response to the ethnic origin question. 73,450 of these were reported as Iranian only, and 14,770 as part Iranian.

However, Statistics Canada officials cautioned Salam Toronto against blindly comparing ethnic origin data between censuses because of their complex nature. For instance, some respondents may give very specific origin responses, while others may give more general answers (ie. Iranian compared to West Asian). Others may change their response from one Census to next based on changes in the self-perception of their ethnic ancestry.

Iranian Immigrants
Of the 121,505 who reported Iranian ancestry, 95,420 of them stated they were direct immigrants from Iran. This is compared to the 6,452,305 total population of immigrants across Canada.

Of the 95,420 Iranian immigrants, 27,600 arrived between 2001 and 2006, signaling a significant growth spurt of the Iranian population. Meanwhile, 24,665 arrived between 1996 and 2000, another 15,535 between 1991 and 1995, and 24,285 before 1991.

In regards to Toronto specifically, 46,255, are Iranian immigrants in the city and its area. It is important to note that these immigrants do not include children or other family members who were born in Canada, only those individuals that migrated from Iran themselves. 14,140 of those arrived between 2001 and 2006. 10,800 arrived in the city before 1991.

In Ontario, meanwhile (includes Toronto), 55,905 are Iranian immigrants. 16,555 of them arrived between 2001 and 2006, and 13,745 arrived before 1991.

Iranian Citizens in Canada
The number of Iranian citizens in Canada was reported as 47, 485, with 26, 965 of these reporting Iran as their only country of citizenship. The province of Ontario had 27,265 Iranian citizens, 15, 280 of which were listed as single citizenship. 22, 390 was the figure of Iranian citizens in the city of Toronto, with 12, 705 reporting Iran as their only country of citizenship.

The 2006 Statistics Canada Census listed 134,085 people who reported Persian as their mother tongue. Of these, 15,020 stated they could speak both French and English. 105,200 could speak English only, while 2,865 could speak French only.

A surprisingly high number of 10,995 reported that they could not speak either of Canada's two official languages (8.2% of Persian-speaking people). Not so surprisingly, however, close to half of these (4,805) are recent immigrants, who arrived in Canada between 2001 and 2006. For this latest five-year period, 41,145 people reported Persian as their mother tongue, meaning 11.67% of these newly arrived immigrants could not speak either of the official languages. For those that arrived in Canada before 1991, 3.62% could not speak English nor French. For the total population who reported Persian as their mother tongue, 8.2% could not speak English nor French.

If we look at Toronto, we see similar numbers. 63,980 reported Persian as their first language, 55,195 of them able to speak English, and 60 French. 3,515 could speak both languages, while 5,210 could speak neither English nor French. This shows 8.14% of the Persian-speaking (or those that reported it as their mother language) unable to speak either of the official languages of Canada, almost identical to the numbers of Canada as a whole. For those that arrived between 2001 and 2006, 2,145 could not speak either language, of the 19,275 in total, for a percentage of 11.12%, also nearly identical to Canada's numbers as a whole.

In addition, 80,335 people reported speaking Persian as their primary language at home. This shows that 66.1% of people who consider themselves of Iranian ancestry primarily speak Persian.

While these numbers only give us a glimpse at the scope of the Iranian community in Canada, they do provide an idea of how the community is growing, and how it fits into Canada. The high number of recent immigrants that do not speak either English or French is somewhat alarming, in both Toronto and Canada as a whole. Furthermore, with over 120,000 people reporting Iranian ancestry, this makes up only about 0.3% of the total Canadian population. However, this is a rapidly growing number, as arrivals since 2001 have escalated the growth. All in all, it gives us a snapshot of Iranian Canadians as of the 2006 Census, and may provide hints as to how it evolves going into the future.

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