One out of two Vancouverites is now foreign-born

Vancouver was once considered a “European” city. Now it’s more accurate to call it “Eurasian.”

In less than two generations, Vancouver has transformed from a city dominated by people of British, German and Italian origin to one in which people of Asian heritage make up the majority.

The demographic changes in this city of more than half a million people are most readily seen in the hundreds of restaurants serving Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Japanese, Arabic, Afghan, Malaysian and Korean food. But the changes go much deeper.

Since the early 1970s -after Canadian immigration laws made the country more open to Asians and multicultural policies were instituted -the city has developed a whole new personality, one that’s attempting, in fits and starts, to fuse Atlantic and Pacific cultures.

Statistics compiled by Vancouver city hall tell the story of the new Asian wave.

In 1971, three out of four of the city’s 426,000 residents had English as their mother tongue.

Just six per cent of residents had Chinese as their mother tongue, while five per cent spoke German, three per cent grew up speaking Italian and three per cent were raised in French. In addition, people who were most familiar with a Scandinavian, South Asian, Greek or Spanish language accounted for about one per cent each of the population.

By 2006, the city’s European atmosphere had been dramatically adjusted by new Asian immigrants fluent in everything from Mandarin to Korean, Hindi to Farsi.

Only 49 per cent of the growing city’s 578,000 residents had English as a mother tongue, according to the 2006 census, which is the last year for which Statistics Canada census figures are available.

Meanwhile, 21 per cent reported that one of the various forms of Chinese was their first language. Another two per cent of Vancouverites said they had Punjabi as a mother tongue, while almost two per cent spoke Vietnamese at home, almost two per cent spoke Tagalog (Filipino) and roughly one per cent each were most familiar with Korean or Japanese.

Given the tens of thousands of immigrants from Asia who have moved into the city of Vancouver since 2006, the East Asian and South Asian percentages of the population only will have risen since the last census.

How are Vancouver’s eclectic European and Asian-rooted residents getting along in this city, which has grown by more than 100,000 since the 1970s? Harmony is not entirely supreme among Vancouverites of different ethnicities.

To get around the problem of under-employment for foreigntrained medical workers, engineers, botanists and other specialists, the City of Vancouver has initiated the Mentorship Pilot Project. It aims to link newcomers to the city’s formal and informal employment networks.

If one had any doubt, consider that the non-English links on the City of Vancouver’s official website now receive more hits than almost anything else.

Source: Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun

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