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Visible Minorities


Proportion of the population classified as a visible minority.

Why This Matters

Data on Canada’s visible minority population are used by governments, businesses, community groups, health care providers, researchers and a variety of organizations to ensure equal opportunity for everyone. Data on the visible minority population can be used by employers to compare the characteristics of their workforce with the characteristics of the population who live in the same area. It also encourages us to implement more diverse, inclusive and welcoming practices in order to ensure belonging for everyone in our communities.

Measurement and Limitations

The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as ‘persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.’ Categories in the visible minority variable include South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean, Japanese, Visible minority, n.i.e. (‘n.i.e.’ means ‘not included elsewhere’), Multiple visible minorities and Not a visible minority.

In Peterborough (CMA), 4.8% of the population was classified as a visible minority in 2016, up 2.1 percentage points from 2001, where the provincial average was 29.3%. Furthermore, the most common mother tongue languages, other than English and French, were identified as Chinese (580 people), Spanish (350 people) and Arabic (275 people).

The 2016 census shows 7.7 million Canadians belong to a visible minority – representing 22.3% of the population and projected to rise to approximately one-third of the total population by 2036.

Statistics Canada recently received criticism from the United Nations and other groups for using the term “visible minority.” The term, which gained traction more than 30 years ago with the implementation of the federal Employment Equity Act, is now seen by some as offensive or not accurately reflective of how they perceive themselves in their respective communities. Indeed, in some places across the country visible minorities are no longer a minority. The term “visible minorities” can imply that people are being categorized into homogeneous groups with similar characteristics and needs, which limits the implementation of inclusive, ethnocultural and racially diverse policies.

Data Source

Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of the Population

Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey

Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of the Population

Statistics Canada, 2001 Census of the Population

Last update: April 2019. Source is updated each census cycle (every 5 years).

For more information on the visible minority variable, including information on its classification, the questions from which it is derived, data quality and its comparability with other sources of data, please refer to the Visible Minority and Population Group Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2016.


StatsCan looks to modernize decades-old term ‘visible minority’ when measuring diversity. Retrieved from

21.9% of Canadians are immigrants, the highest share in 85 years: StatsCan. Retrieved from


Visible Minorities in the Sustainable Development Goals

Click on the SDG to reveal more information