The average Canadian couple is becoming more and more diverse, mirroring the trend across the population as a whole. According to a study by Statistics Canada released on April 20th, 3.9 per cent of all couples in Canada were of mixed race at the time of the last census in 2006. This represents an increase of 33 per cent in the last five years.
About 247,600 Canadian couples were comprised of one person who belonged to a visible minority group and another who was not, while 41,800 were comprised of two people who both belonged to visible minority groups.
While the number of mixed-race couples has increased, so has the overall number of members of visible minorities. Since 2001, the number of persons belonging to visible minorities in Canada has increased by 27 per cent. In 2006 they accounted for 5,068,100 members of the population, or 16 per cent.
Mixed-race couples shared several characteristics. They were on average of a higher socioeconomic standing than non-mixed couples, and they were on average more educated. 35 per cent of those in mixed-race couples had a university degree, compared with about 21 per cent among non-mixed couples. The median census family income was about $5000 higher for mixed-race couples than for non-mixed couples.
Certain cities had higher percentages of mixed-race couples than others. These cities were generally those with high visible minority populations to begin with. Vancouver and Toronto had the highest proportion of mixed-race couples with 8.5 per cent and 7.1 per cent, respectively. They also had the highest percentage of visible minority Canadians, with 40 per cent in Vancouver and 41 per cent in Toronto. Ottawa-Gatineau had a 5.4 per cent rate of mixed-race couples. Saguenay, Quebec was the urban centre with the lowest percentage of mixed-race couples, with 0.6 per cent.
The correlation between percentage of visible minority Canadians and percentage of mixed-race couples should not, however, be taken to mean that visible minorities who form less numerous communities in urban centres marry Caucasian Canadians less often. In fact, over 40 per cent of the small number of visible minority Canadians in Saguenay married outside their ethnic group. In Toronto, only 10.9 per cent of visible minority Canadians married outside their ethnic group.
Luisa Veronis, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Ottawa who specializes in immigration issues, said the StatsCan results could serve as a “wake-up call” for Canadians. She said this might be necessary in less urban areas where minorities can still face issues of intolerance. She said mixed-race marriages can be “a way for diversity to get into homes and families.” While this might be difficult at first for some, “down the road it could lead to more tolerance.”
Katherine Liston is the child of a mixed-race marriage from Ottawa. Her mother is a second-generation Indian-Canadian from Kelowna, while her father originates from Ottawa. “To be honest,” she said, “I never really noticed it at all growing up. There was just one time at Future Shop when the salesman didn’t believe that my dad really was my dad.”
Showing the impact of mixed-race unions on the Canadian cultural map, Crazy for Love, a Canadian reality TV series profiling interracial couples premiered in February.
With the replacement of the long form census by the new national household survey, there is no word on whether or not future statistics on mixed-race unions will be comparable with previous data. “I don’t have an answer yet for that one,” said Anne Milan, one of the authors of the StatsCan study. “We would like to. We’ll have to wait and see.”