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Immigration has made Canadian cities more culturally diverse and socially complex. Due to their multi-ethnic composition, Canadians are proud to call their country a melting pot of nations. However, in metropolitan cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, residential ethnic segregation seems to be more and more prevalent. The Greater Vancouver Area is comprised of various cities such as Burnaby, Richmond and Port Coquitlam. Although Vancouver as a city is racially diverse, certain areas and neighbourhoods appear to be dominantly populated by people from the same ethnic background, resulting in a noticeable degree of ethnic segregation.

For example, the city of Richmond is home to a noticeably large population of Chinese-Canadians and Chinese immigrants. Some areas of the East Side of Vancouver have dominantly East Indian-Canadian neighbourhoods. There are a large number of Filipino-Canadians living in Port Coquitlam. The segregation of ethnic groups in these cities is primarily voluntary. The Canadian government has not legislated that people from certain ethnic backgrounds be legally required to live in specific areas. To do so would be a gross infringement of human rights.

The segregation can be partially attributed to the fact that new immigrants prefer to live in communities where they can be close to people who share the same or similar cultural and national origins. This because their fellow immigrants are often willing to share their experiences with the newcomers. They offer helpful advice regarding everything from citizenship applications and schools for the children. Ethnic restaurants, bakeries, groceries and professional’s services are landmarks in such neighbourhoods.

For example, Richmond is home to several popular Chinese restaurants and grocery stores that sell imported food from China. Richmond also has several malls which are modelled after malls in Hong Kong that contain Karaoke clubs and other forms of entertainment which are very popular in China. Common religious backgrounds and native languages are also factors that motivate people to move to such neighbourhoods. Immigrants and naturalized citizens are not forced to live in such areas, but often choose to live in such communities to be close to these reminders of their native countries.

Another factor that affects the decisions of people to live in neighbourhoods with high ethnic concentrations is the geographic location of the work available to immigrants and minorities in each city. Many new immigrants are limited in their choice of employment by their lack of qualifications or basic grasp of the English language. Owing to the fact that the only jobs available to these people tend to be located in certain areas, ethnic neighbourhoods form as these people choose to live near their places of employment.

However, this is not always the case, as some people choose to live in areas far from the vicinity of their work. Because of this, ethnic communities that are formed due to the existence of available jobs in a specific area can be considered to be voluntarily formed. While the formation of the ethnic concentration in these neighbourhoods seems to be primarily a matter of voluntary segregation, it must not be forgotten that other factors leave people with no other choice but to live in ethnically segregated areas.

One glaring example is the existence of reservations for the First Nations People. Since the colonization of Canada, First Nations people have been induced to live on reservations. The history of British Columbia abounds with instances of the government’s relocation of First Nations people to reservations. Among these Indian bands are the Salish, and the Songhees. The Indians of the Stulguate Reserve on northern Vancouver Island were ordered to move because the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs said their land was too remote for government administration.

Despite the fact that such government actions were made several years ago, the continuation of the segregation of the First Nations living on reserves cannot be considered as voluntary acts. Statistics reflect the failures of the Canadian government’s policy failures with regard to the First Nations people. Though many First Nations would prefer to move out of these reserves, lack the educational qualifications, employment and resources which would enable them to do so. Such people have no choice but to remain on the reservations.

It must be remembered that voluntary or involuntary racial segregation is but a function of a primal survival instinct of all human beings. The need to associate with familiar beings is a social function that is necessary for human survival. As such, the difficulty of deciding whether or not an action is voluntary or involuntary can be quite challenging. There are different things that must be taken into consideration such as availability of sources of livelihood and cultural similarities. Transplanting one’s self into a new country can be quite the task and the challenge lies in being able to adapt as soon as possible.

This is the main driving force behind the actions of these races. The current segregation of ethnic groups in Canadian Cities is largely the result of the preferences of the people living in such areas. As previously mentioned, the survival instincts that are inherent in every human being can sometimes motivate these decisions to relocate or choose to live in neighbourhoods with high ethnic concentrations. While the result may be that there is a voluntary movement towards these communities, the main cause could be a mixture of voluntary and involuntary factors.

The important thing to determine, however, is not so much the cause of such but rather the effect that it has on the decision of other like minded individuals.


Ray, Brian . “A description of the ethnic segregation/mixing within major Canadian metropolitan areas project. ” 15 Apr. 2009 <http://www. cic. gc. ca/ENGLISH/resources/research/ethnic-segregation/index. asp#toc>. DuCharme, Michele. “The Segregation of Native People in Canada. ” www. tgmag. ca. 15 Apr. 2009 <http://www. tgmag. ca/Magic/mt3. html>.

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