Indo-Fijians, Filipinos and Romanians


Winnipeg: it’s a long way from the Philippines. Photo by Jezz

I’ve been pouring over the new 2006 census data on language and immigration released by Statistics Canada last week. Nationally, all of the attention is being paid to the fact that one-fifth of all Canadians are foreign-born, one of the highest rates in the world. Here in Montreal, the focus is on both a surge in immigration (especially from North Africa and China) and the changing linguistic makeup of the city.

Francophones — people whose mother tongue is French — are now a minority on Montreal Island, thanks mostly to high levels of immigration from non-francophone countries. The number of anglophones, meanwhile, has increased for the first time in 30 years. Arabic, Spanish and Chinese have become the fastest-growing non-official languages in Montreal.

But enough with the big picture news; it has already been dissected ad infinitum in the media. What interests me are some of the odd, surprising and overlooked trends in immigration that are having an impact on Canada’s cities.

Indo-Fijians in Vancouver

Looking through the census data, I wasn’t surprised to see that nearly 17 percent of Vancouver’s population now speaks a Chinese language, and I certainly wasn’t surprised to see that China and India were its top sources of immigrants. I was a bit surprised, however, to note that there are more than 17,200 immigrants from Fiji who live in Vancouver. Most of them arrived before 1991, but enough came between 2001 and 2006 (1,670) to make the tiny Pacific island Vancouver’s fifteenth-largest source of new immigrants, after Mexico and before Afghanistan.

People from Fiji have been immigrating to Canada since the 1960s and most of them have landed in Vancouver. The vast majority are Indo-Fijian and they have a distinct sense of cultural identity, not unlike other immigrants of Indian descent from countries like Guyana.

Filipinos in Winnipeg

Winnipeg is not normally a major draw for immigrants, yet it has become one of the principal centres of Filipino immigration to Canada. Winnipeg is home to Canada’s third-largest Filipino population despite being the eighth-largest city (even then, at 694,000 inhabitants, it has only a couple of thousand more people than Hamilton). 6,885 Filipino immigrants arrived in Winnipeg between 2001 and 2006, more than three times as many people as the city’s second-largest source of new immigrants, India. One-fifth of all immigrants in Winnipeg, or roughly 25,000 people, come from the Philippines.

The reason why so many Filipino immigrants settle in Winnipeg is obvious: friends and family who are already there. That’s the case for most immigrants across Canada, whatever their origin and wherever they choose to live. But what is especially notable is that Winnipeg has maintained such a large Filipino community despite continually losing people — both native- and foreign-born — to other provinces.

Romanians in Montreal

Another trend that really stands out is the upswing in Romanian immigration to Canada and, in particular, Montreal. Between 2001 and 2006, 11,970 immigrants from Romania came to Montreal, making the Eastern European country its fourth-largest source of immigrants, after China, Algeria and Morocco. Although Romanians have been coming to Montreal for nearly a century, this latest surge is unprecedented: nearly half of all Romanian immigrants living in Montreal arrived after 2001.

Strangely, though, there is little evidence of this influx in the streets. As far as I can tell, there is no Romanian neighbourhood in Montreal, not even any sort of Romanian commercial strip. Some would say that this is because Romanian immigrants, nearly all of whom speak French, are quick to integrate into francophone Quebec society. But that isn’t exactly the case, at least according to a strangely-titled Journal de Montréal article (“De nombreux Roumains parmi nous”—“There are many Romanians among us”). It suggests that recent Romanian immigrants face the same hurdles in finding employment as other new immigrants. A quick look at Montreal’s language statistics reveals that the vast majority of Montreal’s native Romanian speakers speak Romanian, not French, at home.

So what gives? Who are these new Romanian Montrealers and where do they live?

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Monday December 10 2007at 09:12 pm , filed under Canada, Demographics, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

5 Responses to “Indo-Fijians, Filipinos and Romanians”

  • Bruno says:

    Fascinating stats and info. I found the part about Indo-Fijians especially interesting — I had no idea this community exists there (I mean in Fiji). I’ve been reading up on it, and it kind of reminds me of the Chinese community in Tahiti (that’s where I’m from, although I’m of mixed European heritage). Much like Indians in Fiji, Chinese labourers were imported by the French in Tahiti to work in the sugarcane fields. However it never really took off and they were pretty much left stranded there. What’s interesting is that Chinese-Tahitians form a very tight-knit community — they come from a handful of families, almost all of Hakka language, originally from a very specific region somewhere north of HK. Although they like to claim their “pure Chinese” heritage, intermarriage has been high with the local Polynesian population, and nowadays about 30-40% of Tahitian people can claim some level of Chinese heritage (as a French territory we don’t have an ethnic census, but it’s a commonly accepted figure). From a language perspective, I believe it’s mostly still Hakka, but some Tahitian and French words have also entered it — I’d like to tell you more but not being part of the community I’m unfortunately not qualified to.

    Anyway, not to spam your blog but I thought you’d be interested to know that at least two Tahitian-Chinese people call Montreal home.

  • That’s very cool. There are so many tiny islands with such complex colonial legacies.

  • Kyle Snihur says:

    Winnipeg is a better place thanks to Immigration. The more Filipinos the better!

  • This is a great post. Nice blog you have here too!

  • trying to find fijians or indo-fijians living in montreal or laval who likes to talanoa and share some grog.I ve been living in laval Qc for eight months so just looking to catch up with some islanders.