Why map ethnic enclaves in Metro Vancouver?

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The Sun has taken on the tricky task of mapping Vancouver’s visible minority, ethnic and aboriginal groups based on Census Canada data. Metro Vancouver currently has a population of 2.2 million residents and a high level of immigration with approximately 40,000 immigrants arriving and settling each year. The purpose of The Vancouver Sun’s investigation is to determine if high-immigration settlement patterns are developing into a series of enclaves. In other words, do people of the same ethnicity or ancestry prefer to live near one another?

The topic is bound to be inflammatory for a few reasons.

The first reason is the definition of a visible minority and an ethnic group. The Sun is using Census Canada’s 2006 guidelines where a visible minority in Canada is defined as someone who is not white. “That means, in this country, people of Chinese, South Asian, Filipino or South Korean origin, for instance, are considered visible minorities. But Norwegians are not.” The Sun acknowledges that this definition may have outlived is usefulness (in some neighbourhoods here whites are the visible minority) while using it nonetheless. They report that visible minorities made up 42 per cent of all metro residents in 2006 explaining, “That proportion is expected to have grown significantly by 2011, for which another census update is underway.”

The second problem is a person can report to be a member of only one visible-minority group, say Vietnamese. But whites — whether of English, Scottish, Dutch, French, Italian or any ethnic origin — can claim multiple ethnic origins and many do. Meanwhile, “aboriginal” is a separate category–they didn’t say why.

The Sun started by mapping Chinese, South Asian, Filipino and English groups. Then they moved on to this list of 18 additional visible minority, ethnic and aboriginal groups.

The third issue to note is that The Vancouver Sun did not include ethnic groups or visible minorities under 25,000, because they make up less than one per cent of the population of 2.2 million. Readers have already complained because they didn’t map the Greeks in Kitsilano, for example, because there are only 15,000. They did map the Danes in Kitsilano, noting that one portion of  Kitsilano, bordered by W. 4th Avenue, Broadway, Maple and Trafalgar, is more than four-per-cent Danish — built up by immigrants who arrived after the Second World War.

Not all of the groups of more than 25,000 were included in mapping either–like Americans, who make up 27,000 of the Vancouver’s 2.2 million.

As a half-Iranian, half-American (mixed European ancestry) I pose a mapping challenge, so I can confidently say that the results do not include me.

What are your thoughts on ethnic mapping? It is useful? If so, why? If not, what would be useful?

Last modified: October 23, 2011

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