Graeme McNaughton Guelph Mercury Monday, October 3, 2022
More and more immigrants will be calling Guelph home in the years and decades ahead.
According to data released in September by Statistics Canada, the number of first-generation immigrants in the area is expected to grow substantially through 2041, reaching approximately 60,000 people by then, representing growth of more than 60 per cent from what was seen in 2020.
Based on the data, immigration will drive the growth of Guelph’s population in the coming decades, with second-generation immigrants — those born in Canada but with at least one parent born outside the country — growing 27 per cent above 2020 numbers. Third-generation — those born in Canada, along with both parents — will see much slower growth, just 4.4 per cent.
However, that third-generation demographic will continue to be the largest group, sitting at approximately 95,000 people by 2041.
Nationally, Statistics Canada is forecasting immigrants and the children of immigrants will make up more than half of the expected 47.7 million people calling this country home in 2041. Immigration, the federal agency notes, is expected to continue to be the largest driver of Canada’s growth in the years ahead, following a trend that has been seen since the early 1990s.
"The portrait of the immigrant population has changed a great deal over the past 25 years, partly because of differences in the geographic origin of immigrants," a post on the Statistics Canada website adds.
"Considering these trends and the fact that population growth in the coming decades will depend primarily on international immigration, the Canadian population in 2041 is projected to include 9.9 million to 13.9 million people born in Asia or Africa, depending on the projection scenario."
While immigration is expected to continue to be a main driver of the city’s population growth, how people are coming from outside Canada to settle in Guelph has changed.
Sandra Cocco, the chief executive officer of Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington, says much has changed since she came to helm the organization in 2015, pointing to an increase in clients who are coming with refugee status.
“That’s obviously related to external geopolitical factors and events,” she told the Mercury Tribune.
“Since Guelph is rich in cultural diversity and has and continues to have an excellent, strong, and diverse economy, many cultural groups choose Guelph as a desirable point of destination.”
MAKING GUELPH HOME
Making the transition to becoming a Guelphite, Cocco notes, does not come without its complications, pointing to increased difficulty finding a family physician, high demand for English as a second language classes and, something many can attest to, difficulty finding appropriate housing.
Cocco points to what she called “immigrant friendly housing” — “by that I mean more housing that offers more than one or two bedrooms — as an ongoing issue."
“Newcomers typically have medium to large families,” she said.
“Housing projects don’t consider the composition of a newcomer family unit. We can’t just keep building one-bedroom apartments and think we are solving the homelessness problem. There’s a whole demographic suffering from being underhoused.”
According to data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the number of rental row house and apartment units with three or more bedrooms in the Guelph census metropolitan area — which also includes Puslinch and Guelph-Eramosa — is lower than what it was two decades ago, going from 1,015 in October 2001 to 846 in October 2021.
One-and two-bedroom units, on the other hand, have seen growth over the same span.
TALKING THE TALK
Anyone who has tried to learn another language can tell you it doesn't happen overnight — and even then, more often than not, you will not be nearly as proficient in it as the language you first learned to speak.
As previously reported by the Mercury Tribune, data from the 2021 census indicates approximately one in five Guelph residents have a mother tongue that is neither English or French, with more than 100 languages on the list of those first learned by the city's residents.
For new residents needing to speak with a doctor, Cocco says Immigration Services offers interpretation services. However, she noted, "that the province cut the funding stability for doctors to access interpretation services, so that doesn't help the situation when they finally do secure a doctor."
The City of Guelph is also taking steps to make its services more accessible to those who do not speak English as proficiently, recently moving an automated translation option to the top of the city’s website.
“The timing was motivated by a combination of work coming from the city’s five-year plan for strengthening communications and engagement at the city, especially related to equity and inclusion, and the launch of Welcoming Week,” Laura Mosseau, the city’s manager of strategic communications, said.
Mosseau added the languages currently available were determined based on information from the Guelph-Wellington Local Immigration Partnership. However, two of the most commonly spoken languages among new residents — Tigrinya, commonly spoken in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia; and Dari, a Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan — are not yet available.
“But as soon as these options become available, we will add them as well.”