Immigrant neighbourhoods emerging almost exclusively in suburbs, new research says

posted on September 6, 2018

By CBC News |

Ethnic neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Calgary are overwhelmingly emerging in the suburbs, with new immigrants choosing to live in areas where they can find the support and social networks of their home communities, according to a new study.

University of Alberta professor Sandeep Agrawal, who co-authored the study, described the neighbourhoods as “ethnic enclaves,” where one ethnic group dominates the residential population.

He also stressed that such neighbourhoods are different from ghettos.

“A ghetto is a neighbourhood or a place that is usually racked with poverty, blight, dilapidation, and where people have been forced to live because of poverty,” Agrawal said in an interview Wednesday on CBC’s Radio Active.

“I describe ethnic enclaves as concentrations by choice. People have moved there on their own volition and want to live in that neighbourhood partly because of what it offers to them. Maybe they want to live among their compatriots.”

In Edmonton, ethnic enclaves — where one ethnic groups makes up at least 25 per cent of the residential population — are mostly clustered in the city’s southeast and northeast sections.

Ethnic enclaves are emerging almost entirely in the suburbs, according to Agrawal’s research, which bucks previous trends when immigrant groups often settled in inner-city areas.

“The new immigrant groups, they settle directly in suburban areas. Mill Woods in Edmonton. In Calgary, you have the northeast.”

The study recently appeared in the Journal of International Migration and Integration.

Agrawal, who heads the university’s urban and regional planning program, said a Statistics Canada study in the 2000s used the presence of ethnic enclaves as “an indicator of social isolation.” Agrawal thought that was wrong.

“These are vibrant neighbourhoods. People come together in bonding and camaraderie. The narrative has changed. I would say ethnic enclaves are emblematic of multiculturalism in Canada.”

Agrawal started his research after noting that much of the research about ethnic neighbourhoods in Canada was focused on Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto — the cities where the vast majority of Canada’s new immigrants settle.

But between 2011 and 2016, Edmonton and Calgary together welcomed almost 14 per cent of recent immigrants to Canada.

In Edmonton, the south Asian population makes up more than 50 per cent of the population in the Laurel neighbourhood in southeast Edmonton. The German community makes up more than 25 per cent of the population in several northeast Edmonton neighbourhoods. Meanwhile, residents of Chinese descent now make up more than 25 per cent of the population in neighbourhoods such as Windsor Park and Bulyea Heights.

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