Torontonians often boast about their multiculturalism. It’s enshrined in the City of Toronto’s official motto – “Diversity Our Strength” – and observers from Anthony Bourdain to Amazon have highlighted Toronto’s unique advantage in having so many people here from diverse cultures and backgrounds. BBC Radio in 2016 even crowned Toronto as the most multicultural city in the world, after London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan offered up his own city for the title.
A bold claim, to be sure. New York, London, Sydney, Los Angeles – not to mention cities like Singapore, Jerusalem, São Paulo and Mumbai that have multiple, distinct cultural and ethnic communities – are all exceptionally vibrant, diverse places. But the Toronto Region’s diversity still stands apart in a number of ways.
For one thing, the proportion of our population that’s foreign born remains higher than just about any major city in the world. In the City of Toronto, 51% of residents were not born in Canada and for the Toronto Region as a whole, that figure is 47%. This is higher than any other metro region in North America, and higher than Greater London, Sydney, Melbourne, Paris, and Amsterdam (see figure below). The only North American cities with higher foreign born rates than Toronto are the Cities of Miami and Miami Beach. Yet unlike the Toronto Region, where just about every corner of the world is represented, more than three quarters of immigrants in Miami hail from Latin America.
Source: Statistics Canada, Census 2016; U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2016; Eurostat; UK Office for National Statistics; Australian Bureau of Statistics
Over 250 ethnicities and 170 languages are represented in the Toronto Region, and roughly half the population identifies as a visible minority (defined as either Asian, Black, Latin American, or Arab). There are 16 countries that have over 50,000 people represented in the Toronto Region, including 337,000 from India, 300,000 from China, and 200,000 from the Philippines. To put this in perspective, there are more people in the Toronto Region that were born in Asia than there are living in the Cities of San Francisco or Dallas. There are nearly twice as many people living in the Toronto Region that were born in Greece than there are living in Santorini.
Source: Statistics Canada, Census 2016
But the numbers only tell part of the story. Spend a bit of time in the Toronto Region and you’ll quickly realize that our multiculturalism is woven into every aspect of our way of life, whether it’s our food, our art, our festivals, or our businesses.
Torontonians – and Canadians as a whole – value and celebrate diversity like few other places on the planet. As Yung Wu, CEO of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District put it, “Canadians are wired differently. We embrace difference differently. We assimilate differently. We approach change differently.”
The Martin Prosperity Institute ranked Canada fourth overall and first on Tolerance in its Global Creativity Index, citing Canada’s openness to ethnic and religious minorities and promotion of LGBTQ rights. The index assesses 139 countries around the world based on three dimensions of creative competiveness: technology, talent and tolerance.
Our relative strength on all three categories (Canada is also the most educated country in the OECD) is proving to be a pivotal asset in today’s economy. Access to talent – especially a broad array of skills and perspectives that can help boost innovation – is something all globally competitive companies are looking to leverage. When Booking.com, a world leader in online reservations, was looking for a new office in North America, they settled on Toronto in great part because of its multilingual population. From Toronto, they’re able to provide service in English, French, Arabic, Mandarin, Brazilian Portuguese, and Russian. The Toronto Region has also become a top destination for clinical trials because of our large, multiracial and multiethnic population, providing an exceptionally diverse subject pool.
Whether you’re looking to work, study, play, or create, the Toronto Region allows you to connect to people, places, and ideas from around the world in incredible ways. It makes this one of the most interesting places to live and it helps our businesses grow and thrive. Our region is able to hold onto more of our talent because, simply put, they’re able to find themselves here.
Most multicultural city in the world? Yeah, we’ll take it.