Torontonians and 905ers often boast about their multiculturalism, so in 2019, we took it upon ourselves to back up this claim with some facts. Now over four years – and some pretty world-changing events – later, we wanted to take another look at the stats and prove once again that the Toronto Region is home to the most diverse population in the world.
Our commitment to multiculturalism is enshrined in the City of Toronto’s official motto: “Diversity, Our Strength.” Observers from renowned chef Anthony Bourdain to Amazon have highlighted the Toronto Region’s unique advantage in having so many people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. BBC Radio even crowned Toronto as the most multicultural city in the world in 2016 after London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan offered up his city for the title.
A bold claim, to be sure. New York, London, Sydney, and Los Angeles – not to mention cities like Singapore, Jerusalem, São Paulo and Mumbai with multiple, distinct cultural and ethnic communities – are all exceptionally vibrant, diverse places. But the Toronto Region’s diversity still stands apart in several ways.
For one thing, the proportion of Toronto’s foreign-born population remains higher than just about any major city worldwide. In the Toronto Region, half of the population were not born in Canada. This is higher than any other North American metro region and greater than London, Sydney, Melbourne, Paris, and Amsterdam. Compared to other Canadian cities, Toronto consistently ranks far beyond in terms of ethnic diversity – only Vancouver comes close.
More than 128,000 new permanent residents came to the City of Toronto in 2022, making up 30 percent of Canada’s newcomer total. Montreal, which welcomed the second-largest number of newcomers, had nearly 53,000 – less than half the number of people who moved to Toronto.
Over 250 ethnicities and 190 languages are represented in the Toronto Region – in addition to English and French, the official languages of Canada, one can hear a myriad of languages such as Mandarin, Punjabi, Tagalog, Urdu, Tamil, and many more. Roughly half the population identifies as a visible minority.
Embracing Multiculturalism in the Toronto Region
But the numbers only tell part of the story. Spend some 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, art, festivals, or businesses.
The Toronto Region is home to numerous neighbourhoods that represent different ethnic communities. From Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown and Little India in Toronto to communities like Markham and Brampton in the 905, these vibrant enclaves preserve and promote their cultural identities, offering a taste of their respective cuisines, traditions, and languages. Exploring these neighbourhoods provides a glimpse into the multicultural tapestry of the city.
The Toronto Region hosts many cultural festivals annually, showcasing different communities’ traditions, music, art, and cuisine. The City of Toronto hosts the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Taste of the Middle East, Taste of Italy, the Toronto International Film Festival and more. Outside of Toronto, Markham hosts the Taste of Asia – the largest Asian Festival in Canada – and Brampton hosts the Carabram Festival and Mississauga will hold the annual Japan Festival Canada in August this year.
These events highlight the city’s multicultural heritage and offer residents and visitors a chance to experience a global array of cultures. At these festivals, one can sample an extensive array of international cuisines. From Thai to Ethiopian, Korean to Lebanese, a vast range of dining options cater to diverse tastes and preferences.
Multiculturalism is also a driving force in the Toronto Region’s business ecosystem. From a diverse workforce and multilingual customer service to international trade and cultural entrepreneurship, businesses in the region actively embrace and leverage the opportunities its multicultural population presents. Companies who expand here view the region’s multiculturalism as an asset, recognizing the value of diverse perspectives, experiences and cultural backgrounds.
The Toronto Region’s inclusive policies foster a sense of belonging and ensure equal opportunities for all its residents. The region takes steps forward by actively promoting diversity and tackling discrimination through legislation and initiatives. Inclusive policies address issues such as employment equity, 2SLGBTQ+ rights, accessibility, and immigrant integration. The Toronto Region’s commitment to inclusivity is reflected in programs that support marginalized communities, provide language services, and create safe spaces for diverse populations. These policies promote social cohesion, empower individuals, and contribute to making the Toronto Region a welcoming and inclusive city.
Residents in the Toronto Region – and Canadians as a whole – value and celebrate diversity like few other places on the planet. As the CEO of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, Yung Wu, said, “Canadians are wired differently. We embrace difference differently. We assimilate differently. We approach change differently.”
Toronto is home to Canada’s largest 2SLGBTQ+ population and was ranked the third most 2SLGBTQ-friendly city in the world by Nestpick after Madrid and Amsterdam when considering factors such as Dating, Nightlife, Openness in the City, Safety, and 2SLGBTQ+ Rights.
Expanding in the Most Diverse City in the World
Our strength in technology, talent, and tolerance (Canada is also the most educated country in the OECD) is proving to be a pivotal asset in today’s economy. The region is home to leading industries such as finance, technology, healthcare, education, and entertainment. These sectors provide a solid foundation for investment opportunities, offering stability and growth potential.
The City of Toronto’s financial district, for instance, is the second largest in North America, attracting domestic and international investors seeking opportunities in banking, fintech, and investment management.
In recent years, Toronto has witnessed significant growth in its technology sector. The city has become a hotbed for tech startups and innovation hubs, fostering advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and more.
Companies in the Toronto Region’s tech scene benefit from the region’s multicultural talent pool and government support, incubators, and accelerators that nurture entrepreneurship and provide access to funding.
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 MIKADO International, an award-winning, minority and women-led global marketing and advertising agency, was looking for a new office in North America, they chose Toronto because of its multicultural population. From our region, MIKADO can hire team members that can service customers in a wide variety of languages. 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.
The Toronto Region’s multiculturalism creates unique opportunities for businesses. The city’s diverse population brings together a wealth of perspectives, skills, and ideas from around the globe. This diversity fuels innovation and fosters a dynamic business environment. Investors can tap into a vast talent pool and expertise, making Toronto an ideal place to launch startups, expand existing businesses, or invest in emerging sectors.
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 helps our businesses grow and thrive. Our region can hold onto more of our talent because, simply put, they can find themselves here.
Most multicultural city in the world? Yeah, we’ll take it.
Article co-authored with Ashleigh Ryan