December 6, 2007 / 3:05 AM / 10 years ago

Canada's foreign-born population at 75-year peak

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<p>Haze and smog obscure the Toronto skyline and waterfront May 10, 2007. One in five people in Canada last year was born in another country, the highest proportion since the 1930s, according to a census released on Tuesday.J.P. Moczulski</p>

OTTAWA (Reuters) - One in five people in Canada last year was born in another country, the highest proportion since the 1930s, according to census data released on Tuesday.

The foreign-born population grew four times faster than the Canadian-born population between 2001 and 2006, as an estimated 1.1 million immigrants made the country their home, Statistics Canada said.

Only one-fifth of those newcomers spoke either English or French, Canada's two official languages.

Chinese languages were the third most common mother tongue, after English and French.

The report was one of a series on different aspects of the 2006 census, which Statscan is releasing piecemeal throughout this year and next. It contained data only on immigration, citizenship, language, mobility and migration.

Canada, which prides itself on its multiculturalism, is one of the few countries that actively promotes immigration and is taking steps to fast-track visa approvals for foreign workers in targeted trades and professions.

The majority of newcomers -- 58 percent -- came from Asia including the Middle East, little changed from 2001, but up significantly from about 12 percent in 1971.

Those born in Europe, which used to be the main source of immigration, were the second largest group, making up 16 percent of the total, down from 62 percent in 1971.

Significant non-European immigration meant that, for the first time, seven out of ten immigrants reported a mother tongue other than English or French.

After Chinese, the most common foreign languages spoken in Canadian homes were Italian, Punjabi, Spanish, German, Tagalog and Arabic.

Anglophones, with English as their mother tongue, remained a majority, accounting for 57.8 percent of the total population, compared with 59.1 percent in 2001. Francophones represented 22.9 percent.

The influx of immigrants is the main reason Canada had the highest population growth rate among the Group of Eight industrialized nations in 2001 to 2006, Statscan has said previously. By 2030, immigration could account for all the population growth.

Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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