The Canadian Arab Community in Ottawa-Gatineau

The 9th in a series analyzing the 2011 census data released by Statistics Canada, this report shows the profile of the Canadian Arab population residing in Ottawa-Gatineau.

By Ghina Dajani, CAI Research Fellow

Published: Jan 2016

Ottawa-Gatineau’s Canadian Arab community – a visible minority

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Ottawa-Gatineau’s Canadian Arab community is the third largest population gathering of Canadian Arabs in a Canadian city, accounting for 10% of the total population of Canadian Arabs in Canada (72,960 of 750,925 Canadian Arabs). Furthermore, the Canadian Arab community constitutes 6% of the total population in Ottawa-Gatineau.

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Among the self-identified Arab ethnicities in Ottawa-Gatineau, the Lebanese and Somali communities represent the largest demographics (at 36% and 12% of the Arab population respectively), and the Algerian and Berber communities represent the smallest numbers (at 2% each).

Religion, Marital Status, and Family Status of Ottawa-Gatineau’s Canadian Arab community

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When it comes to religious affiliation, the make-up of the Canadian Arab community in Ottawa-Gatineau reflects the community’s national trend – with those of the Muslim faith constituting a majority (59%) followed by Christians (34%).

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The Canadian Arab community in Ottawa-Gatineau falls within a similar break-down of marital status as that of the national Canadian Arab community, and is also quite similar to the city’s general marital status profile.

Marital status in the Canadian Arab community in comparison with the general population in Ottawa-Gatineau is relatively similar, where married and not separated couples in the Canadian Arab community constituting 48% and in Ottawa-Gatineau’s general population 46%. On the other hand, common-law partners account for a higher percentage of the general population of Ottawa-Gatineau (12%) than they do within the Canadian Arab community (3%). The rate of divorce falls slightly lower within the Canadian Arab community (5%) than in the general population of Toronto (6%). The percentage of singles within the Canadian Arab community is higher, coming in at 37% in comparison to the city’s rate of 30%.

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Common-law partnerships are five times more likely Ottawa-Gatineau’s general population (10%) as they are within the Canadian Arab community (2%). Lone parents constitute a slightly higher percentage of Ottawa-Gatineau’s Canadian Arab community (6%) than they do in the city’s general population (5%).

A significantly higher rate of children in census families[i] is present in Ottawa-Gatineau’s Canadian Arab community (49%) than in the city’s general population (31%), while a lower rate of persons not in census families[ii] is present in the Canadian Arab community (10%) than in the general population of Ottawa-Gatineau (18%). This indicates that Canadian Arabs are less likely to live independently of their parents and families as singles than other residents of Ottawa-Gatineau.

These trends reflect the familial values of the Canadian Arab community who are more likely to be married, less likely to enter into common-law partnerships and are less likely to live independently as singles.

Citizenship and generation status within Ottawa-Gatineau’s Canadian Arab community 

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While the majority of the Canadian Arab community in Ottawa-Gatineau is constituted of immigrants (56%), only 14% percent of the community had not yet acquired citizenship in 2011.

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Given that 4 in 5 Canadian Arab immigrants have settled in either Quebec or Ontario since 1985, it is not surprising that the vast majority of Canadian Arabs residing in Ottawa-Gatineau are first generation immigrants, accounting for 58% of the community.

Education and Employment in Ottawa-Gatineau’s Canadian Arab community

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Canadian Arabs across the country have acquired high rates of postsecondary education, with 74% of the community between the ages of 25 and 64 completing postsecondary certificates, diplomas, or degrees, of which 60% completed a university certificate, diploma, or degree at bachelor level or above. This trend is reflected in the Canadian Arab community in Ottawa-Gatineau, where 70% of Canadian Arabs aged 25-64 have completed postsecondary certificates, diplomas, or degrees compared to 72% of the city’s general population. In addition, Canadian Arabs outperformed the general population of Ottawa-Gatineau in completing university certificates, diplomas, or degrees at bachelor level or above at a rate of 10:9.

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The most commonly chosen fields of study within the Canadian Arab community in Ottawa-Gatineau are consistent with the community’s national trend, with 24% of the population choosing to pursue the sciences (10% in architecture, engineering, and related technologies, 6% in health and related fields, 5% in mathematics, computer and information sciences, and 3% in physical and life sciences and technologies), 14% in the social sciences and humanities (8% in social and behavioural sciences and law, 3% in the humanities, and 3% in education), and 13% in business, management and public administration.

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Despite being a highly educated community and one that is specialized in competitive fields, Canadian Arabs in Ottawa-Gatineau showed a higher rate of unemployment than the general population – coming in at 7% in comparison with the city’s 5%. Canadian Arabs in Ottawa-Gatineau also showed a slightly lower rate of participation in the labour force[iii] – with only 65% of Canadian Arabs aged 15 years and over participating in the labour force in comparison with the city’s rate of 70%.

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Occupations filled by Canadian Arabs are skewed significantly towards the business, management and commerce fields, with 32% of the population either in sales and service occupations (26%), business finance and administration occupations (15%), or management occupations (11%). Only 16% of the population are employed in occupations relating to the natural sciences, with 11% in natural and applied sciences and related occupations, and 5% in health occupations.

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The industries in which Canadian Arabs are employed continue in a similar trend as the fields of occupation, with the majority of Canadian Arabs employed in the trade or service industries, followed by the medical and professional sciences industries.

Income[iv] in Ottawa-Gatineau’s Canadian Arab community

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Significant income gaps appear in both the average employment income and the average total income of the Canadian Arab community and the general population in Ottawa-Gatineau. With a difference of $8,350 in the average employment income and $11,796 in the average total income, it is clear that the average Canadian Arab receives a substantially lower income than the average Ottawa-Gatineau resident.

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Furthermore, the distribution of wealth within the Canadian Arab community reveals that for the year 2010, a staggering 72% of the community fell within income brackets under $39,999 whereas only 54% of Ottawa-Gatineau’s general population fell within the same income brackets. This demonstrates that a majority of Canadian Arabs make incomes lower than the community’s average total income of $35,931 or the city’s average total income of $47,727.

These figures show that while Canadian Arabs residing in Ottawa-Gatineau are a fairly well established community with high rates of Canadian citizenship and high levels of education and qualification, they have yet to achieve the same standards of living as the general population in the city in terms of employment and income.


[i] “Children in census families” refers to blood, step or adopted sons and daughters (regardless of age or marital status) who are living in the same dwelling as their parent(s), as well as grandchildren in households where there are no parents present. Persons not in census families may live with relatives (so long as they are not living with their parent(s) or grandparent(s)), they may live with non-relatives (eg. flat-mates), or they may live alone. ie. sons and daughters (irrespective of age or marital status) living with their parents or grandparents.

[ii] “Persons not in census families” refers to those who are single, without children, and who choose not to live with their parents.

[iii] “Participation rate in the labour force” refers to percentage of the community actively seeking employment, whereas persons “not in the labour force” refers to those who are not actively seeking employment (eg. homemakers, persons who are retired, etc.)

[iv] Average employment income refers to the average income earned by the population aged 15 years and over who worked a full year, full time and with employment income in 2010. Average total income refers to average total income in 2010 of population aged 15 years and over.