Canadian Arabs: An Adaptive Immigrant Community

The third in a series analyzing the 2011 census data released by Statistics Canada, this report shows the distribution of Canadian Arabs by citizenship, immigrant and generational status, as well as the languages spoken by Canadian Arabs, August 2014

By Ghina Dajani, CAI Research Fellow

Published: August 2014 

The third in a four-part series analyzing the 2011 census data by Statistics Canada; this report shows the distribution of Canadian Arabs by citizenship, immigrant and generational status, as well as the languages spoken by Canadian Arabs.[i]


Citizenship and Immigration in the Canadian Arab Community


Figure 1



Figure 2

As previously demonstrated in reports outlining immigration rates of Arabs to Canada, over 60% of the Canadian Arab population today is comprised of immigrants and non-permanent residents, with the highest rates of growth appearing within the Iraqi, Algerian, and Palestinian communities.


Figure 3

With the longest history of immigration to and presence in Canada, it is no surprise that the Lebanese community provides the highest rate of Canadian-born Arabs. Conversely, the Lebanese community also continues to be the greatest contributor of Arab immigrants, with 22% of all Canadian Arab immigrants arriving from Lebanon, and Egypt as a distant second with 11%. 


Figure 4



Figure 5

As demonstrated in Figure 5, the vast majority of the Arab community in Canada carries singular Canadian citizenship, whilst those who do not have Canadian citizenship rank second highest. In combination with the data portrayed in Figure 2 which reveals that the majority of the Arab community in Canada are also immigrants, this suggests that Canadian Arabs have actively pursued achieving Canadian citizenship. 


Figure 6

With first generation Canadian Arabs outnumbering older generation Canadian Arabs at 3:2, the numbers reflect that the majority of Canadian Arabs are immigrants who have only recently received their Canadian citizenships. In combination with the data available in Figure 2, where the majority of Canadian Arabs are immigrants, and in Figure 5 where the majority of Canadian Arabs hold only Canadian citizenship, this indicates that the majority of Canadian Arabs in possession of only Canadian citizenship are in fact not Canadian-born.

Talking to the Canadian Arab community


Figure 7

Not surprisingly, Arabic is by far the most common mother tongue reported by Canadian Arabs (at 57% reporting Arabic as their mother tongue), followed closely by English, and then French. The significance of the numbers of Canadian Arabs who have adopted English (at 22% of all Canadian Arabs) and French (14% of all Canadian Arabs) as their mother tongue reflects the degree of integration achieved by Canadian Arabs in adopting Canada’s languages into their lives.

The prevalence of English and French in the Canadian Arab community however could be construed as an indication of their own heritage as immigrants from previously colonized countries and also reflects the ethnic communities’ dispersal across Francophone and Anglophone Canada – for example, Canadian Arabs of Algerian and Moroccan background report the highest rates of French as the mother tongue language and are also more populous in Quebec than in Canada’s English-speaking provinces.

These patterns are then further reflected in the proficiency of Canadian Arabs in Canada’s official languages (Figure 8), as French and English are more commonly understood language amongst specific Arab communities than others.


Figure 8

The fact that French is a more prominent language in Algerian and Moroccan and Berber communities – previously French colonies – in comparison to the prominence of English in other Arab ethnicities that were historically more exposed to English and American culture indicates the differences in mother tongue across the Arab world and that those differences are carried over to Canada by Arab immigrants.


Figure 9

Notably, although Canadian Arabs report varying proficiency in all three major languages of their community – Arabic, English, and French – the utility of those languages most commonly used amongst Canadian Arabs themselves reveals that all three languages are of value in adapting and integrating into Canadian society. Intuitively, although Arabic has been shown to be the most common mother tongue (Figure 7), the degree of knowledge of Canada’s official languages (Figure 8) and the relatively high use of English and French within daily life for Canadian Arabs portrayed in Figure 9 indicate that upon arriving to Canada, Arabs have shown a high tendency to adopt either English or French in their communication amongst each other, which further reflects their adaptability and integration into Canadian society.



[i] All data tables extracted from Statistics Canada, 2011 Census, and 2011 National Household Survey.


Still to come:

- September 2014 Bulletin: Education and Employment (level of education, field of education, employment income, participation/employment/unemployment rates, industry)