Five in Six Arab Immigrants Settle in Ontario or Quebec

Report on Settlement Patterns of Arab Immigrants to Canada, January 2014

Prepared by Kareem El-Assal                   

An analysis of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s permanent resident data shows that, in the period between 1985 and 2012, roughly five out of six Arab permanent residents settled in Ontario and Quebec. Despite the economic prosperity in the western provinces in the last five years compared to slower economies in Ontario and Quebec, most Arabs continue to settle in these two provinces. The decision to largely settle in Ontario and Quebec can be best explained by a combination of factors relating to language, economic opportunities and historic immigration trends.

Why Ontario and Quebec?

Canada saw a total of 527,025 Arabs settle as permanent residents between 1985-2012. During this period, most Arab permanent residents settled in Quebec (45.6%) and Ontario (40.8%). Rounding out the top five are Alberta (5.2%), British Columbia (3.3%) and Nova Scotia (2.4%). 

Language appears to be one of the most pertinent factors in determining province of settlement. Algeria, Lebanon and Morocco represent the three main source countries of Arab immigration to Quebec, having contributed 177,225 permanent residents to the province since 1985. All three countries possess significant Francophone populations, with the latter two being member states of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF). Immigrants from two other Arab member states of the OIF, Egypt and Tunisia, round out the top five source countries of Arab permanent residents in Quebec.

Other factors that have likely influenced Arab settlement patterns include economic opportunities and historic immigration trends. The historically-prominent economies of Ontario and Quebec have likely attracted large influxes of Arab permanent residents. Similarly, Arabs have likely opted to follow historical trends and settle in the two provinces with the largest established Arab communities.


A comparison of the percentage distribution of Arab permanent residents by province between 1985-1989 and the last five years (2008-2012) shows a continuation of underlying trends, namely that most Arabs continue to settle in Ontario and Quebec. Between 1985-1989, a total of 89.9% of Arab permanent residents settled in those two provinces. Out of the 38,530 total Arabs that settled in Canada during that period, only 4.9% settled in Alberta and just 1.7% in BC. In comparison, the last five years saw 145,655 Arabs settle in Canada as permanent residents with 84.6% choosing Ontario and Quebec as their provinces of settlement

One of the noteworthy observations in comparing these two periods is the lack of any considerable change in settlement patterns despite the relative economic prosperity of western provinces. Alberta, for instance, has failed to attract a significantly larger percentage of Arab permanent residents despite its booming economy.

Most new Arab permanent residents continue to demonstrate the desire to settle in Ontario and Quebec even though both provinces have recently experienced economic slowdowns. When comparing Arab settlement patterns to non-Arabs, one finds that, between 2008-2012, non-Arabs were less likely to settle in Quebec, and more likely to settle in Alberta, BC and Ontario. The disproportionate percentage of Arabs settling in Quebec compared to non-Arabs suggests other than economic factors were at play when influencing where Arabs choose to settle. 

In the same five years, Arab permanent residents settled in Quebec at a rate nearly three times greater than their non-Arab counterparts. During this period, a total of 62,530 immigrants from Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia settled in Quebec.  Quebec’s immigration selection process, which favours French speaking immigrants, has played a significant role in attracting Arabs. This data supports the hypothesis that language is a major determining factor in where Arabs choose to settle. An additional factor is historic immigration trends, as Arabs are continuing to settle where large Arab populations exist which facilitates easier integration into Canadian society.

As Quebec continues to experience significant growth in its Arab population, so does Ontario. From 2008-2012, Quebec’s total Arab permanent resident population grew by 39.8% and Ontario’s grew by 25.5%. Similarly, ongoing domestic instability in countries like Egypt, Syria and Iraq, all of whom already possess sizeable communities in Ontario and Quebec, may lead to noticeable increases in immigration from these countries in the near future. 

Finally, while Arab settlement in the western provinces remains small, the fact that it increased slightly in recent years suggests the potential beginning of a trend where these provinces may attract more Arabs in the future, lured by their undeniable economic potential.