About one-third of Canada's population — up to 14.4 million people — will be a visible minority by 2031, Statistics Canada projects.

The country's foreign-born population is also expected to rise to as much as 28 per cent, about four times faster than the rest of the population, the Statistics Canada study projects.

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A growing percentage of new Canadians, like these seen reaffirming their vows of citizenship before a Toronto Blue Jays game in 2003, will be visible minorities, according to a new report by Statistics Canada. ((Aaron Harris/Canadian Press))

The projections suggest that whites will become the minority in Toronto and Vancouver over the course of the next three decades.

South Asians, including Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans, are expected to make up the largest visible minority group, at 28 per cent, thanks in part to high fertility rates, the study projected.

The proportion of Chinese-Canadians, who have one of the lowest fertility rates in Canada, is expected to decrease from 24 to 21 per cent.

Visible minorities, as defined by the study, are "persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour."

Settlement primarily in urban centres

The vast majority of visible minorities — 71 per cent — are projected to live in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, building on a trend that has seen immigrants move to urban centres in large numbers.

Coming to Canada

Here are the top countries of origin for the 247,243 immigrants who became permanent residents of Canada in 2008:

 Country  # of immigrants  % of total
 China  29,336  11.9%
 India  24,549  9.9%
 Philippines  23,724  9.6%
 U.S.  11,216  4.5%
 United Kingdom  9,243  3.7%
 Pakistan  8,052  3.2%
 South Korea  7,245  2.9%
(Source: Immigration and Citizenship Canada)

Newcomers settle in urban areas because the sheer size of the cities means more job opportunities, which then leads to the creation of ethnic communities, said University of Toronto professor Jeffrey Reitz.

"(They) become kind of magnets in themselves for people of similar backgrounds," the ethnic and immigration studies professor said.

"The existence of the communities in the cities sort of tends to become a self-perpetuating process."

The largest proportion by far is projected to live in Toronto, where Statistics Canada says 63 per cent of the population will be a visible minority, up from 43 per cent counted in the 2006 census.

In Vancouver, the population of visible minorities is projected to reach 59 per cent, up from 42 per cent in 2006.

In Montreal, the population of visible minorities is projected to reach 31 per cent, more than double the 16 per cent counted in 2006.

With files from The Canadian Press