By the time Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2017, more than half of Torontonians and Vancouverites will likely be members of a visible minority, says Statistics Canada.

According to new projections released Tuesday, the visible minority population of Toronto will range between 2.8 million and nearly 3.9 million within 12 years.

More than one million will be South Asians and more than 735,000 Chinese by 2017. This means that more than half of Canada's South Asians and about 40 per cent of Canada's Chinese will be living in Toronto.

The majority of the population in Vancouver will also likely belong to a visible minority group by 2017. Nearly one-half will be Chinese.

The visible minority population of Montreal would continue to be quite different than that of Toronto or Vancouver because of the higher proportion of Blacks and Arabs, says Statistics Canada.

By 2017, Blacks could represent 27 per cent of Montreal's visible minority population and Arabs 19 per cent.

Statistics Canada says sustained immigration and a higher proportion of visible minorities among new arrivals accounts for much of the change.

Other factors include a younger population, which results in fewer deaths and higher birth rates for visible minorities than for the rest of the population.

Projections show that the median age of visible minorities will be approximately 35.5 in 2017, about four years higher than it was in 2001. In contrast, the median age of the rest of the population will be 43.4 years, nearly six years higher than it was in 2001.

Across Canada, one out of every five people, or between 6.3 million and 8.5 million, could be a member of a visible minority by 2017.

That represents an increase ranging from 56 per cent to 111 per cent from 2001, when their number was estimated at about four million.

Statistics Canada's study defines visible minorities according to the Employment Equity Act – "persons, other than Aboriginal persons 'who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.' "

The 10 groups listed include Chinese, South Asian (including East Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan), Black, Filipino, Latin American, Southeast Asian (including Cambodian, Indonesian, Laotian and Vietnamese), Arab, West Asian (including Afghan and Iranian), Japanese and Korean.