1 in 4 Waterloo Region residents are immigrants, census shows

About 23 per cent of Waterloo Region residents are immigrants, the latest census figures show. Most are living in the three cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.

Three cities home to 72 per cent of immigrants in region

About 23 per cent of Waterloo Region residents are immigrants, the latest census figures show. However, the majority of them live in the three cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.

According to statistics released Wednesday, the share of immigrants in Canada has reached its highest level in almost a century, according to 2016 census figures released Wednesday.

The census figures show 21.9 per cent of Canadians report being or having been an immigrant or permanent resident, nearly matching the high of 22.3 per cent in 1921 and up from 19.8 per cent in 2006. The number was slightly higher than 21.9 per cent in 1931 too.

In the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge CMA data, 22.9 per cent of respondents identified themselves as being or having been an immigrant. In the Waterloo Region data, 22.6 per cent of people describe themselves as an immigrant.

That's down slightly from previous census reports.

Immigration in Waterloo Region compared with Canada overall (from Statistics Canada data)
Region Population  Non-immigrants


Non-permanent residents
Canada 34,460,060 26,412,615 7,540,830 50,625
Waterloo Region 527,340 398,665 119,335 9,340

Immigration over time in Waterloo Region (from Statistics Canada data)


2001-2005 2006-2010 2011-2016


14,700 14,725 14, 045

Within Waterloo Region itself, the largest proportion of immigrants live in the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo, representing about four per cent of local residents in those communities, with over three percent arriving since 2011 in Kitchener and Waterloo, with 1.5 percent of immigrants to Cambridge arriving in the past six years.

In North Dumfries, the immigrant community represents 12 per cent of residents, with far fewer than one percent of them coming to the area since 2011.

Immigrant population and recent immigrants Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo CMA, 2016 (Statistics Canada)
Total population Immigrant population % Recent immigrants
(2011 to 2016)
Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo 516,085 118,615 23.0 13,975 2.7
Kitchener 230,000 60,425 26.3 7,910 3.4
Waterloo 103,390 26,155 25.3 3,840 3.7
Cambridge 127,835 26,090 20.4 1,900 1.5
Woolwich   24,440 2,625 10.7 200 0.8
Wilmot 20,295 2,100 10.3 105 0.5
North Dumfries 10,120 1,215 12.0 15 0.1

Born where, speaking what

The majority of immigrants living in and around Waterloo region were born in the United Kingdom, followed by India and Portugal.

In recent years, since 2011 as noted in the Kitchener CMA, newcomers have mainly come from:

  • India: 1,835 (13.1 per cent) .
  • China: 1,395 (10.0 per cent). 
  • Syria: 1,055 (7.5 per cent).
  • Iraq: 850 (6.1 per cent).
  • Pakistan: 625 (4.5 per cent).

Since 2011, the top three non-English languages spoken at home by immigrants moving into the area are Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish. Before 2011 the same three languages dominated in the area, but in the order: Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic.

(CBC/Statistics Canada)

Three-quarters of the region's population was born in Canada, and about two-thirds of that group reported both parents were also born in Canada, the Waterloo Region data shows. 

  • First generation (born outside Canada): 131,190.
  • Second generation (born in Canada with one or both parents born outside Canada): 109,490.
  • Third generation or more (born in Canada with both parents born in Canada): 286,660. 

Looking at Immigration

CBC News has prepared several short videos looking at immigration and its effect on Canada, using statistics and research data to answer commonly-asked questions:

More census stories from CBC


  • Data for this story come from both the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge CMA and the Waterloo Region study. Differences and sources have been more clearly indicated.
    Oct 26, 2017 1:11 PM ET