Diversity in Halifax - The Multicultural Hub of Atlantic Canada

Posted: February 16, 2021

Jigme Choerab

Economist & Business Attraction Researcher
Halifax Partnership

When you think of a multicultural hub, the first places that come to mind may be cities like New York, Los Angeles, London, or even Toronto. There is, however, another city in Atlantic Canada where more than 200 ethnicities are represented, where immigrants have settled from more than 168 different countries, where over 100 different languages are spoken, and where each of the last 10 years was record-breaking for international student enrolment. The rich and growing diversity in Halifax is not a surprise given Nova Scotia’s welcoming nature.

How Multicultural is Halifax?

Halifax had the third fastest population growth in 2019, and the second-fastest in 2020 across all cities in Canada. The largest component of growth in both years was international migration. The beauty of Halifax’s growth, however, lies not in the number of people but the diversity of source countries. The two tables below show just how multicultural Halifax is - Table 1 shows the top ten countries of birth for Haligonians in 2016, and Table 2 shows the number of new residents the city has welcomed since. Almost every continent is represented in the two tables, showcasing the breadth of Halifax’s cultural diversity. Although the numbers alone would look small in comparison to larger cities, in proportion to population with comparable cities, Halifax is quite diverse.

TABLE 1: FOREIGN BORN CITIZENS
TABLE 2: NEW IMMIGRANT ADMISSIONS
Country Of Birth Count in 2016
United Kingdom4,635
United States2,810
China1,300
Germany1,255
India1,095
Lebanon1,070
Philippines755
Iran570
South Korea530
Kuwait515

Source: Census Data, 2016

Source Country 2016-2019*
India 3,825
China 1,980
Syria 1,500
Nigeria 945
Pakistan 480
United States 470
Egypt 435
South Korea 425
Israel 395
United Kingdom 390

Source: IRCC, Permanent Residents, June 2019

Source: IRCC Permanent Resident Admissions Dec. 2020 & Statistics Canada Population estimates, Table 17-10-0135-01

Latest figures show that new immigrants (those who arrived in the last five years) represent 5.6% of the total population of Halifax. This is a larger share than in cities like Montreal and Victoria. In fact, Halifax has the 8th largest new immigrant to population ratio across all Canadian CMAs. And more significantly, immigrants that choose Halifax, stay for the long run. The Nova Scotia government recently published immigrant retention rates for all provinces in Canada and found that Nova Scotia outperformed every Atlantic and Prairie province. With Halifax being the largest city and accounting for almost 80% of new immigrants to Nova Scotia, we can safely assume that this retention rate is similar in Halifax as well.

Beyond the Numbers

There is no doubt that Halifax is well on its way to become one of the most multicultural cities in Canada. The latest census data show that the visible minority population in Halifax is growing at a rapid rate. Between 2011 and 2016, the Black population of Halifax grew by 10%, and the population of other visible minorities grew by a massive 42% over the same period.

But the numbers only show the tip of the iceberg. Spend a little time in the Halifax region and you’ll quickly see multiculturalism intertwined into everyday life. Whether it’s the melodies of different languages being spoken, the smells of authentic cuisines at local restaurants, or the various arts and cultural festivals that take place throughout the year, citizens and visitors alike appreciate and celebrate the diversity in Halifax.

Source: Statistics Canada - 2016 Census. Catalogue Number 98-400-X2016190.

Diversity in Youth

Another place you can see and experience diversity in Halifax is at one of our numerous educational institutions. For the last 10 years Halifax has been consistently breaking its own record for post-secondary international student enrolment, with over 61,000 international students added in the last decade. These students represent more than 100 different countries.

Source: Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Enrolment Data

I myself came to Halifax as an international student having heard of the renowned universities and colleges and my time here offered me the opportunity to form friendships with people from across the world. From the moment I arrived, I have felt valued and welcomed as an international student. Halifax doesn’t just want you to come here and then leave; Halifax wants you to succeed here.


Across the city a number of organizations are working to drive and support diversity in Halifax. Organizations like the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Office of Immigration help immigrants integrate to life in Nova Scotia; the African Nova Scotian Affairs Integration Office works to promote diversity and inclusion; and the Halifax Partnership helps to connect international young talent to the local business community.

The sense of community, inclusion, and the appreciation for difference is what makes Halifax successful, and why we are proud to be the multicultural hub of Atlantic Canada. So, the next time you discuss the most diverse and multicultural cities in Canada, throw Halifax’s hat in the ring.

Why Halifax?

In Halifax, you are able to meet with all the right people and everyone is cheering you on to succeed. You’re invited to join our collaborative, thriving community, and take advantage of our TLCI - talent, location, cost and innovation. Our size allows us to be authentically open, collaborative, and agile. Learn more about Halifax.

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