B.C.’s ethnic diversity divide raises political questions

December 4, 2015

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Has B.C. become a province of two solitudes?

That is the implication of research showing that Metro Vancouver has become one of the most ethnically diverse cities on the planet, while the rest of B.C. remains relatively homogeneous.

Statistics Canada data shows 45.2 per cent of the residents of Metro Vancouver are members of a visible minority, particularly Chinese, South Asian, Filipino and Korean.

In the rest of the province, visible minorities make up only 7.4 per cent of the population.

While Metro Vancouver has become super-diverse, the land beyond its borders remains similar to most places around the world, with one ethno-cultural group, in this case European-rooted whites, predominating.

“Historically, Metro Vancouver takes about 85 per cent of all immigrants to the province,” Terry Hoff, senior regional planner for Metro Vancouver, said Thursday. “So it’s likely to get even more diverse in the future.”

What are the cultural, economic, educational and political repercussions of such a striking cultural gap, which has more than half B.C’s population, or 2.5 million people, squeezing into one highly ethnically diverse metropolis?

When B.C. Premier Christy Clark recently suggested that Syrian refugees should go to regions outside Metro Vancouver to avoid the city’s astronomical housing costs, critics’ responses revealed just how divergent these two chunks of B.C. have become.

Commentators hastened to say it would be unwise to direct Syrian Muslim refugees to small-town B.C. because they would not find people of the same ethnic background, religion or language. Nor would they have access to Metro Vancouver’s range of immigrant-support services, cuisines or jobs.

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