Where Arabs Live in Canada

Even for a region as historically troubled as the Middle East, it’s safe to say that 2014 was one of the deadlier years in recent memory.  A civil war is currently raging across Syria between the Assad regime—which may or may not be guilty of crimes against humanity and chemical weapons use—and various factions of militants, some secular, some religious, and some radicalized.  Then there’s ISIS, or the Islamic State, whose eruption across Iraq and Syria came with barbaric, vicious and absolutely appalling crimes ranging from rape, torture, and slavery to the attempted genocide of the Yazidi people to beheadings of foreigners from around the world and, as of February 2015, burning a Jordanian pilot alive.  Hamas began its third war in eight years with Israel, a 50-day affair which involved Hamas violating Israeli sovereignty with illegal tunnels, Israeli bombardment of Hamas installations leaving Gaza City devastated, and both sides suffering terribly as thousands of Palestinians were killed or wounded.

As such, one will not be altogether shocked to hear that there’s a good deal of talk among many of these groups on the subject of immigration.  Interestingly, Israel is anticipating a wave of new immigrants, the majority being Jews from France and other regions who faced persecution for last year’s wars and are likewise frightened by the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish Deli Attacks in Paris this year.  On the other hand, emigration is far more on the mind of the Arab world, which is why peaceful nations with Arab communities such as Canada are becoming more and more attractive to residents in this war-ravaged part of the world.

Most communities like to locations where their culture is already somewhat established, and that’s certainly the case with many Arab communities immigrating today.  There is a great deal of unwarranted Islamophobia and hatred of Islamic radicalism alike.  We’ve already seen what destructive forces can be unleashed with division, as Hamas and Fatah remain somewhat divided amongst the Palestinians and ISIS, Assad, and the rebels have torn Syria asunder.  As such, if you’re immigrating to Canada from an Arab country, chances are you’re not just going to want to move somewhere with a large Arab population, but somewhere with a history of solidarity.  To that end, here are some of the best locations for Arabs immigrating to Canada.

 

Toronto

Top 10 Countries of Foreign Birth Toronto

Name an ethnic minority in Canada, and they’ve found their way to Toronto.  It’s a bit like New York City in that fashion—to paraphrase Mr. Sinatra, “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” 

Country of Birth Number Percentage of Total Immigrants in Toronto
Iraq 8,485 0.68%
Lebanon 5,700 0.46%
Egypt 5,695 0.45%
Other places of birth 2,970 0.24%
Morocco 2.230 0.18%
Algeria 580 0.05%

Source: StatsCan

Iraqis, Lebanese, Egyptians —

They’re all well-represented in good old Toronto.

Toronto has been a popular destination over the last couple decades for Kuwaitis in particular, especially after Saddam Hussein, the US-led engagement, and the resulting Gulf Wars.  The Lebanese have been coming to Canada for centuries as well, with 1882 being cited as one of the earliest dates.  Early laws led to restrictions which limited that immigration to mainly Christian Lebanese immigrants, and while those laws have now thankfully been done away with, that does bring up an issue worth touching upon, namely the fact that religion, ethnicity, and nationality are by no means constant in the Middle East.  There were major Christian populations in the Palestinian territories and Egypt, as well as Syria before the invasion of ISIS began.  There are sizeable Armenian populations in Lebanon to this day.  Iran is an interesting case, where some will identify as Persian, harkening back to the illustrious culture which flourished there before the rise of Islam, while others may identify as Iranian and celebrate the religious revivalism which has occurred there in recent decades.

Top 10 Immigrants Mississauga

No matter what, Toronto’s doors are open, and ready to welcome immigrants of all kinds.

Country of Birth Numbers Percentage of Immigrants
in Mississauga
Egypt 7,045 1.88%
Iraq 5,320 1.42%
Lebanon 2,905 0.78%
Algeria 180 0.05%
Morocco 170 0.05%

 

Ottawa

Top 10 Immigrants Ottawa

Ottawa is home to one of Canada's largest Lebanese communities.  (It is also home to Canada's largest Iranian population.) There is something fitting in the fact that the Canadian capital is home to so much ethnic diversity.  After all, a capital is supposed to stand as the center point of governance in a nation and, as such, stands as something of a role model—official or otherwise—for the rest of the country.  It is encouraging, therefore, that Ottawa should be so diverse, with Anglophones, Francophones, Farsi and Arabic speakers alike.

Country of Birth Numbers Percentage of Immigrants
in Ottawa
Lebanon 9,800 4.84%
Egypt 2,805 1.38%
Iraq 2,800 1.38%
Morocco 1,200 0.59%
Algeria 955 0.47%

 

Montreal

Top 10 Immigrants in Montreal

Montreal is home to the largest Arab population from Africa.

Country of Birth Numbers Percentage of Immigrants
in Montreal
Algeria 33,270 6.18%
Morocco 28,820 5.35%
Lebanon 18,640 3.46%
Egypt 8,755 1.63%
Iraq 1,735 0.32%

In addition, more than 3% of Montreal’s population is made up of Lebanese-Canadians.  That may not seem like a lot, but taking into account both Montreal’s massive size and status as a city as well as the scattered nature of the Lebanese diaspora—the result of Hezbollah’s terrorism and Israeli responses leading to the mainland’s bombardment—a Lebanese community of this size and stability is no small thing.

Top 10 Immigrants Laval

One possible reason for Montreal’s notable Arab population is the unique nature of Quebec itself.  Unlike the rest of Canada, Quebec is a Francophone region, a fact which has led to cultural differences and, at times, clashes in the past.  Those days are, thankfully, past, but that doesn’t mean that Quebec doesn’t still have an air of differénce. Add to that the fact that Montreal was historically one of the primary destinations for US citizens looking to draft dodge and skip out on the Vietnam War, and you have a city with a reputation for both tradition as per all its many, many churches and public institutions as well as something of a separatist, almost “rebellious” streak.  Put in more hipster-ish terms, Montreal at once is part of and yet stands apart from the Canadian mainstream—making it the perfect destination for Lebanese citizens looking to do the same, thereby enjoying the peace and opportunity Montreal has to offer without having to fully assimilate into the greater Anglophonic North American culture just yet.  French is often taught in Lebanese schools, particularly around the Beirut area, which could potentially make the transition of a move to Montreal all the smoother.

Country of Birth Numbers Percentage of Immigrants
in Laval
Lebanon 10,955 11.34%
Morocco 5,030 5.20%
Algeria 4,585 4.74%
Egypt 2,240 2.32%
Iraq 560 0.58%

 

 


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