Windsor is not the 4th most ethnically diverse city in Canada so stop saying it

There is oft-made claim from the Mayor’s office that Windsor is the fourth most ethnically diverse city in Canada.

But no one can find the data that backs up this statement.

Citation Needed

Out of curiosity, I checked the Wikipedia entry for Windsor, Ontario to see what they say about this matter and unfortunately it lends to more confusion than clarity. It appears that there have been some attempts to find the missing ‘fourth’ that many of us have been looking for.

Windsor attracts many immigrants from around the world. In 2016, in the city 27.7% of the population was foreign-born while in the metropolitan area, 22.9% of the population was foreign-born; this is the fourth-highest proportion for a Canadian metropolitan area.

Wikipedia contributors. Windsor, Ontario [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2020 Aug 12, 20:51 UTC [cited 2020 Aug 16]. Available from:,_Ontario&oldid=972580004.

While the immigration story of our city is super interesting (“About 40 per cent of immigrants to Windsor are refugees, compared to 15 per cent for Ontario and 12 per cent for Canada…. Iraq is the place of birth for 20.2 per cent of immigrants coming to Windsor between 2011 and 2016, while Syria represents 10.5 per cent“) I am going to contest anyone who tries to equate “fourth-highest proportion of foreign-born residents” with 4th most ethnically diverse city in Canada as it would suggest that anyone who is born in Canada can no longer be considered from an ethnicity.

The Wikipedia article has a second attempt to describe how diverse we are, this time equating diversity with the percentage of a city’s population as visible minorities — that we can promptly ignore because it’s based on data from the 2001 Census.

Visible minorities make up 25.7% of the population, making it the most diverse city in Ontario outside of the Greater Toronto Area.[60][61]

Wikipedia contributors. Windsor, Ontario [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2020 Aug 12, 20:51 UTC [cited 2020 Aug 16]. Available from:,_Ontario&oldid=972580004.

Someone needs to update this Wikipedia entry. I guess that somebody should be me.

So let’s find some better data…

A measure of diversity of diversity

While looking for a better answer to the question of ‘how diverse is Windsor’ I found this statement “currently there are over 170 ethnicities and 70 spoken languages making Windsor the fourth most ethnically diverse city in Canada” from this document from the City of Windsor entitled, Cultural Diversity. This made me realize I had always assumed that the 4th most ethnically diverse statistic referred to a percentage of our city’s population and that assumption might be wrong.

With this perspective in mind, I started looking around Statistics Canada Census data for more information. I found the 2017 Census Brief, Linguistic diversity and multilingualism in Canadian homes and noticed that it makes no mention of Windsor in the document. Instead, when the authors wanted to highlight the five most‑reported immigrant mother tongues in Canada, they chose to spotlight the census metropolitan areas of Montréal, Ottawa–Gatineau, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

This inspired me to look up the Census CMA Profile of Windsor, Ontario and to compare the number of its different ethnic origin population to these cities.

The Method

If we bring up the Windsor CMA Census Profile and bring up Ethnic Origin, we can see a table of unfiltered counts that we can download as an table of data.

For my purposes, I didn’t clean up or touch the data. I used Excel’s filter option and removed the rows with zero counts of in the Total Count of Ethnic origin population column. I then used Excel to count the number of the remaining rows. Since there are several sub-totals in the table, we cannot the equate number of remaining rows as number of ethnic-origin populations, but that’s fine because I’m looking at the relative rankings of the size of similarly structured databases.

Census, census on the wall, who is the most ethnically diverse city of them all?

For the Windsor CMA, the total number of rows was 235.

Then I followed the same process for Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa–Gatineau and ranked this set of cities from the highest number of different ethnic origin population groups in the CMA to the least.:

  1. Toronto : 278 rows
  2. Ottawa-Gatineau: 278 rows
  3. Montréal: 277 rows
  4. Vancouver: 275 rows
  5. Calgary: 275 rows
  6. Edmonton: 275 rows

Just for kicks, I checked out some other Ontario CMAs for comparison’s sake and I have again listed them from the highest number of different ethnic origin population groups to the lowest:

  • Hamilton: 262 rows
  • Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo: 259 rows
  • London: 255 rows
  • St. Catharines – Niagara: 241 rows
  • Oshawa: 245 rows
  • Windsor: 235 rows
  • Barrie: 213 rows
  • Greater Sudbury: 193 rows
  • Kingston: 221 rows
  • Guelph: 217 rows

I did not do this exercise for all of the CMAs of Canada so I don’t know what the 4th most ethnically diverse city is in Canada. But I do know that is not Windsor, Ontario.

So please stop saying it.

Addendum: but what about as a percentage of Visible Minorities?

At this point, I wanted to stop looking up census profile tables, but I knew that my work was not finished because I hadn’t looked at the category of visible minorities in the census data. And so I looked up these the Census Profiles of some of the CMAs starting first again with Windsor, Ontario as a point of reference…

Windsor’s Total visible minority population is 20.5%.
For Ontario as whole, the Total visible minority population is 29.3%.

Here are the percentages for a selection of CMAs:

  • Toronto: 51.4%
  • Montreal: 22.6%
  • Vancouver: 48.9%
  • Calgary: 33.7%
  • Ottawa–Gatineau: 21.6%
  • Edmonton: 28.1%
  • Quebec City: 4.9%
  • Winnipeg: 25.7%
  • Hamilton: 17.7%
  • Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo: 19.3%
  • London: 16.1%
  • St. Catharines – Niagara: 9.3%
  • Halifax: 11.4%
  • Oshawa: 17.2%
  • Victoria: 14.1%
  • Windsor: 20.5%
  • Sudbury: 3.7%

So this is interesting. I didn’t review all the CMAs but it appears that Windsor is likely the eighth-highest city in Canada in terms of percentage of population from visible minority groups. And if we restrict the our view to just Ontario, we are the 3rd.

But remember that data point cited in Wikipedia? In 2001, Windsor was 2nd city in Ontario when ranked by percentage of visible minorities in the population. Now we have dropped to 3rd place.

If we are generous in spirit and accept that at one time it was true that Windsor Ontario was the 4th most diverse city in Canada, then it follows that that since that time, Windsor has become less diverse relative to other cities in Canada.

Or maybe “Windsor is the fourth most diverse city in Canada” was never true to begin with.

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