The Chinese populations of Vancouver and Toronto are set to double by 2031, helping push whites below 50 per cent of the population in both cities, says a report for Canada's immigration department.
The study, released this week, is titled "A new residential order?". It predicted that the populations in both cities would be more prone to segregate into racial enclaves with time.
Daniel Hiebert, a geographer at the University of British Columbia, concluded his report by saying that the two cities "are likely to have a social geography that is entirely new to Canadian society". He said the degree of racial segregation in both cities would approach that of between blacks and whites in America.
Both cities have a long history of immigrant populations, but it was only in the late 1990s that they developed what Hiebert called "ethnocultural enclaves" and a "new residential order".
Such enclaves are typified by the Vancouver satellite of Richmond, where ethnic Chinese already outnumber the white population, creating the most Chinese city in North America.
The study, which compares the 2006 census results with projections for 2031, forecasts massive population growth in both cities. It forecasts a growth of 67 per cent for Toronto and 60 per cent for Vancouver - mainly due to immigration and "the fertility of immigrants". As a result, the percentage of Toronto and Vancouver residents with a family history in Canada that harks back to their grandparents' generation would fall to just 20 and 27 per cent respectively.
"There is no significant European city with anything like this demographic structure, nor will there be by 2031," Hiebert said.
Vancouver's ethnic Chinese population is forecast to soar from 396,000 to 809,000 in 2031, when they would comprise 23 per cent of the population, up from 18 per cent.
In contrast, a modest population increase of 151,000 among whites to 1.4 million means they would fall from being 58 per cent of the population in 2006 to 41 per cent in 2031.
Growth of the city's South Asian population, from 215,000 to 478,000, would also help hasten white Vancouverites' descent into minority status.
In Toronto, where Chinese currently make up about 10 per cent of the population, their numbers would double from 510,000 to 1.1 million. However, the number of whites is set to dive from 57 per cent to 37 per cent, mainly driven by a tripling of the South Asian population to 2.1 million.
In 2006, Vancouver had a population of about 2.2 million, while Toronto had 5.3 million.
Non-white enclaves are forecast to balloon across both cities.
Hiebert did not expect that tendency to dissipate. According to his algorithms, the number of Vancouver's 400 or so neighbourhoods dominated by a non-white population (70 per cent or more) would rise from 45 to 103, with 70 of these dominated by Chinese and the rest by South Asians.
Across the non-white populations, the percentage who live in such enclaves would soar from 27 per cent to 66 per cent.
While the likelihood of whites dominating any neighbourhood in either city would be mitigated by their shrinking share of the population, Hiebert argued that they, too, would withdraw into enclaves.
The report's "index of segregation" for both cities rises significantly for whites by 2031. The index measures the evenness of any racial group's spread across a city; the more uneven the distribution the more it rises.
"The projected landscapes of Toronto and Vancouver are predicted to become more segregated, with a greater tendency for whites and visible minorities to gravitate to different parts of each metropolitan region," Hiebert concluded.
He said he could not conclude whether his forecasts present any cause for alarm but noted that "it is hard to think that ethnocultural enclaves would have a negative impact on society".