About one in six people living in Edmonton are a visible minority, the latest census numbers reveal, with Chinese and South Asians making up almost half of the city's visible minority population.

The census data from Statistics Canada, released Wednesday morning, shows surging immigration from Asia has fuelled a phenomenon that has visible minorities for the first time comprising more than five million people in Canada, or 16 per cent of the population.

That marks an increase of 27 per cent in the immigration of visible minorities between 2001 and 2006, dwarfing the increase in the previous census period of 5.4 per cent.

In Edmonton, visible minorities accounted for 17 per cent of the total population.

Immigration lawyer Ravi Jain told CTV's Canada AM Wednesday morning he's not surprised that the number of South Asian immigrants -- those hailing from Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan -- is on the rise, with the highest number coming from India.

"There's a real explanation here that makes sense," he said.

"India of course is a former Commonwealth country. English is a dominant language and education is emphasized -- the same thing as China in terms of education."

South Asians now make up about one-quarter of the visible minority population in Canada and 23 per cent of Edmonton's visible minority population.

Chinese composed the largest visible minority group in Edmonton at 27 per cent of the city's visible minority population, or about five per cent of the total population.

Jain said most of Canada's new immigrants still end up clustered around Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal -- a trend that he suggests can be addressed through better workplace integration.

According to the census, 96 per cent of the visible minority population live in a metropolitan area. That's in sharp contrast to the 68 per cent of the total population that live in major cities.

Jain said there should be more of a push to attract immigrants to places like Alberta, where there is a dramatic shortfall of workers and jobs are readily available.

"That will send the message that the provinces that do that -- Alberta and others that aren't reflective of these major cities -- they will draw in the immigrants and then we'll see more diversity besides Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver," he said.

A vast majority of Alberta's total visible minority population -- or 91 per cent -- lives in Calgary or Edmotnon.

More than 200 different ethnic origins were reported in the 2006 census, StatsCan reports. That marks a steep increase over the past century. In the 1901 census, only 25 different ethnic groups were recorded. The largest share of the population at that time were people reporting Aboriginal, British and French origins.

Among the newer ethnic groups added to the list in 2006 were those from Montserrat in the Caribbean, and Chad, Gabon, Gambia and Zambia in Africa.

The study, dubbed Canada's Ethnocultural Mosaic, 2006 Census, shows Canada's visible minority population has been steadily growing over the past quarter-century.

  • 1981: 1.1 million visible minorities represented 4.7 per cent of the population;
  • 1991: 2.5 million visible minorities accounted for 9.4 per cent of the total population;
  • 1996: 3.2 million visible minorities represented 11.2 per cent;
  • 2001: 3.98 million visible minorities comprised 13.4 per cent of the total population;
  • 2006: 5,068,100 visible minorities account for 16 per cent of the total population.