Ethnocultural Diversity in Kelowna

It has been 10 years since Canada has had a comprehensive census. This year the results have been trickling out from StatsCan, and today the stats that I have been waiting for all year were finally released: immigration. Some high level findings:

  • 250 ethnic groups
  • 1 in 5 Canadians are foreign-born
  • 2 in 5 kids have an immigrant background

The Globe and Mail also did a breakdown on Aboriginal and Immigrant demography across the country.

My community: Kelowna

I dug into the Kelowna data to find out how my city has changed over the last decade. Kelowna has a reputation for being “old and white,” but the consensus over the past few years has been that this is changing. Now we have the numbers, let’s see if this bears out.

StatCan says that the immigrant population of Kelowna is 13.9%.

Compared to 2006, this is has actually dropped. Back then it was 14.8%.

Let’s take a look at how this compares with other communities (the Kelowna CMA is pretty broad, and includes West Kelowna and Peachland, so I broke it out in the following table):

Community Immigrant pop. Total pop. Percentage
Kelowna CMA 26455 194882 13.6%
Kelowna 17835 127380 14%
West Kelowna 4360 32655 13.3%
Vernon 6785 59720 11.4%
Penticton 5715 43432 13.2%

Interesting to compare the ratio between Kelowna and its neighbours to the North and to the South. Vernon has its Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society, and Penticton has its South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services.

Why does Kelowna have no immigrant services center?

Immigrants can be hard to see

Maybe the reason that people feel like there are more immigrants here is being there are more visible minorities? That certainly is true: in 2006 visible minorities were a mere 5.2%. In 2016 visible minorities have increased by half to 7.8%. Kelowna proper (ie. not the West side or outlying regions) has a 9.5% ratio of visible minorities. Here is a chart showing the ethnic origin of the Kelowna population in 2016:

Pie chart showing ethnic origins of Kelownaites: European = 83%, Aboriginal = 7%, Caribbean = 1%, Latinx = 1%, African = 1%, Asian = 7%, Oceania = 1%

So things are getting a little less white. However, this cannot all be attributed to new immigrants. When looking at a where immigrants are coming from, you can see some interesting trends:

table of kelowna immigrant origin countries. See link for full table.

Normally we get a lot of immigrants from the UK and US, which likely affects the visibility of our immigrant communities. Philippines-based immigration has shot up recently, as has Jamaica(?). South Korea has a really strong showing, as has Mexico. Germany is way down. And for all the furor, Syrian refugees are a tiny minority.

Addendum on Japanese immigrants

I would like to focus on the Japanese immigrants for a moment (for obvious personal reasons). If you break them down by gender you will see something interesting about this community:

Period Male Female
1981 to 1990 0 0
1991 to 2000 15 35
2001 to 2005 10 35
2006 to 2010 10 20
2011 to 2016 0 30

The Japanese immigrant community differs from other Asian communities on a few different variables, but one major one is international marriage. Japanese immigrants here are overwhelmingly female (70%), and from my experience are married to white dudes. Someday I will write more about how this impacts the community and the services it requires.

Remembering through facsimile

This weekend I finally sat down to watch Shinkai Makoto’s breakout anime hit of 2016 「君の名は。」Your name.. It was an entertaining story with some nice twists, great voice acting, and some cute scenes.

In preparation for this film I watched two other Shinkai films in order to get more familiar with his work. First was his homemade work Voices of a Distant Star which was pretty trippy. Then I watched 5 Centimeters per Second, which, even though it is ten years old, feels like a predecessor to Your name. All three of these films deal with unrequited teenage love, mobile phones, and lense flares.

Setting that aside, what I really want to comment on is Shinkai’s depictions of Japan in his films, especially 5cm and Your name. (Voices was handmade by Shinkai on his Power Mac G4 in 2002, so the quality of visual is not as tight as the other two films). These two films are visually amazing… art imitates life with extremely detailed illustrations of the objects daily life. His camera work makes normal things seem foreign, since he can place the point-of-view in spots that only the sharpest animator’s pen can fit. It is beautiful.

Yet, it is cold. The lines are surgical. I get a very different feeling about Japan when I watch these films compared to when I watch Ghibli films. Pretty much every film Miyazaki and his crew produce makes my eyes fill up with the tears of nostalgia. I can’t put my finger on it… they are so gentle. Even Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle — which aren’t even set in Japan!

Does the lack of fidelity in Miyazaki’s work leave room for my own idealized notions of Japan to creep in? Whereas Shinkai’s photo-realistic facsimile keep any and all emotion at bay?

Or maybe it has to do with relationships. It could be because I didn’t grow up in Japan as a lovesick 15 year old. Pubescent relationships are central to the three Shinkai films. Ghibli films on the other hand tend to focus more on inter-generational stories — on families. Maybe that is why I identify more with them?

Either way, I find it interesting that I don’t have the same natsukashii (懐かしい) feeling watching Shinkai’s hyper-realistic Japan, even though it is much closer to my own experience of that place. I sure hope I am not falling for some sort of idyllic Ghibli Japan. It has already changed so much in the seven years since I left and if ever I move back to Japan, I would hate to be disappointed by my own remembrances.