MONTREAL – Lonely, depressed and missing her family in the Philippines, Cosette Pena looked to God in hopes of finding comfort in her new adoptive country.
Now, 20 years after it was founded in 1992, the tiny evangelical church in Montreal where Pena forged vital links to the Filipino community in Canada is bursting at the seams with new members and searching for a new, larger building to call home.
“I found a connection immediately because the people are so friendly,” said the 53-year-old Pena, one of thousands of Filipinos who have settled in Canada through the federal government’s live-in caregiver program.
“If people have problems — they are depressed, they miss their families — then it’s a way of coping.”
The Philippines emerged between 2006 and 2011 as a leading country of birth for people who immigrated to Canada during those five years,
An estimated 152,300 of newcomers who arrived in Canada between 2006 and 2011 — about 13.1 per cent — were born in the Philippines, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday as it released the first tranche of data from its 2011 National Household Survey.
The survey showed the Philippines as “the leading country of birth” for Canadian immigrants during that five-year period — but a note in the release Wednesday said the result “was not in line” with data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
“A number of factors could explain this difference, such as the effects of sampling, response patterns, and under- or over-estimation of certain groups of recent immigrants in the NHS.”
While the Christian faith continues to dominate Canada’s immigrant profile, its proportion has been steadily fading. Where more than 78 per cent of immigrants to Canada prior to 1971 identified themselves as Christians, that proportion has dropped to 47.5 per cent among those who arrived over the past five years, the survey found.
Meanwhile, the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths have been growing, claiming 33 per cent of those immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2011. Among those who arrived before 1971, that share was just 2.9 per cent. All told, the four religions accounted for some 2.4 million people in Canada in 2011, about 7.2 per cent, compared with 4.9 per cent a decade earlier.