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‘You’re not the only one’: Vancouver’s Black population rising fast, census shows

February 25, 2023

Lenya Wilks says she felt like the “only Black person in Surrey” when she first moved to the city east of Vancouver last year.

But the Black population in the region is growing fast and residents who once might have left in search of community are increasingly staying to forge their own, said Wilks, senior manager of the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership.

Wilks said the group remains small and the transition for Black immigrants is still tough, “but the more connections you make, the more you realize you’re not the only one,” she said in an interview.

The Black community in Metro Vancouver, which includes Surrey, has historically been one of the smallest in the country, standing at 29,830, or 1.2 per cent of the total population, in 2016.

But it grew by 38 per cent in the five years to 2021, census data reveals, with the increase of 11,350 people bringing the total to 41,180 Black residents.

Across Canada, the Black population is also up in the same period, increasing 29 per cent for a total of more than 1.5 million.

Wilks said the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership, which is federally funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, is studying the trend.

In 2021, the organization reported nearly half of Surrey’s population was born in another country and more than two-thirds identified as members of a racialized group.

“We have acknowledged that Surrey has the largest Black population in B.C. overall and it’s a good thing, but we’re also still a very small group compared to the rest, and (are) oftentimes a very hidden group,” Wilks said.

Statistics Canada reported that B.C. broke a record for the number of people moving to the province in 2021 with net migration reaching 100,797 people, the highest annual total since 1961.

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