Provincial and regional polls show a sharp increase in the percentage of people who report feeling more isolated during the pandemic. The Canadian Mental Health Association – Ontario found 57% of respondents felt more isolated, 47% wished they had someone to talk to, and 36% reported being often, very often or almost always lonely.1 Severe visiting restrictions on seniors, especially those in long-term care or retirement homes, included a total shutdown from April to June 2020, which the Canadian Medical Association Journal found reduced direct care and overall well-being, and increased social isolation.2
Hamilton relies on immigration for most of its population growth. Immigration has accounted for about two-thirds of local growth in recent years, and was expected to increase, with higher immigration targets for the next three years. Pandemic-related border closures caused 2020 immigration to Canada to drop by 46% from 2019. Immigration to Hamilton had a less severe drop of 33% over the same period with 2,170 immigrants arriving here, down from 3,240 in 2019.3
Between 2011 and 2016, 13,150 permanent residents arrived in Canada and lived in Hamilton, similar to the number for 2001-2006 and 2006-2011. The most common countries of origin were:
- Syria (1,245)
- Iraq (1,095)
- the Philippines (1,080)
- India (1,005)4
As pointed out in The Hamilton Spectator’s All About Us,5 Arabic has overtaken Italian as the most common language spoken at home, after English.
National research shows that working-age immigrants who have been in Canada fewer than five years have a lower employment rate (70%) than working-age non-immigrants (84%), often because they are upgrading language and other skills in these years. They are twice as likely to have a bachelor’s degree than the non-immigrant population (52% compared to 24%), and over three times as likely to have a master’s degree (17% compared to 5%). After being in the country for ten years, the gap in employment rates has closed: 82% for immigrants and 84% for non-immigrants.6
Police-reported hate crimes
In 2020, the number of police-reported hate crimes and incidents fell to 80 from 92 in 2019, a decrease of 13.2%.7 Racial bias and religious bias were the most common causes of the hate incidents. Members of the Black community were targeted in 33 of the 38 racial bias incidents; members of the Jewish community were targeted in 30 of the 31 religious incidents. There were five incidents targeting people from Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities. Because many experiences of discrimination and harassment are not reported to the police, a coalition of community organizations is exploring additional ways to measure these incidents.
Sense of belonging
Hamiltonians’ sense of belonging climbed steadily to 73% who report a “strong” or “somewhat strong” sense of community belonging in 2015, up from 67% in 2007-8 and 59% in 2001. This is slightly higher than the provincial (70.9%) and national averages (68.6%).8
McMaster University researchers have found that sense of belonging varies by gender, age, neighbourhood, income, and physical and mental health.9 In particular:
- Women have a higher sense of belonging than men.
- Older Hamiltonians have a higher sense of belonging than do younger Hamiltonians.
- Residents of the more rural areas have a higher sense of belonging than those in urban areas – particularly the lower city.
- People with higher incomes are more likely to report a higher sense of belonging than are people with low incomes.
- People with good or excellent physical health have a higher sense of belonging than those with poor physical health.
- People with good or excellent mental health have a higher sense of belonging than do those with poor mental health.
 Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario branch (March 2021). Third poll in CMHA series indicates mental health impact of COVID-19 at all-time high. Accessed May 15, 2021.
 Canadian Medical Association Journal (May 2020). Long term social distancing during COVID-19. Accessed May 2021.
 Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council (March 2021). From Canada – Admissions of Permanent Residents by Province/Territory, Census Division and Census Subdivision of the Intended Destination (2020 ranking), January 2015 – January 2021.
 Statistics Canada. 2016 Census. Census Profiles.
 Hamilton Spectator (2018). All about us.
 Statistics Canada. CANSIM table 282-0106.
 Hamilton Police Services (2021). 2020 Hate/Bias Statistical Report. Accessed May 2021.
 Canadian Community Health Survey 2015-2016. Presented in Hamilton Community Foundation Vital Signs 2018.
 Kitchen, P. and Williams, A. (2012). Sense of place and health in Hamilton, Ontario: A case study. Social Indicators Research 108 (2).