Demographic Shifts

By Oliver Locke

A little while ago, I was driving up Commercial Street in my small rural town in Nova Scotia, and as I passed Foodland, I saw two women of African descent carrying their groceries home–balanced on their heads! I did a double-take—am I in my town right now? Is this rural Atlantic Canada or rural Nigeria?  

Image generated using DALL-E 

This experience reflects a demographic trend in rural Nova Scotia of increasing immigration and increasing ethnic diversity. This might be more pronounced in in my town because of our Nova Scotia Community College campus and our brand-new Health Clinic attracting students and physicians from Africa. Nevertheless, Atlantic Canada is seeing dramatic demographic changes including increased ethnic diversity and increased population overall.  

A couple stats from https://www.canada.ca/en/atlantic-canada-opportunities/corporate/momentum.html#:~:text=As%20of%20January%201%2C%202023,international%20immigration%20to%20the%20region (accessed Jan 18, 2024) 

  • “As of January 1, 2023, the total population of Atlantic Canada was more than 2.5 million, an increase of 78,113 from January 1, 2022 (+3.1% growth compared to 2.7% for Canada). This is the strongest demographic growth ever recorded in the region, due largely to international immigration to the region.” ( 
  • “Immigration is booming in Atlantic Canada. In fact, the average number of immigrants in Atlantic Canada from 2008 to 2015 was about 7,000 per year. From 2015 to 2022, that average more than doubled, to about 15,000 immigrants per year.” 
  • “These people are staying right here in Atlantic Canada. By 2019, the retention rate on immigration jumped to 72%, up from 67% in 2010.” 

The Futuring Hub, we want to ‘peek’ over the horizon and to help Christian leaders discern, imagine, and reflect on images of probable, possible, and preferable futures of the Church, and then to identify potential courses of action. One way to inform our conception of possible futures is to identify trends in our society. As we consider the increasing culturally diverse Canadian context, pastors and church leadership are asking both practical and theological questions. 

For instance, a pastor could talk with their church board about the changing demographics in their community and how that might influence strategic initiatives of their church. If there is an influx of immigrants from Africa, as in my town, how might your church help with the unique needs they have in settling into your community? In addition, many immigrants from the Global south come with a strong Christian background—How might your church welcome them as brothers and sisters in Christ? In what ways might their expression of Christianity differ from your church presently, and what might it look like to embrace their influence and become an intercultural church? Remember, the end goal is not to be “welcoming to outsiders,” but to be a diverse family where people from multiple cultures all have equal standing and contribute reciprocally. 

Another consideration with the trend of increasing population is the resulting housing crisis. More and more people are moving to Nova Scotia, but the amount of housing has not increased proportionally. How might your church respond to people who are suffering from housing insecurity? Even if you can’t single-handedly start an initiative like the 12 Neighbours Community (https://www.12neighbours.com), do any members of your church have parts of their homes they could rent out as an apartment? You might also consider what community organizations are already working with this problem and come alongside them, rather than starting your own initiative.  

These are a couple concrete considerations related to general demographic trends in Atlantic Canada, but we at the Future Hub would encourage you to do specific research into demographic shifts happening in your specific community and discuss together as a church what future scenarios that might lead to. Then consider what action you might take now to missionally respond to those trends. 

 

References: 

Hunn Choi, “A New Form of a Multicultural Church for Today’s Multilingual Context” (ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2023), 322, https://search.proquest.com/docview/2802791960. 

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