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Census dataBy BERNIE BELLAN In another story posted to this website we put forward the notion that Winnipeg’s Jewish population might be quite a bit smaller than we had previously thought.

 

According to the most recent Canadian census, only 7,640 Winnipeggers reported that their ethnic or cultural origin was Jewish. In 2011, by way of contrast, that figure was 12,000. While we explained that the dramatic reduction in the number of individuals who reported that their ethnic or cultural origin was Jewish may be attributable to the fact that, for the very first time, StatsCan did not include “Jewish” as a possible choice on the  census questionnaire that asked respondents to give their ethnic or cultural origin (instead, respondents would have had to write in “Jewish”), we also put forward the proposition that quite a few more individuals who might previously have identified as “Jewish” by ethnic or cultural origin simply do not do so any more – instead simply identifying as “Canadian” by ethnic origin.
We also advanced the possibility that many of the recent immigrants from Israel might have put “Ukrainian” or “Russian” as the answer to that specific census question.
Regardless, there is no doubt that the results of the 2016 census are going to make it even more difficult for community planners within the Jewish Federation to go about doing their work. It was difficult enough for individuals such as Faye Rosenberg-Cohen, Community Planning Director for the Federation, when the results of the 2011 National Household Survey showed a marked drop in the Jewish population of Winnipeg, whether you wanted to define “Jewish” by religion or by ethnicity - when compared with the results of the 2001 census. (Here, again, are the contrasting results of the 2001 and 2011 censuses: Number of Jews by ethnic origin: 2001 – 14,420; 2011 - 12,005; number of Jews by religion: 2001 – 12,660; 2011 – 10,550.)
Partly as a result of our incessant questioning of the Jewish Federation’s insistence that our Jewish population had grown substantially, in 2014 the Jewish Federation released a revised figure for what it said was the Jewish population here: 13, 690 – a figure that was well below previous estimates of the size of our Jewish population, which had been in the 16,000 range.

 

What difference does it make how large our Jewish population is, you might ask? Well, for one, it makes it increasingly difficult to plan for future school enrolments at the Gray Academy. Between 2001 and 2011 the largest single drop in the size of any one age cohort was the 65+ group: 25% (from 2920 to 2180), followed closely by the 0-14 age group: 23% (from 2655 to 2060). Other age groups showed much less of a decrease. Thus, there is a much smaller pool of potential students from which to draw for the Gray Academy.
Now, while the figures from the 2011 National Household Survey are getting to be quite a bit out of date, the trends that they showed remain important: A much lower birth rate within Winnipeg’s Jewish community and a substantial decrease in the number of seniors 65+. There are, however, two possibilities for the decline in the number of seniors: Deaths and seniors leaving Winnipeg.
For quite a few years the Jewish Federation had an unofficial demographer in the person of Evelyn Katz. Evelyn would try and keep track of births, deaths, who had moved here, and who had left – and she did an incredibly good job doing that. Now, however, in the absence of any reliable data, we are simply left to guess at what’s been happening as far as the actual size of the Jewish community here goes.

Why do we bring this all up, yet again, in this issue? The reason is that we were astonished to read of the plans by a developer known as Tell Ventures Ltd. to build what it says will eventually be 419 units for the 55+ crowd on land adjacent to the Simkin Centre. (See story on page 1.) That’s an incredible amount of housing geared to seniors that will be added to what is already available in Winnipeg, but the fact that this particular corporation is planning on undertaking such a huge investment in seniors’ housing says a heck of a lot about what it anticipates will be the demand for 55+ housing in Winnipeg. But, if the table above is any indication, those units aren’t going to be filled by Jews - unless they’re going to be moving from other retirement residences.
By now, we’ve all seen the dramatic rise in the number of facilities devoted to what is described as “assisted living”, wherein residents are able to take at least two meals a day in a communal dining room. If memory serves me correct, the very first facility of this type to open here was The Wellesley in Charleswood (now known as The Wellington), which opened in the 1980s. Then, within a relatively short time, there was a spurt in construction of assisted living residences, including The Waverley, Portsmouth Retirement Residence, Shaftesbury Park Retirement Residence (and five other retirement residences all operated by All Seniors Care), The Boulton, Amber Meadows, and the most recent addition - The Brightwater (also owned by Tell Ventures Ltd., by the way)…the list goes on and on. There is also one intermediate care facility in Winnipeg: Thorvaldson Care Centre, which provides a higher degree of care than assisted living facilities, but is not a personal care home.
In addition to the assisted living facilities – for which there seems to be a never-ending demand, some 55+ facilities offer a combination of assisted and independent living, such as The Parkway, which allows residents to take meals in the dining room on an ad hoc basis.
With the advent of the home care program in Manitoba, it is now possible for a much larger number of seniors to remain in one or another types of retirement residences, be they their own homes, apartments, or independent living facilities, than had previously been the case. In some ways that takes the pressure off personal care homes, but the corollary is that the average age of seniors in personal care homes is much older than used to be the case – and those seniors require a much higher degree of care than was previously the case  in personal care homes.

Still, as the number of what can only be described as upscale assisted living facilities seems to be expanding at a constant rate, one can only wonder: What will become of seniors who simply can’t afford to move into that type of residence? It’s frightening enough for anyone under the age of 65 to contemplate the increased costs that are looming for things such as hydro, as Manitoba Hydro has asked for 7.9% annual increases in hydro rates until 2024 (although the Public Utilities Board lowered that increase in September to 3.36% - with the possibility there will be yet another increase in April of this year). In addition, Manitobans can expect to begin paying a carbon tax of $25/tonne beginning this year, which will be levied on gasoline and natural gas. Surely those who are on fixed incomes are going to find themselves in increasing predicaments, although one would hope that we won’t hear horror stories of the type that have been emanating from Ontario, where there have been reports of seniors going without food in order to pay vastly increased heating bills in their homes.
To return to the question though, just how many Jewish seniors there are in Winnipeg, if there was a 25% drop in the number of  Jewish individuals aged 65+ between 2001-2011, what might one expect to be the case in the future? What is different now, however, as opposed to what was the case in 2011, is the vast number of baby boomers who have – or are about to enter the 65+ category. The largest single age cohort in Winnipeg’s Jewish community has always been individuals born between 1945-64. In both 2001 and 2011 the largest single age cohort was those individuals who were between 45-64. What is truly astonishing about the 2016 census, however, is the huge drop in the number of respondents 45+  who reported their ethnic origin as Jewish. (See table on opposite page.) There were 2,520 fewer respondents age 45+ who said their ethnic origin was Jewish in 2016 than in 2011. It seems hard to believe that drop is primarily a result of individuals listing another ethnic origin other than “Jewish”. (There were only 8,000 more Winnipeggers who reported their ethnic origin was Canadian in the 2016 census, for example, than on the 2011 National Household Survey. Were over one-quarter of those respondents Jews age 45+? That seems quite a stretch.)

If the 2016 census is anywhere close to accurate, there are not nearly as many Jews in the 45+ age group than had previously been thought. If the 2016 census is so inaccurate when it comes to reporting the number of Jews, not only in Winnipeg, but across Canada as a whole, as Jewish community leaders are maintaining, just what did those vanishing Jews report as their ethnic origins?
The one other unknown in all this, moreover, is how many newcomers there actually are within the Jewish community. As we noted in our January 17 article about the results of the 2016 census, surprisingly few respondents listed “Israeli” as their ethnic origin (only 325 more in 2016 than in 2011). There were fairly substantial increases in the number of individuals who listed either “Ukrainian” or “Russian” as their ethnic origin, so it is possible that many of the newcomers might have fallen into that category.

But, just as it’s been very difficult to know how many Jewish seniors have left Winnipeg in recent years – either to escape the cold or to reunite with family members, it’s also very difficult to know how many of the newcomers who came here beginning with the GrowWinnipeg initiative of the Jewish Federation in 2001 have actually remained here.
All that we do know is that the results of the 2016 census cannot be good news for the planners at the Jewish Federation, who have been insisting that our Jewish population has been growing here. Again, there will be a huge impact upon planning for the future of our Jewish community here if the Federation’s estimates of the size of Winnipeg’s Jewish population remain consistently higher than what the results of now two different censuses have shown.
While our community planners may be basing their calculations on what they would like to think is the size of our Jewish community (much higher than what is borne out by available data), and institutions such as the Gray Academy might be hoping for a resurgence in enrolment that, based on the available data, is not going to happen, developers in the private sphere have taken a look at what is happening in Winnipeg’s community as a whole and are planning accordingly - and that means more housing tailored to the 55+ crowd. Yet, if the 2016 census is accurate, as was previously mentioned, those new 55+ housing units aren’t going to be filled by Jews or, if they are, they’re going to be filled by Jews moving from other retirement residences.