The grand majority of Hong Kong Canadians migrated to Canada from the mid 1980s to 2000. However, ever since Hong Kong became a British crown colony, many Canton migrants (now Guangdong) took the chance to live in Hong Kong and earn enough money to migrate to the western hemisphere, mostly North America. In 1984, the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed and outlined the future of Hong Kong. It would become a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. However, many people in Hong Kong traced their heritage to people living in the nearby Canton Province who fled the Chinese Communists. Many Hong Kong people had a negative image of both the Chinese regime, and for the future of Hong Kong. These feelings were worsened during the 1989 Tiananmen Square Crackdown. Many did all they could to emigrate to English-speaking countries. The most popular destination was Canada, where hundreds of thousands arrived in Vancouver, Richmond and Toronto mostly. However, many returned in the early 2000s because their fears were exaggerated.[weasel words] Today 44% of Cantonese speakers in Canada come from Hong Kong. This figure does not include first-generation Hong Kong Canadians who were born elsewhere, and Canadian-born descendants of Hong Kong Canadians.
In 2006, among the 790,035 speakers of any of Chinese languages, 300,590 were speakers of Cantonese. According to 2001 statistics, 44% of the Cantonese speakers were born in Hong Kong, 27% were born in Guangdong, the Chinese province where most Hongkongers have their ancestral roots, and 18% were Canadian-born.
During the 2000s, some Canadian citizens from Hong Kong and their descendants have returned to Hong Kong for job opportunities. There are estimated to be as many as 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong. Conversely, according to the Canadian Consulate General in Hong Kong, there are 500,000 people of Hong Kong descent in Canada. Hong Kong boasts one of the largest Canadian communities abroad (an estimated 295,000). This community, along with some 500,000 people of Hong Kong descent in Canada, plays a dynamic role in building vibrant bilateral relations between Canada and Hong Kong.
Canada's presence in Hong Kong is also reflected by the presence of Hong Kong-Canadian associations, such as the Chinese Canadian Association, established in 1989 and the Canadian University Association, which now acts as an umbrella group for some twenty Canadian university alumni associations active in Hong Kong today.
^The 790,035 figure includes 300,590 persons listed as speaking Cantonese, 143,385 listed as speaking Mandarin, 4,580 listed as speaking Taiwanese, and 341,480 speaking other dialects, or else simply filling out the relevant question on their census forms by noting "Chinese" without indicating a dialect. See Statistics Canada, 2006 Census Profile of Federal Electoral Districts (2003 Representation Order): Language, Mobility and Migration and Immigration and Citizenship. Ottawa, 2007, p. 8 and note no. 1 on p. 503.