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About Vital Signs

Vital Signs is a community check-up conducted by community foundations across Canada that measures the vitality of our communities and identifies significant trends in a range of areas critical to quality of life. Vital Signs is co-ordinated nationally by Community Foundations of Canada.


Vital Signs presents research gathered by many local and national organizations deeply involved in each of the 10 theme areas. The indicators presented were selected, analyzed and prioritized by the Vital Signs Advisory Committee.

Vital Signs Advisory Committee

The committee has its historical roots in the Evaluation and Learning Group of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, who had developed a set of indicators to measure progress on socio-economic indicators, many of which are covered in this report. In order to cover all the Vital Signs theme areas and provide a broader quality of life picture, the group was supplemented with additional experts from the environment, economy, and the arts and culture sectors. Members are listed in the Acknowledgements section.

Indicator Selection

Theme areas were based on past Vital Signs reports with consideration for emerging local issues. Within each theme area, possible indicators were evaluated by the Advisory Committee on their availability, reliability, validity, and comprehensibility. The indicators selected were then used to gauge progress in three ways:

  • the indicator’s change over time;
  • its comparison to provincial and national averages; and
  • the disparity present within the indicator – e.g. between different neighbourhoods or between different groups of Hamiltonians.

Information in this report was gathered in co-operation with research experts from a variety of organizations, both local and national. Data sources and contributors are outlined in the Acknowledgments section. The information and key findings were reviewed by Advisory Committee members and other external experts. It is important to note this report is based on secondary data, that is, data that already exists. This includes the most recent Canadian census data, as well as on the results of local researchers and organizations. Consequently, Vital Signs should not be viewed as a formal academic research report. The reader should consider it to be a snapshot of the city at a point in time using common and accessible measurement data.

Every effort was made to use information pertaining to the City of Hamilton where possible. In the case of some Statistics Canada information, data was only available for the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) which includes Burlington and Grimsby. This is indicated in the report where applicable.

  • Before-Tax Low Income Cut-Off (LICO): An income threshold below which a family will likely devote a larger share of its income on the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family. While not considered an official “poverty line” by Statistics Canada, it is the most commonly used threshold for measuring low-income in Canada.
  • Low-Income Measure (LIM): a relative measure of poverty that captures the number of people with inomes less than 50% of the median income of the population.
  • Census Metropolitan Area (CMA): An area consisting of one or more neighbouring municipalities situated around a major urban core. A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more live in the urban core. The Hamilton CMA consists of Hamilton, Burlington, and Grimsby.
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: emitted gases in the atmosphere that reduce the loss of heat into space and therefore contribute to increasing global temperatures through the greenhouse effect.
  • Ground-level ozone: component of smog; severe lung irritant; generated when combustion emissions such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of sunlight, via a complex set of chemical reactions.
  • Neighbourhood: This report uses Statistics Canada’s census tracts as a proxy measure for capturing neighbourhood statistics. Census tracts usually have a population of 2,500 to 8,000. They are located in large urban centres that must have an urban core population of 50,000 or more. Hamilton has 132 census tracts.
  • Recent Immigrant: Immigrants who have arrived in Canada within the last five years. The 2016 census defines recent immigrants as those who arrived between 2011 and 2016.

Hamilton Community Foundation would like to thank the many partner organizations and individuals who provided their expertise, guidance, resources and time to make this report possible. In particular we wish to acknowledge the Hamilton Spectator, for their generous support that has made Vital Signs possible over many years, and Cable 14, our local partner for more than 10 years on our Vital Signs television program.

Hamilton Vital Signs Advisory Committee
Leila Ryan, Chair
Jeff Wingard, Project manager
CA Klassen, Lead researcher

City of Hamilton
Economic Development
Graeme Brown

Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council
Mohammad Araf
Dr. Sarah Wayland

Public Health
Ashley Vanderlaan
Katrice Carson
Konrad Lisnyj

Tourism and Culture
Carrie Brooks-Joiner

CoBALT Connects
Jeremy Freiburger

Environment Hamilton
Dr. Lynda Lukasik

Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
Tom Cooper

Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board
Julie Angiolillo

McMaster University
Dr. Martin Dooley

Social Planning and Research Council Hamilton
Sara Mayo
Deirdre Pike

Local Contributors of Information

City of Hamilton
Tourism and Culture
Planning and Economic Development
Public Health

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board
Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board
Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council
Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton
Environment Hamilton
Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
Hamilton Police Services
Canadian Press
McMaster Children’s Hospital

The Vital Signs trademark is used with permission from Community Foundations of Canada.

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