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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. We would also like to thank journalist Steve Buist for his work on the All About Us: A Portrait of Hamilton census series which assisted significantly in providing data analysis to the report.

Hamilton Vital Signs Advisory Committee

Dr. Leila Ryan, Chair
Jeff Wingard, Project Manager

City of Hamilton

Healthy and Safe Communities

Michelle Baird, Director, Public Health Epidemiology, Wellness & Communicable Disease Control
Katrice Carson, Epidemiologist,
Dr. Colin McMullan, Manager, Performance, Planning and Evaluation

Planning & Economic Development
Graeme Brown, Business Analyst,

Tourism & Culture
Ali Sabourin, Senior Project Manager

Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council
Dr. Sarah Wayland

Environment Hamilton
Dr. Lynda Lukasic, Executive Director

Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
Tom Cooper, Director

Hamilton Chamber of Commerce
Huzaifa Saeed, Policy & Research Analyst

Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board
Julie Angiolillo, Assistant Superintendent, Student Success Safe Schools Mental Health

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board
Don Buchanan

McMaster University
Dr. Martin Dooley, Professor Emeritus, Economics

Social Planning and Research Council
Don Jaffray, Executive Director
Sara Mayo, Social Planner – Geographic Information Systems

Workforce Planning Hamilton
Judy Travis  Executive Director

Hamilton Community Foundation
Terry Cooke, President & CEO
Grace Diffey, Vice-President, Community Relations
Tracy Varcoe, Administrative Assistant, Community Relations
Michael Parente, Communications Assistant

Local Contributors of Information

City of Hamilton
Healthy and Safe Communities
Public Health
Planning and Economic Development
Tourism and Culture
Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council
Environment Hamilton
Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
Clear Air Hamilton
Hamilton Chamber of Commerce
Hamilton Police Services
Catholic Children’s Aid Society
Children’s Aid Society
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board
Hamilton Public Library
Social Planning and Research Council

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

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