The most recent Canadian census, published in May 2011, has revealed new information about emerging population trends throughout the country, and how immigration has responded to and shaped these trends.
In the past 5 years Canada has welcomed 1,863,791 new permanent and temporary residents. Between 2006 and 2011, the country saw a 5.6% population increase – the highest of all G8 countries. Statistics Canada has issued the first of a series of census analyses, which examines population counts and growth. It has attributed Canada’s continued dominance in terms of planned population growth mostly to an increase in temporary foreign workers, and to a lesser extent on permanent residents.
The most striking population increases took place in the Western provinces. Yukon Territory experienced the highest growth, which at 11.6% was almost twice the national average. This was largely due to an influx in temporary residents, who have been entering into the province to fill jobs in key sectors such as mining and logging.
The second-highest growth was seen by Saskatchewan, which after years of steady decrease suddenly saw its population exceed 1 million for the second time in history. This has been largely attributed to the roughly 28,000 immigrants welcomed to the province in the past five years, as opposed to only 9,500 in the previous time period.
Increases in city populations were also largely concentrated in the West. For example, though its overall population did not rise dramatically, Alberta’s cities were responsible for 10 of the 15 highest conglomerations of population growth in the country.
In contrast to other provinces, Quebec experienced the majority of its growth through permanent immigration and higher rates of fertility. However, high amounts of inter-provincial migration (people moving between provinces) resulted in lower overall growth.
Provinces and cities, as well as their residents, have generally reacted positively to the new flux of immigrants helping to drive their growth. Several have begun establishing or expanding preexisting immigration centers to better integrate new arrivals both socially and economically. For instance, Manitoba already has an extensive system of welcome centers to support newcomers, many of whom have arrived thanks to the province’s robust Provincial Nominee Program. In Alberta, government programs are complemented by civil groups such as the Alberta Network of Immigrant Women. In Quebec, language classes continue to be heavily subsidized in order to help residents (whether Canadian or international) learn French and better integrate into their communities.
The information in the census will be one of the pillars upon which the current administration plans to build its new immigration policy. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently iterated a new, economically-driven plan for future immigration, and underscored that it will be based on quantitative data as well as interactions with key business stakeholders. This will have a direct impact for many provinces which, despite many new workers, still face severe labor shortages.
In an effort to continue the drive for positive, sustainable growth, some provinces have taken to active recruitment of qualified workers abroad. In early March, delegations from Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia will be traveling to Ireland with the intent of filling approximately 300 job openings with qualified workers. It is expected that, should the visit be deemed successful, that similar recruitment trips will happen in targeted countries.
The figures presented in the census, which will not be revisited until 2016, demonstrate decisively that Canada continues to be a leader in welcoming immigrants to live and work within its borders. As the country and the world face new economic challenges, this information will be critical in planning Canada’s measures to ensure continued economic and population growth in the upcoming years.