More temporary residents are settling outside of Canada’s major cities

Edana Robitaille
Published: April 8, 2024

A recent study from the Conference Board of Canada (CoBC) has found that newcomers to Canada are increasingly choosing to settle outside of urban centres.

The study used data from 2016 and 2021 to show the differences in immigration to urban centers and the surrounding areas.

It discovered that Quebec had the highest number of newcomers on living in the ring of census divisions surrounding Montreal, Laval, and Longueuil. Comparable results were seen in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

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Regions outside of York (just north of Toronto) and Peel (west of Toronto, where Mississauga is located) were found to have immigrant populations of 8.1 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively.

However, outside of these regions, this rises from between 19 to 30 per cent. For example, the Simcoe census division in Ontario noted a 33.58 per cent increase in immigrants between 2016 and 2021.

Recent surge in temporary residents numbers

The report notes that much of the increase in newcomers in rural communities can be attributed to the recent rise in the number of temporary residents in Canada (those on a study permit, work permit or visitor visa).

This aligns with recent data from Statistics Canada that shows temporary residents accounted for 804,901 of Canada’s new immigrants in 2023. This is almost double the 471,551 permanent residents Canada welcomed.

The CoCB report says that between 2016 and 2021, many regions of Canada saw the population of temporary residents more than double, with “some regions seeing growth over 1000 per cent.”

Again, Quebec rural regions saw the highest increase in temporary residents, with some communities reporting growth of 1,520 per cent.

It also explained that most temporary residents (and their accompanying family members) who settled in rural areas were more likely to be on work permits, while growth in urban centres would be a mix of international students and temporary foreign workers.

This means that non-urban centers are experiencing rapid increased population growth and changing demographics.

For example, Prince Edward Island experienced a notable increase in its population of female temporary residents between 2016 and 2021. This means an increased need for services for women such as settlement services or healthcare in the province. Other provinces may have different changes in their demographics, but they will all face similar challenges.

Changes to temporary resident levels in 2024

Meeting the needs of Canada’s growing population has many Canadians concerned about the increased lack of affordable housing as well as the strain on Canada’s already over-stretched healthcare system.

Several public opinion polls released late last year indicated that public support for high levels of immigration has declined rapidly since 2022.

On March 19, Immigration Minister Marc Miller made several announcements regarding the number of temporary residents in Canada. Notably, he revealed that temporary residents will be included in the upcoming Immigration Levels Plan.

The current Plan sets the targets for the number of permanent residents Canada will welcome in the coming year, and notional targets for the two years after that. The Minister said that adding temporary resident levels to the Plan can act as a “soft cap” for the number of temporary residents Canada welcomes going forward.

The minister also announced that there would be more “domestic draws” for becoming a permanent resident of Canada. This could mean that temporary residents already living and working in Canada may have an advantage if they decide to apply for PR through Express Entry or a Provincial Nominee Program.

On January 22, IRCC also announced a cap on the number of international study permits the department expected to approve in 2024. It said that this was to stabilize unsustainable numbers of international students, many of whom have not been receiving adequate support during their studies.

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