Canada’s population grows by over one million in less than a year

Edana Robitaille
Published: June 20, 2024

Canada has reached another population milestone and it’s almost entirely due to immigration.

According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, as of April 1 this year, the population passed 41 million people (41,012, 563). For context, the population hit a record 40 million in June 2023.

Nearly a quarter of that growth (242,673 people) arrived in Canada between January and April 2024, or a quarterly increase of 0.6%. Of these, 240,955 arrived through permanent and temporary immigration pathways.

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More permanent immigrants heading for the Maritimes

Data shows that Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick experienced record growth from permanent immigrants. The report defines permanent immigrants as permanent residents or landed immigrants.

Among the total 121,758 newcomers who arrived through permanent immigration programs, over 9,000 chose to settle in the Maritime provinces, the highest growth from this sector since 1971. The report notes that this growth is in response to the Maritime’s high levels of demand for skilled workers.

Growth slowing for Non-Permanent Residents

Factoring in the recent increase in Non-Permanent Residents (NPRs), Canada now has a record-high number of 2,793,594 NPRs as of April. Among them, 2,430,282 were work or study permit holders and the remaining 363,312 were asylum claimants, protected persons, and related groups.

Statistics Canada notes that many NPRs who arrived in the first quarter of 2024 came before the Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announcements regarding a cap on the number of temporary residents who will arrive in Canada over the coming years, as outlined by the next Immigration Levels Plan.

In total, 131,810 NPRs were added to Canada’s population in the first quarter of 2024. The report explains that this represents a higher increase than the same period in 2023 but is still one of the lowest increases seen since 2022, following the removal of many pandemic-related measures.

Without temporary residents, data shows that the growth rate in the first quarter would have been just 0.3%.

Decrease in study permit holders

Among permit holders, the number of study permit holders decreased by more than 24,000 in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2023. Statistics Canada says that a lower number of study permits is common at that time of year but suggests that this decrease is still dramatic and could be attributed to several changes to Canada’s International Student Program announced in January.

For example, international students are now required to obtain a Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL) from their designated learning institution (DLI). Provinces issue PALs in accordance with the number of international student acceptances that IRCC allocates to each province. This means that every international student acceptance must be approved by the DLI’s provincial government.

These allocations are part of IRCC’s newly announced cap on the number of study permits it will process this year. The department will process only 606,000 study permit applications in 2024 (with an anticipated approval rate of 60%).

Following the January announcement, provinces were given until March 31 to implement a system for issuing PALs and many did not begin issuing PALs until close to the deadline, delaying several study permit applications.

Immigration levels in Canada

According to Statistics Canada, the number of permanent immigrants who arrived in Canada is consistent with the Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026.

The Plan shows that Canada will welcome 485,000 newcomers through permanent resident pathways by the end of 2024. This target is set to rise to 500,000 in 2025 and stabilize at the same target for 2026. However, 2025 and 2026 targets are nominal and may change when the 2025-2027 Plan is released.

IRCC says the introduction of temporary residents in the Plan will act as a “soft cap” for temporary residents such as those on work permits, study permits or temporary resident (visitor) visas.

These changes are being implemented in response to growing pressure on Canada’s healthcare system and the impact of a rapidly growing population on housing affordability. Canada’s government has also noted that support for high levels of immigration has plunged in the past year. According to the Environics Institute, support for immigration in Canada was at its highest levels ever in 2022 and then dropped nearly 20% in 2023.

Further, recent Express Entry draws have focused on candidates who are likely to be living and working in Canada already as temporary residents with two Provincial Nominee Program-only draws in the past month as well as one Canadian Experience Class. This may help IRCC reach its permanent resident target for 2024 without adding to Canada’s population by inviting overseas candidates.

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