Immigration to Canada set a record last year, beating its own ambitious target, with 437,120 new permanent residents entering the country.
That’s 5,475 more new permanent residents, or almost 1.3 per cent more, than Ottawa’s Immigration Levels Plan which had set 431,645 newcomers as the target.
The record-setting level of immigration to Canada in 2022 was also 31,080 new permanent residents higher, or 7.7 per cent more, than the previous record, set in 2021, when 406,040 newcomers made Canada their home.
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But it’s not the country’s economic powerhouses of Ontario and British Columbia which drove the surge in immigration last year. Those two provinces saw declines in the number of new permanent residents per year.
Immigration to British Columbia fell by 11.9 per cent last year to 61,215 new permanent residents and Ontario saw a similar drop of 7.3 per cent and welcomed a relatively more modest 184,725 compared to the 199,295 in 2021.
The big winners in terms of attracting more immigrants last year were the Prairie and Atlantic Canadian provinces.
Manitoba welcomed 30.6 per cent more newcomers last year than in 2021 and Alberta saw a similar increase of 25.5 per cent in the number of its new permanent residents last year compared to 2021.
Saskatchewan showed the greatest percentage growth in number of new permanent residents, almost doubling the number of newcomers it received last year to hit 21,635 from 10,950 a year earlier.
Atlantic Canada also saw a similar surge in immigration in 2022. On the Rock, as Newfoundland and Labrador is affectionately dubbed, immigration jumped by 69.8 per cent to hit 3,490 new permanent residents in 2022.
Immigration to Prince Edward Island nudged up by only 1.9 per cent last year but Nova Scotia saw a boom of 38.2 per cent in its level of immigration and the number of new permanent residents arriving annually to New Brunswick almost doubled, rising by 92.2 per cent, to hit 10,205 last year compared to 5,310 in 2021.
Quebec Accepted Almost A Third More Immigrants Last Year Than In 2021
During Quebec’s provincial elections last year, opposition parties chastised Premier François Legault for insisting his province must hold the line on immigration. Despite the premier’s tough stand on restricting immigration, Quebec nonetheless admitted 36.6 per cent more new permanent residents last year, 68,685, compared to 50,275 the previous year.
Immigration to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, small in absolute numbers, nudged down a bit last year.
Immigration is definitely on the rise in Canada.
With the massive increases in Canadian immigration levels, the country welcomed 95,945 more new permanent residents last year than the 341,175 it received in 2019, the past full year before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s a more than 30.5 per cent jump in annual immigration to Canada since 2019. In the three years since the start of the pandemic, Canada has welcomed more than one million immigrants – exactly 1,027, 755 new permanent residents – not including the very significant increases it has also allowed in temporary residents, including foreign nationals coming to the country with work permits and study visas.
That, though, pales in comparison to the even greater numbers of immigrants Canada is hoping to attract as it struggles with chronic labour shortages.
Canadian Immigration Targets Are In Line With Century Initiative’s Recommendations
In late November last year, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser unveiled the country’s latest Immigration Levels Plan which aims to welcome 465,000 new permanent residents this year, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.
Those are even more ambitious immigration targets than those recommended a few years ago by the Century Initiative, a non-profit organization which wants the country to more than double its population to 100 million by the year 2100.
The current population of Canada is estimated to be a shade over 38.6 million. The Century Initiative touts population growth as vital for the country’s economic growth and prosperity.
“Growing our population to 100 million by 2100 would reduce the burden on government revenues to fund healthcare, old age security, and other services. It would also mean more skilled workers, innovation, and dynamism in the Canadian economy,” notes the organization on its website.
In its 2019 report, For A Bigger, Bolder Canada: Long-term Thinking. Starting Now, the Century Initiative proposed vastly increasing immigration to levels then considered to be so high the organization took pains to point out its plan was not “radical”.
Those targets proposed by the Century Initiative in 2019 were 400,000 new permanent residents in 2022, 420,000 new permanent residents in 2023, another 450,000 in 2024 and 475,000 in 2025.
Last year, immigration to Canada exceeded the Century Initiative’s proposed level by almost 9.3 per cent. But that was only because the Canadian population seems to have grown much faster in the last few years than the organization ever expected.
It’s proposal in 2019 was to peg immigration levels to 1.25 per cent of the Canadian population. Based on the current estimated population of Canada, that would mean an immigration target of 482,597 new permanent residents per year, roughly in line with Ottawa’s current immigration targets.
And with Canada’s immigration minister currently musing about fast-tracking immigration applications from Turkey and Syria’s earthquake-stricken regions, it’s clear immigration to Canada could spike even higher this year than forecast.
Highly-skilled immigrants seen as vital to resolving Canadian labour shortages
“Any solution to our suffering workforce numbers and aging demographics will need a large influx of highly-educated professionals, skilled trades-people, general labourers, and those with entrepreneurial experience and spirit,” notes the Century Initiative report.
“We need younger immigrants, to bolster the foundations of an aging workforce pyramid and encourage international students who come to Canada to contribute to the dynamism of our educational institutions to stay and apply their skills and talents to Canada’s future.”
Canada is also working on creating a new pathway for permanent residence to many who are in the country on temporary visas, building on the lessons it has learnt through its launches of innovative programs which have successfully done this in other situations.
“Most notably, programs such as the Guardian Angels, the Out-of-Status Construction Workers Pilot, and the pathway to permanent residence for temporary workers and international graduates,” explained IRCC spokesperson Michelle Carbert last year.
Undocumented migrants – including workers – are those people who have arrived in Canada without first applying to come as a temporary foreign worker with a work permit, as an international student without a study permit, or as a permanent resident through any of the official immigration programs, including as refugees, family members re-united with loved ones in Canada through family sponsorships, skilled workers through the Express Entry system and economic immigration pathways, or any of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP).
The Guardian Angels special pathway was quickly put in place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, between December 2020 and August 2021, for refugee claimants who were then already providing direct patient care in the health sector.
“Once we confirmed that applicants were eligible and had the required work experience for this program, also known as Guardian Angels, any removal order under which they were referred was suspended until a final decision is made on their candidacy,” noted Carbert.
The temporary public policy for Out-of-Status Construction Workers in Toronto is another pathway to permanent residency. It was launched in 2020 and then extended. That pathway recognizes the economic contributions of these workers and aims to address their vulnerability due to their lack of immigration status, noted Carbert.
“The government is working with the Canadian Labour Congress, who refers applicants who have a strong likelihood of meeting the eligibility requirements of the public policy to IRCC,” she noted. “Eligible applicants may apply for a temporary resident permit and an open work permit to remain and continue working in Canada while their permanent resident application is processed and finalized.”
In 2021, the IRCC also launched the one-time Temporary Resident-to-Permanent Resident (TR-to-PR) pathway which was open to accept 90,000 temporary workers and international graduates already in Canada.