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Immigrants in Canada: 2021

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November 22, 2022

Canada had 39 million people on July 1, 2022, up almost 300,000 from the previous year and up from 35 million in 2012, largely due to immigration. Over half of newly arrived foreigners were non-permanent residents, including asylum applicants and work and study permit holders.

Canada’s 2021 census found that that a record 8.3 million people or 23 percent of residents were born abroad, more than the 22 percent who were born abroad during the period of mass immigration between 1910 and 1930. The immigrant share of Canada’s population is projected to increase to 30 percent or more by 2040.

23% of Canadians were born abroad in 2021


The share of immigrants living in Ontario has been declining and was 44 percent in 2021, followed by the 15 percent share of immigrants each living in Quebec and BC.

¾ of Canada’s recent immigrants are in Ontario, 44%, Quebec, 15%, and BC, 15%

Geographic distribution (%) of recent immigrants in Candada by province and territory, 2006 to 2021
  2006 2011 2016 2021
Territories 0.1% 0.2% 0.2% 0.2%
B.C. 16.0% 15.9% 14.5%% 14.9%%
Alta. 9.3% 12.4% 17.1% 14.5%
Sask. 0.7% 2.3% 4.0% 3.2%
Man. 2.8% 5.0% 5.2% 4.4%
Ont. 52.3% 43.1% 39.0% 44.0%
Que. 17.4% 19.2% 17.8% 15.3%
N.L. 0.1% 0.2% 0.3% 0.3%
P.E.I. 0.1% 0.2% 0.3% 0.4%
N.S. 0.6% 0.9% 1.0% 1.6%
N.B. 0.4% 0.4% 0.8% 1.2%

Three cities received over half of the immigrants who arrived in 2021: Toronto, 30 percent, and Montreal and Vancouver, 12 percent each. In Toronto and Vancouver, over 40 percent of residents are immigrants.

Over 40% of the residents of Toronto and Vancouver are immigrants

Over 40% of the residents of Toronto and Vancouver are immigrants
Toronto 46.6
Vancouver 41.8
Calgary 31.5
Abbotsford-Mission 26.1
Edmonton 26.0
Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo 25.8
Hamilton 25.6
Winnipeg 25.4
Montréal 24.3
Windsor 23.3
Canada 23.0
Guelph 22.7
Oshawa 22.3
London 21.6
Ottawa-Gatineau 21.4
Victoria 18.9
Regina 18.8
Saskatoon 18.0
St. Catherines-Niagara 17.9
Red Deer 16.9
Barrie 16.8
Nanaimo 15.3
Chilliwack 14.5
Lethbridge 14.4
Kelowna 14.4
Brantford 14.3
Kingston 12.1
Halifax 11.2
Kamloops 9.8
Fredericton 8.9
Moncton 8.7
Peterborough 8.7
Belleville-Quinte West 8.3
Thunder Bay 8.3
Sherbrooke 7.6
Québec 6.7
Saint John 6.6
Greater Sudbury 6.0
St. John's 4.6
Trois-Rivières 4.1
Drummondville 3.8
Saguenay 1.3
Non-CMA 6.9

Over 60 percent of recent immigrants are from Asia. In 1971, over 60 percent of immigrants to Canada were from Europe. Today, the share of Europeans among immigrants to Canada is 10 percent.

Over 60% of the immigrants to Canada over the past decade were from Asian countries

Distribution (%) of recent immigrants by region of birth, Canada, 1971 to 2021
  1971 2016 2021
United States 10.5 2.7 3.0
Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda 9.0 9.9 8.6
Europe 61.6 11.6 10.1
Africa 3.2 13.4 15.6
Asia (including the Middle East) 12.1 61.8 62.0
Oceania and other 3.6

The leading countries of origin for immigrants were India, which accounted for 19 percent of immigrants in 2021, the Philippines, 11 percent, and China, nine percent. These three countries accounted for 40 percent of the 2021 immigrants.

India, the Philippines, and China accounted for 40% of Canada’s 2021 immigrants

Top 10 places of birth reported by recent immigrants, Canada, 2016 and 2021
India 18.6% 12.1% 2
Philippines 11.4% 15.6% 1
China 8.9% 10.6% 3
Syria 4.8% 2.5% 7
Nigeria 3.0% 1.4% 13
United States 3.0% 2.7% 6
Pakistan 2.7% 3.4% 5
France 2.0% 2.0% 9
Iran 1.9% 3.5% 4
United Kingdom 1.7% 2.0% 8

System. Canada uses a point selection system to set priorities for aspiring immigrants. Over 56 percent of the 431,645 immigrants admitted in 2021 arrived via the economic stream that awards points for youth, education, English or French, and a Canadian job offer or work experience. A third were admitted via the provincial nominee program that allows provinces to recommend immigrant visas for foreigners who meet local labor needs and agree to live in the province for two years.

Between 2016 and 2021, some 1.3 million immigrants arrived, including half or 748,000 who arrived via the economic stream. Of these economic immigrants, a third were selected via skilled worker programs and a third via provincial nominee programs.

Most immigrants are in the prime 25 to 44 prime working age cohort


Many of the foreigners who achieve sufficient points for an immigrant visa have Canadian work experience, and many provincial nominees are guest workers who are recommended to provincial governments for immigrant visas by their employers, factors that ensure that most immigrants have jobs. Over 80 percent of recent labor force growth is from immigrants, and 37 percent of immigrants had pre-immigration Canadian work or education experience.

37% of 2016-21 immigrants had Canadian experience

Most Canadians support high levels of immigration and multiculturalism that extends beyond English and French; over 90 percent of recent immigrants to Canada can converse in English or French. The government plans to increase immigration to 450,000 a year, and polls find that most Canadians want more immigrants to increase the population.

60% of Canadians in September 2022 agreed that Canada needs more immigrants

Over 80% of Canadians say that immigration has positive economic impacts

The share of Canadians who say that too many immigrants do not adopt Canadian values has been falling, and is now less than half.

Almost half of Canadians agree that too many immigrants do not adopt Canadian values

Challenges. A third of new immigrants settle in Toronto, the largest city in Canada with 6.2 million residents, where many struggle to find affordable housing. Migrant advocates say that Canada’s expensive housing is the major obstacle to successful integration, leading to overcrowding. Immigrants who arrived to join family members and refugees are most likely to report difficulty finding affordable housing.

Immigrants without Canadian-earned credentials and work experience are most likely to report difficulty finding jobs in Canada. There are many programs that aim to speed the recognition in Canada of foreign-earned credentials and to help workers who acquired skills abroad to have them recognized by Canadian employers.

Canada has among the highest levels of consumer debt among industrial countries. Canadian household debt of C$2.1 trillion was 105 percent of Canada’s GDP in 2022, including C$1.7 trillion of mortgage debt. This made the average household debt to income ratio 170 percent, up sharply from less than 70 percent in 1980. Home prices in Canada average C$700,000, almost twice the US average, and are declining as interest rates rise.

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