Published on: Feb 24, 2020
Canada's government conducted its largest-ever Express Entry draw on February 19th, inviting 4,500 candidates in three skilled worker categories to apply for permanent residence. This increase in invitations also saw a drop in the minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score required for application, from 472 in the previous draw to 470 in this one.
This large draw comes at a time when the government is working hard to increase immigration in several different categories. In response to Canada's comparatively low birth rate and ageing population, the government intends to increase immigration steadily. Indeed, even this largest-ever draw won't be enough if the government intends to reach its target of issuing 85,800 invitations to apply for permanent residence in 2020. If all goes according to plan, 2020 will be a record-breaking year for immigration to Canada.
Of course, the Express Entry system is only one part of Canada's overall immigration system. In many other areas, the same story is playing out: more new arrivals are settling in Canada, and they're settling in an ever more diverse range of places. One of these immigration success stories is in the Atlantic region. Facing an ageing population and higher rates of emigration than other parts of the country, the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island have all historically struggled to attract high levels of immigration. Even before the introduction of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot in 2017, increased efforts by provincial governments were beginning to pay off. In 2010, the Atlantic region received only 8,000 new immigrants; newly-released figures show that the number is now more than twice that at 18,000 newcomers in 2019. Despite these increases, the region still has some catching up to do: immigrants arrive in the Atlantic provinces at a rate lower than the region's proportion of Canada's population.
If increased immigration is intended to combat the challenges of labour demand and ageing populations, the Atlantic provinces are far from the only areas in which it's needed. One major focus of recent immigration policy has been smaller towns and cities. Perhaps predictably, new immigrants to Canada tend to be drawn to larger cities. Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, and Calgary attract high numbers of immigrants, with Toronto significantly leading the others; the city attracted more than a third of immigrants to Canada in 2019. But efforts are underway to improve smaller cities' ability to attract new residents. Looking at immigration numbers on a per capita basis reveals that small cities are keeping pace with their larger counterparts. Considered as a percentage of original population, the city that attracted the most new migrants was not Ottawa, but Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, which gained 1,900 newcomers to supplement its existing population of fewer than 80,000 people. The second-highest percentage of new arrivals went to Regina, Saskatchewan, which drew in 6,140 new arrivals and has an overall population of just over 261,000. Encouraging migration to smaller cities like these will be an important part of Canada's immigration strategy in the future.
Another area of Canadian life where arrivals from outside the country have had a significant impact is education. Although they're not permanent residents, foreign students play an important role in supporting Canada's educational institutions and enriching the nation's culture. Moreover, the size of that role is increasing: in 2019, Canada issued 404,000 study permits to foreign students. This represents almost double the number of study permits issued in 2015, contributing to an overall foreign student population estimated at approximately 600,000. India, China, and South Korea were the leading countries of origin for international students, who tended to be attracted to Canada by high quality of education, affordability, Canada's welcoming society, and the potential to eventually work or settle in the country.
Although all these trends demonstrate the trend toward rising immigration into Canada, not every part of the country is equally effected. Indeed, as immigration numbers are rising across most of Canada, the number of new immigrants to Quebec actually dropped between 2018 and 2019. This decrease occurred in a province already behind much of the rest of Canada in its numbers of new immigrants. In 2018, Quebec attracted 51,100 new immigrants, while 2019 saw only 40,600. This substantial drop is actually the result of provincial government policy: new premier François Legault campaigned on a commitment to reduce immigration as a way of preserving Quebec's Francophone culture heritage. Despite these policies, economic pressures, including labour shortages in key fields, will keep some pressure on Quebec not to restrict immigration unduly.
Despite a few exceptions, the overall prognosis for 2020 is clear: Canada hopes to attract more immigrants than ever before, not only to its largest cities but also to other parts of the nation. Facilitating this new intake will be a wider range of pathways to permanent residency than ever before, with possible avenues of immigration ranging from the federal to the local. As Canada strives to meet its demand for new arrivals, look for larger and more varied intakes to continue.
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