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The shocking numbers behind Canada’s immigration system

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The shocking numbers behind Canada’s immigration system


Candice Malcolm

March 11, 2024


Source: Flickr

When most Canadians talk about the country’s immigration system and the number of people coming here, we are told that Canada welcomes roughly half a million people each year. 

Most people, according to polls, believe that number is too high. Somewhere between half and three-quarters of all Canadians tell pollsters they would like the number to be lower. 

But the “half a million” figure that is often thrown around is wildly misleading. 

Canada welcomes 500,000 newcomers each year as permanent residents– the equivalence of U.S. green card holders.

On top of that, we also admit another approximately 660,000 as temporary foreign workers, 900,000 international students and, in 2023, Canada saw an explosion of illegal immigration, with 143,870 people illegally entering the country and requesting political asylum. 

For context, during the Stephen Harper years, Canada dealt with 10,000 to 25,000 illegal migrants each year. Under Trudeau, that number has exploded tenfold

When you add these immigration streams together, the total number of annual newcomers arriving in Canada balloons to about 2.2 million people per year. 

No wonder our infrastructure is crumbling. No wonder housing shortages are so acute. No wonder there are viral videos showing dozens, if not hundreds, of migrants lining up for minimum wage job fairs in the service industry. 

Canada’s immigration system is being overrun and mismanaged. 

It’s hard to overstate how drastically out of step this is with Canada’s traditional approach to immigration. 


Statistics Canada tracks the number of immigrants who have come here since the 1850s, before Confederation. 

Curiously, StatsCan archived this website and stopped showing the new annual figures in 2015.

Under the current Trudeau government, Canada’s range for “landed immigrants” (permanent residents) was 226,000 as a low during COVID, with an average of just under 500,000 since 2021 and plans to hit 500,000 in 2025. This is double the sustained averages of the past two decades and unprecedented in Canadian history – especially considering that the combined streams, as mentioned, means the true number of newcomers is upwards of two million. 

This graph is interesting because it shows peaks and valleys. Canada has always had years where we welcome a huge influx of newcomers: for instance, in 1910-11, and again in the post-WWII years. These peaks in immigration levels are then historically followed by valleys – years when Canada significantly decreased its immigration intake. 

The valleys are as important as the peaks. These were the years when newcomers would acclimate to their new surroundings, integrate into the Canadian community and economy, and adopt a Canadian identity. 

These years ensured the continued success of our immigration system. 

Starting in the 1990s, however, Canada abandoned this key component of our immigration system. Successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, realized that they could combat demographic realities – declining birth rates and increased costs of social entitlements including healthcare, pensions, and Old Age Security (OAS) payments – by simply importing more working-aged people to pay the bills. 

The current Trudeau government has taken this hack to an extreme by attempting to cover up ruinous economic policies like the carbon tax and excessive runway deficit spending by simply and drastically increasing the number of people in the country. 

More people means a higher cumulative economic output (measured as GDP). With a straight face, government officials can say that Canada’s economy is growing and our GDP continues to rise. 

But the reality is much more bleak. As was recently pointed out by Waterloo economics professor Mikal Skuterlud: “Canada’s GDP grew by 1.1% between the 4th quarter of 2022 and 2023, while its population grew by 3.2%. That means GDP per capita is now falling at 2% annually (roughly the difference).”


So while politicians will tell you that our economy is growing, that’s only technically true because of mass immigration. The average Canadian is much poorer under this system. 

(And the GDP figures are even more distorted when you consider that these figures include all government spendingas part of their calculation. So a government can “increase” GDP by simply taxing and spending more of your money – as has been the case in recent years.)

Immigration only works when it is well-managed and has the approval of the vast majority of Canadians. Our current system is the opposite of that: it is being overrun and managed poorly. This is harmful to the economy and harmful to Canadians who are struggling with the rising costs of living.