Which cities in Canada attract the most immigrants?

Credit to Author: Kareem El-Assal| Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2020 16:56:00 +0000

International students in Canada in 2019Cities across Canada are engaged in a heated competition to attract more immigrants. Due to their aging populations and low birth rates, cities need more immigrants to keep their economies strong.

At the national level, Canada welcomed more than 341,000 immigrants in 2019 or about 0.9 per cent of its population. Canada is welcoming more immigrants through Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), as well as newer initiatives such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP).

Toronto continues to welcome the most immigrants among Canadian cities by a very wide margin. It attracted nearly 118,000 immigrants last year or 35 per cent of Canada’s newcomer total. Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton rounded out the top five Canadian cities.

Newcomers as percentage of the population, 2019

On a per-capita basis, however, the story is much different. Using this metric, Charlottetown led the way as it welcomed 2.4 per cent of its population in newcomers. This is due to the province of Prince Edward Island’s success in attracting large numbers of economic class immigrants through the PNP and AIP.

Regina was second, with a share of newcomers also close to 2.4 per cent of its population.

Toronto’s massive intake landed it in third on a national per capita basis, as it welcomed 1.8 per cent of its population in newcomers.

Saskatoon came in fourth with almost 1.8 per cent of its population, followed by Winnipeg, also with almost 1.8 per cent. Both Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been able to welcome large numbers of economic class immigrants through the PNP over the last twenty years.

Several cities in Atlantic Canada have been able to welcome larger numbers of immigrants in recent years to help promote their economic development. Fredericton, Halifax, and Moncton each welcomed at least 1.2 per cent of their populations in newcomers last year. Both the PNP and AIP have been instrumental in strengthening immigration to the region.

Canada’s national capital region has become the latest addition to an exclusive club of Canadian cities. In 2019, Ottawa-Gatineau welcomed one per cent of its population as newcomers.

Ottawa-Gatineau’s immigration levels have grown significantly in recent years which is likely due to several factors. In addition to welcoming more refugees, it is admitting more economic class immigrants. While its economic class data are not yet available at the time of writing, it is possible that Ottawa-Gatineau is seeing more international students making the transition to permanent residence through Express Entry and the Ontario PNP. Moreover, given Quebec’s recent decision to reduce immigration by 20 per cent, there is the possibility that some immigrants interested in settling in Quebec may have chosen to settle in the neighbouring Ottawa-Gatineau region rather than in the province.

Because of Quebec’s decision, immigration to Montreal fell by about 10,000 last year which has resulted in the city’s newcomer per capita intake falling to under 1 per cent of its population (0.8 per cent).

One percent population growth through immigration in any jurisdiction, whether national, provincial or municipal, is a significant milestone in Canada. Indeed, this level of immigration is an important means of promoting economic growth as well as maintaining the stability of public systems, such as the health insurance system, unemployment insurance or pensions.

Canada’s population has grown by one percent or more over the past two decades, contributing to roughly equivalent economic growth.

The share of population growth due to immigration is expected to reach 100 per cent over the next 10 years.

This means that immigration will play a greater role in supporting Canada’s economic expansion and that by welcoming at least one percent of their population as immigrants, Canadian cities will be better positioned economically.

Fortunately, Canadian cities have great tools at their disposal to increase their immigrant populations. Likewise, potential immigrants to Canada are spoiled for choice. There are over 80 economic class streams available through Express Entry, additional federal programs such as the PNP, as well as the AIP.

These streams provide more cities across Canada with the opportunity to achieve the important one per cent newcomer milestone.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs


Kareem El-Assal is the Director of Policy & Digital Strategy at CanadaVisa.

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