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New data from the 2006 Census show that the proportion of Canada's population who were born outside the country reached its highest level in 75 years.
The census enumerated 6,186,950 foreign-born in Canada in 2006. They represented virtually one in five (19.8%) of the total population, the highest proportion since 1931, when 22.2% of the population was foreign-born. In 2001, the foreign-born represented 18.4% of the population.
The proportion of the foreign-born fell during the Depression and the Second World War, leveling out at 14.7% in 1951. Since then, it has been rising.
The number of the foreign-born in Canada has nearly tripled during the past 75 years, and their share is inching towards the levels in 1911 to 1931. This is a result of the sustained number of immigrants admitted annually to the country and the slow population growth from natural increase (that is, with the relatively low fertility rate, the growth caused by more births than deaths has slowed down).
Between 2001 and 2006, Canada's foreign-born population grew by 13.6%. This was four times faster than the Canadian-born population, which increased by 3.3%.
Overall, Canada's total population increased by 1.6 million between 2001 and 2006, a growth rate of 5.4% from 2001. The census estimated 1,110,000 newcomers arrived in the country between January 1, 2001 and May 16, 2006. They were responsible for more than two-thirds (69.3%) of this population growth.
Figure 1 Number and share of the foreign-born population in Canada, 1901 to 2006