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Immigration trends in Canada

The census and administrative data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) are two primary sources of information on immigrants in Canada.

The census collects information on the total number of persons who once were, or are now, landed immigrants or permanent residents. This population is also referred to as 'persons born outside Canada', or 'foreign-born population'. Changes to Canada's immigration policy over time affects the composition of the foreign-born population as captured in the census. The analytic document entitled Immigration in Canada: A Portrait of the Foreign-born Population, 2006 Census released on December 4, 2007 provides 2006 Census results on immigration and citizenship as well as trends over the last few years.

CIC collects administrative data on the number of immigrants admitted to Canada each year as landed immigrants or permanent residents. The following provides additional information on immigration and citizenship from this administrative data source.

Canada's immigration policy has been guided by three broad objectives: to reunite families, to fulfil Canada's international obligations and humanitarian tradition with respect to refugees; and to foster a strong viable economy in all regions of Canada.

Under these objectives, according to CIC administrative data, Canada has welcomed 5.1 million immigrants since the 1980s. About 1.3 million immigrants were admitted to Canada in the 1980s, representing an average annual intake of about 133,000 individuals. In the 1990s, immigration levels in Canada increased to over 200,000 individuals annually. Between 1991 and 2000, about 2.2 million immigrants were admitted to Canada. The high number of annual admissions continued during the first five years of the new millennium. Between 2001 and 2006 alone, 1.4 million newcomers, or an annual average of 242,000 individuals, were admitted as permanent residents.

The admission of immigrants in 2005 and 2006 was at its highest level since the 1980s, 262,200 and 251,600 newcomers, respectively, were admitted in those two years. This high level of annual admission of immigrants and the relatively slow rate of natural growth of the population explain why the proportion of the foreign-born in the Canadian population has been increasing since the 1990s.