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Lesson 1 - Exploring the Effects of Population Change

This lesson was written by The Critical Thinking Consortium with editorial input and subject matter expertise from Statistics Canada's Education Outreach Program and Demography Division.


Learners will identify trends related to the factors that contribute to population change in Canada—international migration, interprovincial/interterritorial migration and urban-rural migration.

Learners will first gather statistical evidence of these trends and then will identify their possible effects—economic, social and environmental. They will consider criteria for identifying significant impact and then rank the types of effects of population change in order of greatest impact.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

Intermediate, secondary – Grades 7 to 10
Social Studies, Geography, History, Civics, Family Studies


Learners will demonstrate:

  • understanding of the nature of population change in Canada
  • understanding of the factors that contribute to population change in Canada
  • understanding of the potential effects of the factors that contribute to population change in Canada
  • ability to draw inferences from statistical data
  • understanding of the criteria for determining significance
  • ability to effectively support decisions with appropriate evidence.



Information from the 2006 Census reveals a somewhat surprising picture of the population of Canada. With growth driven primarily by immigration, Canada possesses the fastest rate of population growth of any G8 country. This population growth is very uneven across Canada, with some provinces experiencing dramatic growth while others are showing declining populations. Across Canada urban populations continued to increase while fewer people lived in remote rural areas. International immigration not only serves as a key factor in this growth, but also acts as a stimulus for questions focusing on citizenship and identity.

The changing population of Canada is prompting discussion and debate regarding potential impacts. Though factors that influence population change such as life expectancy and fertility rates are well documented, it is less clear which effects associated with population change will have the most significant impact on Canada.

Classroom instructions

Activity 1: Learn about population change

Introduce the factors influencing population change by asking learners to read the following information from Statistics Canada's 2006 Census:

Provide each learner with a copy of Handout 1: Exploring population change. Organize learners into teams and assign each team a province or territory. Ask learners to identify, for their assigned area, the trend related to each factor — international migration, interprovincial/interterritorial migration, urban population change and rural population change. Encourage them to record three pieces of statistical evidence from their reading that supports each trend. For example, learners might indicate that a trend changing the population of British Columbia is 'increased international immigration.' This trend could then be supported by evidence such as 'immigrants comprised 27.5% of British Columbia's population in 2006, up from 24.5% in 1996.'

Invite learners to share the identified trends for their province or territory with other members of the class. On a large map of Canada, record the trends in the appropriate province or territory, creating a visual profile of population change across the country.

Activity 2: Explore various kinds of effects

Invite learners to reflect on recent events in their community. What event has caused the greatest change during the last year? Perhaps it was a new superstore, a change in the physical environment, or a serious storm. What was the community like before this event? What is it like now, after the event?

Discuss how this event has affected community life in three areas: economic, social and environmental.

  • Economic effects include changes in the paid jobs people hold, how much money they have and the goods and services that are available to them. For example, the opening of a new superstore may contribute to economic effects such as more jobs, a greater selection of products, cheaper prices and possibly the closure of existing smaller stores that could not compete.
  • Social effects include changes in the number of residents in the community, the nature of relationships among people and crime rates. For example, the opening of a new superstore could lead to more traffic, more people moving into the community and strained relationships between supporters and opponents of the new store.
  • Environmental effects include changes in air, water and soil quality and in people's relationship to the environment. For example, the construction of a new superstore could result in the loss of natural habitat for birds and other animals as well as increased traffic that would affect air quality and noise levels.

Activity 3: Identify possible effects

Encourage learners to reflect on the statistical evidence reported in Activity 1, inviting them to brainstorm economic, social and environmental effects resulting from each of the three forms of migration. Encourage them to consider current events and news reports as sources of information, as well as to visit the following sites:

Ask learners to use Handout 2: Identifying possible effects to record details of effects in their assigned province or territory associated with international, interprovincial/interterritorial and urban–rural migration. The questions provided in the left-hand column will guide learners in reading the documents and identifying possible effects. For example, learners might note that the economic benefits of interprovincial migration to Alberta could include 'more tax revenue for Alberta' and 'increased demand for goods and services.'

Assess learner responses for the above activities using Evaluation rubric 1: Assessing the evidence and effects of change.

Activity 4: Rank the degree of impact

After identifying the possible effects connected with each of the three types of migration, learners are now ready to assess the impact of these effects on their assigned province or territory.

The impact of an event or change is determined by three criteria:

Breadth of impact: By how many people are the effects of a change felt?
Depth of impact: How major or dramatic are the differences caused by a change?
Duration of impact: For what length of time are the effects felt?

For example, consider the opening of a new store in a community. The breadth of the impact is small if only three new jobs are created, but a megastore that creates hundreds of new jobs will affect many people. The depth of the impact on people's lives may be limited if the new store does not affect the operations of existing businesses, damage the environment, or influence consumers' habits. However, a new megastore can have a deep impact if it causes smaller businesses to close, damages the environment or contributes to the homogenization of the community. The duration of the impact can be limited if changes in consumer behaviour or in the operations of other businesses are temporary. On the other hand, the effects will be felt for a much longer time if these changes are permanent.

Ask learners to use Handout 3: Ranking the impacts to rank the effects in order of greatest impact on their assigned province or territory. Ask them to consider all the effects they noted on Handout 2: Identifying possible effects in order to decide which of the three types of effects—economic, social or environmental—has the greatest impact. Remind learners that it is not simply the number of different effects in a category that determines if that category has the greatest impact. They must also consider the breadth, depth and duration of those effects.

Invite learners to share their ranking and conclusions for their province or territory. Record these on a large map of Canada.

Then ask learners to determine which effects will have the greatest impact on Canada as a whole. Remind learners again that they should use the same criteria for assessing impact when ranking the effects for all of Canada. If desired, you could ask learners to use a second copy of Handout 3: Ranking the impacts to rank the national effects of population change.

Assess learner responses using the Evaluation rubric 2: Assessing ranking and justification.