• Allison Baker

FACT CHECK: Is The Liberal Government "Rapidly" Increasing Immigration Levels in Canada?

Updated: Nov 16, 2018

MISLEADING. The federal government announced last week that it will increase immigration to 350,000 people per year by 2021. This is an average yearly increase of around 4.2 percent over the next three years—one percentage point higher than the average over the last two decades.

Last week, the self-described “digital advocacy group” Ontario Proud tweeted that “[Justin Trudeau] is rapidly increasing immigration levels.” The tweet was accompanied by a photo of the prime minister with a text overlay saying the Liberal government is “increasing immigration to 350,000 per year”—allegedly a “40% increase in immigration levels" compared to the Harper government.

To say that the rate of immigration is “rapidly” increasing under the Liberal government is misleading. In fact, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship’s updated multi-year plan for accepting new permanent residents, which was released on October 31, will see immigration levels rise incrementally over the next three years at a rate close to the average over the past two decades.

Canada plans to accept 310,000 new immigrants by the end of this year. The recently updated plan set Canada’s immigration target for 2019 to 330,800 new immigrants. In 2020, Canada will accept 341,000—up 1,000 from a previous projection of 340,000. In 2021, it will accept 350,000. This is an increase of roughly 6.7 percent next year, 3 percent in 2020, and 2.6 percent in 2021.

Analyzing the average rate of increase year over year since 2006, it is clear that these rates are not exceptionally faster than in the past. Except for a few instances where the number dropped, immigration levels have gradually increased over time in the past two decades. In 2006, when Stephen Harper became prime minister of Canada, the country welcomed 251,600 new immigrants. Over the next few years, the rate fluctuated widely: in 2007, the government accepted 236,800, while in 2010, it accepted 280,000, and in 2014 it accepted 260,400. These fluctuations were due to a variety of factors, including economic growth and global conflict.

The average number of new immigrants in the Harper years was approximately 255,367. The projected 350,000 in 2021 would amount to a 37.9 percent increase—but that increase has happened incrementally over the course of several years.

Added context is needed to understand the reason behind the increase. In 2016, right after the leadership change from Harper’s Conservative government to Trudeau’s Liberal government, 320,932 new immigrants arrived in Canada. This was in part due to the refugee crisis, which saw 46,700 refugees resettle in Canada that year.

Canada’s population has also grown by approximately a million people in the past two years—the shortest span of time for this type of growth since 1972, according to Statistics Canada.

According to the CBC, the Liberal government’s economic advisory council recommended in 2016 that the federal government “ramp up permanent immigration” to 450,000 per year, in part to help with job creation. As reported by CTV, many of the 350,000 immigrants that are projected to be granted permanent residency in Canada in 2021 will be part of economic programs, like the Federal Skilled Workers Program (FSW), which are “designed to address skills shortages and gaps in the labour market.”