Immigration to Canada is the process by which people migrate to Canada to reside permanently in the country. Many, but not all, become citizens. People have been migrating to the geographic region of Canada for hundreds of years, with rates of immigration and source countries varying throughout time. After 1947 domestic immigration law went through many major changes, most notably with the Immigration Act, 1976, and the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Act from 2002.
In Canada there are three categories of immigrants: Family Class (closely related persons of Canadian residents), Independent Immigrants (admitted on the basis of a point system that account for age, health and labour-market skills required for cost effectively inducting the immigrants into Canada's white-collar or blue-collar labour market) and Refugees seeking protection by applying to remain in Canada. In 2008, there were 65,567 immigrants in the family class, 21,860 refugees, and 149,072 economic immigrants amongst the 247,243 total immigrants to the country.
Currently Canada is known as a country with a broad immigration policy which is reflected in Canada's ethnic diversity. According to the 2001 census by Statistics Canada, Canada has 34 ethnic groups with at least one hundred thousand members each, of which 10 have over 1,000,000 people and numerous others represented in smaller amounts. 16.2% of the population belonged to visible minorities: most numerous among these are South Asian (4.0% of the population), Chinese (3.9%), Black (2.5%), and Filipino (1.1%). Outstripping visible minorities in proportion, however, were (non-British or French) invisible minorities, the largest of which were German (10.18%), and Italian (4.63%), with 3.87% being Ukrainian , 3.87% being Dutch, and 3.15% being Polish ("North American Indian", a classification which may include in-migrants from indigenous peoples of the United States and Mexico but which for the most part are not considered immigrants, comprise 4.01% of the national population). Other invisible minority ethnic origins include Russian (1.60%), Norwegian (1.38%), Portuguese (1.32%), and Swedish (1.07%).
One of the largest groups to immigrate to Canada were the Scottish. Nearly 5 million Canadians claim Scottish heritage. The first Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, who is widely regarded as the chief Father of Canadian Confederation, was a Scot from Glasgow. His successor, Alexander Mackenzie, was also born in Scotland. The Scottish culture is without a doubt linked with that of the Canadian. There are over five Canadian military regiments which share the name with famous Scottish regiments such as the Scottish Black Watch, Gordon Highlanders and the King's Own Scottish Borderers. Scot's were also numerous and prominent amongst Quebec's business elite. The Province of Nova Scotia (New Scotland), New Brunswick, Manitoba and Ontario was where the majority of Scots settled, Nova Scotia is famous for its deep Scottish culture and traditions.
Traditional Scottish events such as Burns Night and St Andrew's Day (Scotland's National Day) are celebrated throughout the nation of Canada. Scottish-Canadian's have celebrated the events of the Auld Country since the arrival of their ancestors.
In 2007, Canada received 236,756 immigrants. The top ten sending countries, by state of origin, were People's Republic of China (28,896), India (28,520), Philippines (19,718), Pakistan (9,808), United States (8,750), United Kingdom (7,324), Iran (7,195), South Korea (5,909), Colombia (5,382), and Sri Lanka (4,068). The top ten source countries were followed closely by France (4,026), and Morocco (4,025), with Romania, Russia, and Algeria. each contributing over 3,500 immigrants.
After the initial period of British and French colonization, four major waves (or peaks) of immigration and settlement of non-aboriginal peoples took place over a period of almost two centuries. The fifth wave is currently ongoing.
The first significant, non-aboriginal immigration to Canada occurred over almost two centuries with slow but progressive French settlement of Quebec and Acadia with smaller numbers of American and European entrepreneurs in addition to British military personnel. This wave culminated with the influx of British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, chiefly from the Mid-Atlantic States mostly into what is today Southern Ontario, the Eastern Townships of Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
The second wave from Britain and Ireland was encouraged to settle in Canada after the War of 1812, which included British army regulars who had served in the war, by the colonial governors of Canada, who were worried about another American invasion attempt and to counter the French-speaking influence of Quebec, rushed to promote settlement in back country areas along newly constructed plank roads within organized land tracts, mostly in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario). With the second wave Irish immigration to Canada had been increasing and peaked when the Irish Potato Famine occurred from 1846 to 1849 resulting in hundreds of thousands more Irish arriving on Canada's shores, although a significant portion migrated to the United States over the subsequent decades. Of the 100,000 Irish that sailed to Canada in 1847, an estimated one out of five died.
Out migration from Canada to the United States has historically exceeded in-migration but there were short periods where the reverse was true; for example, the Loyalist refugees; during the Cariboo/Fraser Gold Rush and later the Klondike Gold Rush which saw many American prospectors inhabiting British Columbia and the Yukon; land settlers moving from the Northern Plains to the Prairies in the early 20th century and also during periods of political turmoil and/or during wars, for example the Vietnam War.
The third wave of immigration coming mostly from continental Europe peaked prior to World War I, between 1910–1913 (over 400,000 in 1913) and the fourth wave also from that same continent in 1957 (282,000), making Canada a more multicultural country with substantial non-English or -French speaking populations. For example, Ukrainian Canadians account for the largest Ukrainian population outside of Ukraine and Russia. Periods of lowered immigration have also occurred, especially during the First World War and the Second World War, in addition to the Great Depression.
Immigration since the 1970s has overwhelmingly been of visible minorities from the developing world. This was largely influenced in 1967 when the Immigration Act was revised and this continued to be official government policy. During the Mulroney government, immigration levels were increased. By the late 1980s immigration has maintained with slight fluctuations since (225,000–275,000 annually). Currently, most immigrants come from South Asia and China and this trend is expected to continue.
Prior to 1885, restrictions on immigration were imposed mostly in response to large waves of immigration rather than planned policy decisions, but not specifically targeted at one group or ethnicity, at least as official policy. Then came the introduction of the first Chinese Head Tax legislation passed in 1885, which was in response to a growing number of Chinese working on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Subsequent increases in the head tax in 1900 and 1903 limited Chinese entrants to Canada. In 1923 the government passed the Chinese Immigration Act which excluded Chinese from entering Canada altogether between 1923 and 1947. For discriminating against Chinese immigrants in past periods, an official government apology and compensations were announced on 22 June 2006.
Canadian citizenship was originally created under the Immigration Act, 1910, to designate those British subjects who were domiciled in Canada. All other British subjects required permission to land. A separate status of "Canadian national" was created under the Canadian Nationals Act, 1921, which was defined as being a Canadian citizen as defined above, their wives, and any children (fathered by such citizens) that had not yet landed in Canada. After the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, the monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution. Because of this Canadians, and others living in countries that became known as Commonwealth realms, were known as subjects of the Crown. However in legal documents the term "British subject" continued to be used.
Canada was the first nation in the then British Commonwealth to establish its own nationality law in 1946, with the enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946. This took effect on 1 January 1947. In order to acquire Canadian citizenship on 1 January 1947 one generally had to be a British subject on that date, an Indian or Eskimo, or had been admitted to Canada as landed immigrants before that date. The phrase British subject refers in general to anyone from the United Kingdom, its colonies at the time, or a Commonwealth country. Acquisition and loss of British subject status before 1947 was determined by United Kingdom law (see History of British nationality law).
On 15 February 1977, Canada removed restrictions on dual citizenship. Many of the provisions to acquire or lose Canadian citizenship that existed under the 1946 legislation were repealed. Canadian citizens are in general no longer subject to involuntary loss of citizenship, barring revocation on the grounds of immigration fraud.
In 2001, 250,640 people immigrated to Canada. Based on the Canada 2001 Census total population of 30,007,094 people, immigration represented 0.834% population growth that year. On a compounded basis, that immigration rate represents 8.7% population growth over 10 years, or 23.1% over 25 years (or 6.9 million people). Since 2001, immigration has ranged between 221,352 and 262,236 immigrants per annum. According to Canada's Immigration Program (October 2004) Canada has the highest per capita immigration rate in the world, although statistics in the CIA World Factbook show that a number of city states and small island nations, as well as some larger countries in regions with refugee movements, have higher per capita rates. The three main official reasons given for the high level of immigration are:
The level of immigration peaked in 1993 in the last year of the Progressive Conservative government and was maintained by Liberal Party of Canada. Ambitious targets of an annual 1% per capita immigration rate were hampered by financial constraints. The Liberals committed to raising actual immigration levels further in 2005. All political parties are now cautious about criticizing the high level of immigration.
Immigrant population growth is concentrated in or near large cities (particularly Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal). These cities are experiencing increased services demands that accompany strong population growth, causing concern about the capability of infrastructure in those cities to handle the influx. For example, a Toronto Star article published on 14 July 2006 authored by Daniel Stoffman noted that 43% of immigrants move to the Greater Toronto Area and said "unless Canada cuts immigrant numbers, our major cities will not be able to maintain their social and physical infrastructures". Most of the provinces that do not have one of those destination cities have implemented strategies to try to boost their share of immigration.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, under the Canada-Quebec Accord, Quebec has sole responsibility for selecting most immigrants destined to the province. Quebec has been admitting about the same number of immigrants as the number choosing to immigrate to British Columbia even though its population is almost twice as large.
Statistics Canada projects that, by 2031, almost one-half of the population over the age of 15 will be foreign-born. The number of visible minorities will double and make up the majority of the population of cities in Canada.
There are three main immigration categories:
Illegal immigration in Canada
There is no credible information available on illegal immigration in Canada. Estimates range between 35,000 and 120,000 illegal immigrants in Canada. James Bissett, a former head of the Canadian Immigration Service, has suggested that the lack of any credible refugee screening process, combined with a high likelihood of ignoring any deportation orders, has resulted in tens of thousands of outstanding warrants for the arrest of rejected refugee claimants, with little attempt at enforcement. Unlike in the U.S., refugee claimants in Canada do not have to attempt re-entry to learn the status of their claim. A 2008 report by the Auditor General Sheila Fraser stated that Canada has lost track of as many as 41,000 illegal immigrants. This number is predicted to increase drastically with the expiration of temporary employer work permits issued in 2007 and 2008, which were not renewed in many cases because of the shortage of work due to the recession.