Canada’s Growing Population and the Role of Newcomers


In 2023, Canada experienced its most significant population growth since 1957, with a 3.2% increase, primarily driven by international migration. Nearly 98% of this growth came from new arrivals, highlighting Canada’s reputation for embracing newcomers through inclusive immigration policies. Among these new arrivals, approximately 800,000 were non-permanent residents, including temporary workers, international students, and asylum seekers. These individuals are vital to sustaining Canada’s dynamic labour market, fostering innovation, and enhancing cultural diversity.

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Settlement Patterns: Traditional Urban Centers and Emerging Trends

Historically, newcomers to Canada have gravitated towards major urban centers such as Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa. These cities offer abundant job opportunities, established ethnic communities, and comprehensive services. Toronto, the largest city, has traditionally attracted a diverse array of immigrants, including South Asians, Chinese, Filipinos, and Caribbean communities. Vancouver has primarily drawn immigrants from East Asia, while Montreal has seen a significant influx of French-speaking immigrants from France, Haiti, North Africa, and Lebanon. Today, settlement patterns largely mirror these traditional trends, with major cities continuing to be the primary destinations for newcomers. 

The heat map below shows the settlement patterns of South Asians today in the GTA. The red-pink areas represent a higher concentration of South Asians. 

Screenshot 2024-06-10 at 09-51-44 Mapping Centre – Polaris


However, in addition to these urban centers, several smaller cities are experiencing significant growth due to new arrivals. Cities such as Halifax, Winnipeg, Hamilton, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Moncton are emerging as notable destinations for newcomers. Provinces with the highest growth rates include Alberta (4.4%), Ontario (3.5%), and British Columbia (3.3%). Notably, Moncton has become one of the fastest-growing cities, showcasing its increasing appeal to new residents.

The graph below shows Moncton’s population growth from 2017 to 2023:

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The Role of International Students in Population Growth

International students have played a pivotal role in Canada’s recent population growth, attracted by the country’s high-quality education system and favourable post-graduation employment opportunities. In 2023, Canada hosted over 1 million international students, with 52% studying in Ontario, 20% in Vancouver, 11% in Quebec, and the remaining 17% spread across other provinces.

Throughout the 2010s, the majority of international students came from several key countries. China consistently ranked as a top source of international students in Canada, followed by India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Today, India has surpassed China as the leading source of international students, with Vietnam and Nigeria also emerging as significant contributors. From 2019 to 2023, these markets have notably expanded in Canada:

  1. Nepalese students increased from 1,155 in 2019 to 20,000 in 2023, marking a 1772% rise.
  2. Filipino international students grew from 7,700 in 2019 to 48,800 in 2023, reflecting a 600% increase.
  3. Nigerian students rose from 11,000 in 2019 to 46,000 in 2023.

International students predominantly settle in cities and regions with prominent educational institutions and significant student populations. Current data allows us to identify specific areas where these students are likely to settle.

The heat map below highlights the concentration of Nepalese newcomers in Ontario, with red spots indicating higher densities.

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Population Growth and Economic Enrichment

The significant influx of international students and other newcomers is a key driver of Canada’s population growth. This trend not only enriches the country’s cultural mosaic but also strengthens the economy. To effectively understand and support these trends, it is crucial to utilize current-year, granular data. Such detailed information allows policymakers, educational institutions, and community organizations to make informed decisions. This ensures that resources are appropriately allocated, and the diverse needs of newcomers are met.

The Importance of Up-to-Date Information

By leveraging detailed and up-to-date information, Canada can continue to foster a dynamic, inclusive, and prosperous society. Understanding the specific demographics and settlement patterns of newcomers enables targeted support and efficient service delivery. This approach helps integrate new residents into the community, enhancing their contribution to the labour market, cultural landscape, and overall economic growth. Using precise data, stakeholders can develop strategies that not only accommodate but also celebrate the diversity and vibrancy newcomers bring to Canada.