Immigrants Leaving Canada in Record Numbers: Study

by Dr. Jasneet Bedi

As the Canadian government prepares to unveil its immigration targets for the next three years, a pressing concern has emerged that threatens to undermine the country’s population and economic growth. New research conducted by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the Conference Board of Canada reveals that a growing number of immigrants are leaving Canada in search of better opportunities abroad. This phenomenon has serious implications for a nation that relies heavily on immigration to drive its prosperity.

The study highlights a troubling trend, showing that the number of immigrants who chose to leave Canada witnessed significant spikes in 2017 and 2019. These spikes represented a startling 31 percent increase above the historical average, indicating a noteworthy surge in immigrants leaving the country. Even when excluding those two years, the study found that onward migration—where immigrants move on from Canada to settle elsewhere—has been steadily increasing since the 1980s.

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In the ’80s, immigrants had an average cumulative onward migration rate of 18 percent, a number that rose to 21 percent for those who received permanent residence in the first half of the 1990s. These statistics are indicative of a growing challenge that cannot be ignored.

The study’s findings underscore the fact that Canada’s future prosperity is intricately linked to immigration. Prior research by the Conference Board of Canada has demonstrated the manifold benefits of immigration, including GDP growth, improved worker-to-retiree ratios, and the mitigation of labor shortages that contribute to inflation. Furthermore, welcoming newcomers aligns with Canada’s humanitarian goals, enriching the cultural tapestry and fostering a spirit of inclusivity.

However, the study cautions that the benefits of immigration are maximized over the duration that immigrants spend in Canada. The longer they stay, the more they contribute to the country’s growth and development. Immigrants who are able to thrive in their adopted homeland are more likely to remain in Canada, becoming valuable members of society. Thus, the fact that many immigrants are choosing to leave after a relatively short period is a matter of grave concern.

The research also reveals a crucial insight into the timing of immigrants’ departure. Immigrants are most likely to migrate again four to seven years after initially arriving in Canada. This suggests that positive early experiences, including employment opportunities, support systems, and a welcoming environment, play a pivotal role in enticing immigrants to stay.

Given the findings of this study, it is evident that Canada must take immediate action to address this exodus of immigrants. For the country to meet its immigration targets and fulfill its goals of supporting population and economic growth, it must not only focus on attracting newcomers but also on retaining them. Despite the undeniable importance of immigrant retention, few comprehensive efforts have been made to evaluate Canada’s immigrant retention rate.

The study strongly recommends that the federal government prioritize the retention of newcomers as a central component of its immigration strategy. Retention should be regarded as a key performance indicator, given the critical role immigration is meant to play in bolstering the nation’s future. Canada’s demographic and economic stability is at stake, and it is incumbent upon policymakers to take proactive measures to ensure that the country remains an attractive destination for immigrants and that those who choose Canada as their new home find compelling reasons to stay.

Dr. Jasneet Bedi

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