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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Canada Grew by a Record 1 Million People From Immigration

Migrants arriving at the Roxham Road border crossing in Saint-Bernard-De-Lacolle, Quebec, Canada from New York State, on Feb. 24. Canada grew by over 1 million people last year, almost all newcomers, as the federal government pushes more immigration to plug labor shortages.  (NASUNA STUART-ULIN/New York Times)
By Vjosa Isai New York Times

For the first time in its history, Canada grew by more than 1 million people last year and most of them were newcomers, signaling that the federal government’s ambitious goal of boosting immigration to fill labor shortages is within reach.

Canada’s population growth rate of 2.7% in 2022 put it among the world’s 20 fastest-growing nations, a list largely dominated by African countries, according to a new report by Statistics Canada, the census agency.

The growth comes as the federal government makes a push to address its labor shortage and manage a wave of retiring baby boomers by raising its 2025 immigration targets almost 25%.

It also comes as the country grapples with a surge of asylum-seekers arriving at its border with the United States, a topic that will be high on the agenda after President Joe Biden arrived in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, on Thursday for a two-day series of meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

On Thursday before the visit began, a U.S. official familiar with the issue said the two countries had reached an agreement that would allow Canada to turn back asylum-seekers walking into the country from the south. In exchange, Canada has agreed to provide a new, legal refugee program for 15,000 migrants fleeing violence, persecution and economic devastation in South and Central America, the official said.

Canada enjoys widespread support for immigration and public “attitudes are extremely positive,” said Victoria Esses, director of the Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations at Western University in London, Ontario.

“The minister has done a great job of talking up the issue of how much we need immigrants in order to fill skill shortages, and labor market and for population growth,” she said. “That’s impactful, and people take that to heart.’’

Still, Canada’s embrace of migrants is calibrated by rules that to varying degrees allow the country to be selective about who it admits.

Most newcomers settle in Canada through its various economic immigration programs, which require them to apply and meet eligibility criteria that value higher education and skilled work.

In November, Sean Fraser, Canada’s immigration minister, unveiled the government’s plan to welcome about 1.5 million newcomers over three years, starting in 2023.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.