Canada’s population rose by more than 1 million in the past year, the biggest spike since the post-World War II baby boom.
Canada has seen record growth in its population, with Ottawa citing higher immigration targets and a “record year for processing immigration applications” as responsible for the increase.
The North American country documented an increase of more than 1 million citizens by 2022, bringing its population to more than 39.5 million, Statistics Canada, the government’s census agency, said Wednesday.
The increase “marks the first 12-month period in Canada’s history where the population grew by more than one million people,” the agency said in a statement.
The 2.7 percent increase was the highest since 1957, when the country saw a 3.3 percent population increase fueled by the post-World War II baby boom and an increase in the number of refugees emigrating from Europe following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
The most recent bump was also fueled by new citizens from abroad, with international migration accounting for nearly 96 percent of the growth.
The data is likely to get big when US President Joe Biden arrives in Canada on Thursday for talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The two leaders are expected to discuss an increase in the number of asylum seekers at unofficial points along their country’s shared border.
According to a 2004 Safe Third Country agreement between the US and Canada, asylum seekers must apply in the first country they arrive in. The agreement has resulted in a sharp drop in the number of asylum seekers arriving at official Canadian border crossings, but an increase in arrivals at unofficial crossings, which are not covered by the agreement.
In 2022, more than 39,000 asylum seekers crossed into Canada through unofficial means, the vast majority using Roxham Road, a rural trail connecting the province of Quebec and the state of New York.
The number of border crossings was more than double that of 2017, when a new upswing accompanied former US President Donald Trump’s crackdown on migrants and asylum seekers.
Undocumented immigration has become a political focal point for Trudeau’s Liberal government. The Prime Minister has said a renegotiated Safe Third Country deal is the only way to stop unofficial crossings.
Yet Trudeau’s administration has doubled its pre-existing target for welcoming newcomers since taking power in 2015. In 2022, a record 437,180 immigrants landed in Canada. That number will rise to 500,000 per year by 2025.
The population of non-permanent residents granted work or study permits in Canada also rose to 607,782 last year, in part due to the thousands of people fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Statistics Canada said.
The government has also made it easier for Afghans facing instability to come to Canada, as well as Turks and Syrians after the recent earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people in those two countries.
Statistics Canada said “large job openings and labor shortages” have fueled high immigration rates. It also pointed to Canada’s aging population, with one in seven residents aged between 55 and 64, offering the opportunity to welcome more people.
However, it added that “an increase in the number of permanent and temporary immigrants could also pose additional challenges for some regions of the country in terms of housing, infrastructure and transport, and services to the population”.
Canada regularly has the highest annual population growth of any country in the Group of Seven (G7), a forum that includes some of the world’s richest democracies. Statistics Canada explained that, if the growth rate held steady over the next few years, Canada would double its population in 26 years.