Canada has welcomed more than 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, achieving its goal set last year, and marking the highest immigration year on record.
On Thursday, the federal government announced the milestone, adding that the record immigration flows were attained despite the ongoing pandemic, which prompted the country to close its borders to foreigners for much of the year.
Because of the closed borders, Canada last year had switched immigration strategies, targeting those temporary residents already in the country, like international students and foreign workers, and converting them to permanent residency.
“As we continue to struggle with the pandemic, we made the most of the talent already within our borders,” Sean Fraser, immigration minister, said in the release.
The method worked, with the country reaching its highest number of newcomers in one year and surpassing the prior record from 1913. Canada has been relying heavily on international migration as its top driver of economic growth, with foreign-born workers accounting for nearly all the employment gains over the past decade.
Canada, like other nations, faces an aging native-born population and relatively low fertility rates but has been able to produce the fastest population growth in the Group of Seven in recent years. The high influx of foreign-born workers has helped to mitigate wage pressures and fill in labor gaps in recent months at a time when inflation has been surging.
In an interview last month, Fraser said he’s open to ramping up immigration targets if he deems it necessary to fill labor shortages. The immigration targets for the next few years will need to be submitted to Parliament by mid-February.