Immigration now forms the largest part of the population since Confederation.

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OTTAWA — Immigrants made up nearly a quarter of all people in Canada in 2021 and are projected to represent a third of the country’s people by 2041, the latest release of census data shows.

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The proportion of immigrants is the largest since Confederation, with 23 percent of the country — or more than 8.3 million people — who are, or have been, immigrants or permanent residents.

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It is also the highest ratio among the G7 countries.

Statistics Canada says immigration is the main driver of population growth, partly because of the country’s growing population and low fertility rate.

The federal government has vowed to bring in record numbers of people to fill the labor shortage, with plans to welcome 431,645 newcomers to Canada this year.

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Between 2016 and 2021, four out of five new workers in the labor force were immigrants.

Previously, the majority of immigrants to Canada came from Europe, but now most immigrants come from Asia, including the Middle East.

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One in five people coming to Canada was born in India, with data showing it is the top country of birth for recent arrivals.

The last time such a large proportion of people came from the same place was in the 1971 census, when more than 20 per cent of immigrants came from the UK.

The overall share of immigrants from Europe has since declined to just 10.1 percent in 2021 from 61.6 percent in 1971.

The census doesn’t ask questions about why people from certain regions choose to come to Canada, said Tina Choi, director of diversity and sociocultural statistics at Statistics Canada, but other studies offer some clues.

“Joining family, economic opportunities, these are all reasons why people choose to come to Canada,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday. He said the large number of international students from India could also be a factor.

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Peter Rikai, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, said educated Indian applicants generally do very well in the Express Entry system, Canada’s main economic immigration program.

The system favors people with good education, excellent official language skills, and work experience in Canada.

“Put it all together and they get enough points to qualify for this program and be competitive,” Rikai said in an interview Wednesday.

He said many Indian applicants come to Canada under work or study visas, which leads to their permanent residency application.

The census shows that two-step immigration is becoming more common in Canada. More than a third of immigrants who arrived in the past five years went through the two-step process, compared to just 18 percent of those who entered between 2001 and 2005.

Rekai said Canada offers a level of stability and a relatively short path to permanent residency and citizenship compared to many other countries, making it an attractive destination for newcomers.

“Canada offers a better way and a faster way — than any other country,” he said.

All of this immigration in recent years means that almost a third of children in Canada have at least one parent who was born abroad, up from 26.7 per cent in 2011 and 29.2 per cent in 2016.

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