OTTAWA, Canada, (AFP) – Canada saw record-high population growth last year due to a surge in immigrants and temporary residents, the government statistical agency said Wednesday, adding that if the trend continues the nation will double its population in 26 years.
As of January 1, the country's population hit 39,566,248 after adding 1,050,110 people over the previous 12 months -- a sizeable gain the likes of which has not been seen since the post-war baby boom of the 1950s.
In the present day, however, international migration accounted for nearly all of the growth (95.9 percent) as Ottawa sought to bring in more and more immigrants to fill a labor shortage.
"This marks the first 12-month period in Canada's history where population grew by over 1 million people," Statistics Canada said in a statement.
With an increase of 2.7 percent, Canada last year by far led other Group of Seven industrialized nations and ranked among the top 20 in the world for population growth, the agency said.
Almost all countries with a higher pace of population growth were in Africa, it noted.
Faced with near-record low unemployment (5.0 percent) and an aging population -- with one in seven people in Canada between the ages of 55 and 64 years -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's liberal government doubled its target for welcoming newcomers since coming to power in 2015.
A record 437,180 immigrants landed in Canada in 2022, and that number is scheduled to rise to 500,000 per year by 2025.
The number of non-permanent residents granted work or study permits in Canada also spiked last year to 607,782. That was partly due to the welcoming of many thousands of people fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, said Statistics Canada.
Earlier Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced that a program to help temporarily resettle Ukrainians in Canada, which was due to expire next week, would be extended another year.
The government has also made it easier for Afghans facing instability to come to Canada, as well as Turks and Syrians following recent earthquakes that have killed more than 50,000 people in those two countries.
While Canadians generally have positive views of immigration, the latest influx, according to Statistics Canada, will pose challenges in areas of housing, infrastructure and transportation, and services.
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