How many immigrants stayed?

5.1% of immigrants admitted between 1982 and 2017 emigrated within five years of landing;

This percentage rises to 17.5% 20 years after admission;

Annual probabilities of emigrating peak three to seven years after admission.

Those are the highlights of a Statistics Canada report Emigration of Immigrants: Results from the Longitudinal Immigration Database released on 2 February 2024.

The chart fills in the gaps.

This leakage of immigrants must be accounted for in estimating immigrant contribution to subsequent demographics.

The good news, not mentioned in the report, is that retention of immigrants may be higher than historically. However, the quality of historic data is questionable.

In the early 1920s an immigration branch official opined about the proposed Empire Settlement Act (ESA):

“In the past we have brought into this country immigrants by the hundred thousand only to discover at the next census that they had all vanished.”

That’s recorded in the chapter ‘Leaven for the lump’: Canada and Empire settlement, 1918-1939, by John A. Schultz in Emigrants and Empire: British Settlement in the Dominions Between the Wars (Studies in Imperialism), Constantine, Stephen [Editor], Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York, 1990).

It’s an exaggeration, but emigration of immigrants has long been a concern. Schultz includes the following

… of the 8,500 (Harvesters) sent, 6,876 had returned to the United Kingdom (in September), ending hopes that a large number would settle into permanent employment in Canada.

A much earlier Stats Can (Dominion Bureau of Statistics) publication I mentioned recently, Canadian Immigration Policy and Backgrounds,  includes data for the early 20th century. To summarize:

1901-1911:  Immigration was  1,847,651. The net
growth in the immigrant population was 887,461, so 960,190 were lost, perhaps no more than 90,000 of those to death. That’s 47% lost to emigration.

1911-1921: The text mentions, “In 1921, only 50.3 percent of the survivors of the 1911-21 immigrants were still in Canada.” That means by the end of the decade, 49.7% of immigrants were not residents, which would include war dead.

1921-1931: “From calculations based on the Censuses of 1921 and 1931, on the percentage of immigrants still living who arrived in any decade and are still in Canada, we find only about 26.3 percent, or 1 in 4 remain for a period of over 30 years, 38.8 percent for 20-30 years, around 42 percent for 10-20 years, while a little over 50 percent. remain after from one to ten years.”


The gap between 10 and 50 percent after 10 years is enough to drive a large truck through. If an immigrant arrives, gets rooted, perhaps marries a person who is rooted, chances are they’d have no motivation to emigrate. By contrast, some came to Canada with no intention of staying long term. Others came for the brighter prospects it offerred compared to the previous situation. Having moved once, if they perceive propects to be brighter yet by leaving Canada, then they would be more ready to do so. We can’t be sure.




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