Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced the record on Thursday, as permanent resident numbers surpassed the previous record set in 1913.
The milestone, which comes despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, was achieved by tapping candidates who were already in Canada on a temporary basis.
“This is a historic moment for our country, as we welcome the highest number of newcomers in a century,” Fraser said.
“I can’t wait to see the incredible contributions that our 401,000 new neighbours make in communities across the country,” he added.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) turned the immigration system on its head in response to the pandemic, with thousands of temporary residents – workers, students and visitors – offered a pathway to permanent residence.
IRCC says it processed a record 500,000 applications this year, by adding resources, using technology and taking more processes online.
The changes are all permanent, meaning Canada’s processing ability has been dramatically enhanced over the last year.
However, that has not stopped the development of a huge processing backlog, put at 1.8 million permanent and temporary residence, and citizenship applications. Ottawa will invest $85 million over the next two years to tackle this backlog.
Ottawa’s immigration target was met by switching the Express Entry system to focus on Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Program candidates, and by launching a new TR to PR Pathway for health care workers, other essential workers and international graduates, as well as French speakers.
Family reunification and refugee immigration also enhanced the numbers
“Canada needs immigration to drive our economy, enrich our society and support our aging population,” said an IRCC press release.
“One in three Canadian businesses is owned by an immigrant, and one in four health care workers is a newcomer.
“Business, labour market experts and economists all agree that immigration creates jobs, spurs innovation and helps address labour shortages.
“New Canadians contribute to communities across our country every day, and we will continue welcoming more of them as we build the Canada of tomorrow.”
The 401,000 total comes after Canada welcomed just 184,500 newcomers in 2020, at the height of COVID-19 restrictions.
Canada’s reliance on immigration is staggering. It represents nearly 100 percent of labour force growth and 75 percent of population growth. Estimates suggest immigrants will make up 30 percent of Canada’s population by 2036.
Many of the people trusted with helping Canadians through the pandemic are immigrants. Immigrants make up 37 percent of pharmacists, 36 percent of physicians, 39 percent of dentists, 23 percent of registered nurses, and 35 percent of nurse aides and related occupations.
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