In a search of a ‘better life’ and all things associated with that dream, Cindy Zhao says she moved to British Columbia from China this year for more money, cleaner air, an easier place to grow old. Her husband settled here a year earlier. The couple selected Vancouver as their Canadian home because the primary alternate, Toronto, is too cold for their tastes.
The Zhao are two the of tens of thousands of new immigrants who are giving Canada’s population a growth spurt, according to a Statistics Canada report. Canada’s population increased at its fastest first-quarter rate in four years from January to March, climbing past the 32.5 million mark.
The increase was mostly due to net international migration, which accounted for nearly three-quarters of the estimated 78,200 people who took up permanent residency in Canada during the first three months of 2006. The role of immigration in population growth was especially strong in B.C., which attracted more immigrants on a per capita basis than any other province.
B.C.’s population grew in this year’s first quarter to 4.29 million. International migration, totaling 10,199 people, accounted for 80 per cent of the total population growth in B.C. during the period. B.C.’s net international migration rate was higher than any other province.
Zhao said that Vancouver’s environment was a factor in her choice of where to live. ‘When I first came here I didn’t like the rain. But I’m getting to like it now because there is more sun now.’
‘And you can visit the country side, but still live in the city. It’s difficult to do that in China.’
Zhao, a former bank employee from China’s Guangdong province, is now taking courses at SUCCESS, the immigration and social service agency, on how to apply for work. One attraction to immigrants entering Canada is the generous amount of social assistance available to adapt to the new culture.
China is the top source country for immigration to B.C., followed by India and the Philippines. Immigration to Canada during the first quarter, while high, did not match the peaks recorded in 2001 and 2002. International migration has accounted for more than 70 per cent of Canada’s average first-quarter population growth since 2001, compared with only 34 per cent between 1979 and 1984.
The Statistics Canada report found that Alberta’s economic boom remains a powerful demographic force. Alberta gained 25,900 people, the highest first quarter increase ever for the province. Net interprovincial migration accounted for 15,600 of these newcomers, also a record for the first quarter.