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Lesson 4 - Immigration: The Changing Face of Canada

This lesson was written by The Critical Thinking Consortium with editorial input and subject matter expertise from Statistics Canada's Education Outreach Program and Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.


Learners examine immigration to provinces and territories and determine what factors attract immigrants to Canada. They analyze statistical evidence to validate inferences regarding pull factors. Finally, learners make recommendations to prospective immigrants regarding the places in Canada that would best meet their needs.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

Intermediate, secondary – Grades 7 to 12
History, Social Studies, Geography


Learners will demonstrate:

  • understanding of the levels of immigration in provinces, territories, cities, and municipal areas
  • understanding of various pull factors that attract immigrants to provinces, territories, cities, and metropolitan areas
  • ability to effectively support decisions with appropriate evidence.


Classroom instructions

Learners will focus on two key areas:

  • immigration levels in provinces and territories
  • factors that draw immigrants to Canada and specific provinces and territories.

Activity 1: Exploring immigration levels

Organize learners into teams and provide each team with a copy of Handout 1: Map of Canada. Without referring to immigration, ask learners to identify any apparent irregularities with the map. They might indicate, for example, that the provinces and territories are not the correct size. Inform learners that this map was designed to visually represent the number of immigrants to different parts of Canada. The size of a province or territory should be proportional to its number of immigrants, so that the larger its size, the greater the number of immigrants living there. Encourage learners to consider the accuracy of the map by posing questions such as, 'According to this map, which province or territory attracts the most immigrants? Which attracts the least?' 'Do you think this map accurately represents immigration levels to each province or territory?'

Provide each learner with a large blank sheet of paper that is at least legal size (8.5" x 14"). Explain that their task is to use census data to verify the accuracy of the map in representing the proportion of total immigrants to Canada that are received in each province and territory. If they find the map inaccurate, they must create a more accurate one to correctly represent the levels of immigration in the provinces and territories for 2006. Explain that they will not draw the actual shapes of provinces and territories in their revised map. Instead, they will draw a different size square as a symbol for each province and territory. Each province or territory's square will have an area that is proportional in size to the relative level of immigration for that province or territory.

Give learners Handout 2: Information sources and instructions, in which they will find sources of supporting statistics for each province or territory.

Go over with learners the following instructions on how to translate census data into visual form:

  • Identify the province that has the highest proportion of total immigrants (for example, Ontario has 54.9% of the total immigrant population).
  • Multiply this percentage by 0.5 to determine the length of each side of the square that will represent this province (for example, 54.9 x 0.5 = 27.5 cm).
  • Calculate the length of the sides of the squares that represent the remaining provinces and territories in the same manner (for example, British Columbia has 18.1% of the total immigrant population, 18.1 x 0.5 = 9.0 cm).

Activity 2: Mapping immigration to Canadian metropolitan areas

Invite each team to present to the class its assessment of the accuracy of the original map and its redrawn version. Ask learners to consider whether specific cities and metropolitan areas would attract more immigrants than others. Instruct learners to draw circles to represent immigration to key metropolitan areas, with the size of each circle reflecting the number of immigrants.

Guide learners in translating census data into visual form as follows:

  • Identify the metropolitan area that has the highest proportion of immigrants (for example, Toronto has 37.5% of the total immigrant population).
  • Multiply this number by 0.5 to determine the radius of a circle representing this metropolitan area (e.g., 37.5 x 0.5 = 18.8 cm).
  • Draw circles to represent immigration to other key metropolitan areas.

Supporting statistics for cities and metropolitan areas can be found in the following sources:

As an extension to this activity, you could ask each team to create a second map of the number of immigrants in each province or territory as a percentage of that province or territory's population. This would show a very different picture of the impact of immigration across the country. For example, the Yukon Territory's 3,000 immigrants are a very small proportion (.05%) of Canada's 6 million immigrants, but they represent 10% of the Yukon Territory's 30,000 people.

Supporting statistics for this task can be found in the following table:

Assess learner responses using the Evaluation rubric 1: Assessing the map.

Activity 3: Identify pull factors

Inform learners of the two types of factors that influence decisions to immigrate: push and pull factors. 'Push factors' prompt people to leave countries: for example, some migrants are driven from their countries by economic hardship or conflict. Conversely, 'pull factors' are those that attract potential immigrants to a specific destination.

Ask learners to consider some examples of pull factors that might attract potential immigrants to Canada:

  • Economic factors: examples could include job opportunities, economic freedom, opportunities to start a business or to invest
  • Political factors: examples could include protection of rights and freedoms
  • Social factors: examples could include educational opportunities, similar languages and cultures, need for medical treatment
  • Geographic: examples could include climate, proximity to home country.

Encourage learners to think about how different perspectives may influence individual immigrants. For example, would a potential immigrant from Afghanistan be drawn to Canada for the same reasons as a potential immigrant from Hong Kong?

Organize learners into teams and assign each team a province or territory. Provide each team with a copy of Handout 3: Identifying pull factors. Using the sources listed below, ask learners to identify characteristics related to each type of pull factor (economic, political, social and geographic) in their assigned province or territory, and then to suggest how each characteristic might pull immigrants to that area. For example, a team assigned to Alberta might record that this province has the fastest growing economy in Canada. Learners might infer that more people would move to Alberta than other provinces to seek employment.

In addition to sources listed in Activity 1, information about pull factors in each province and territory can be found in the following sources:

Activity 4: Ranking the provinces and territories

Invite each team to present its collection of pull factors for a province/territory to the class. Ask learners to consider why some areas of Canada had very low levels of immigration in 2006. To extend the activity, guide learners to determine whether some provinces/territories possess factors that discourage immigrants from settling in that area. If desired, add a third column to the 'Identifying pull factors' chart to record these negative factors.

Provide each learner with a copy of Handout 4: Ranking the provinces and territories. Instruct learners to rank the top three provinces/territories according to the relative strength of their pull factors: which ones would be the most attractive to immigrants? Direct learners to identify three pieces of census data or evidence found in the links listed above to support their rankings.

Assess learner responses using Evaluation rubric 2: Assessing the Ranking.

Activity 5: Recommend a destination

Provide each learner with a copy of Handout 5: Immigrant profiles and Handout 6: Selecting a destination. Instruct learners to read the profiles of the two potential immigrants and determine the pull factors that would influence their decisions to choose a particular location in Canada. Learners will record these factors in Handout 5.

Possible pull factors could include:

  • Economic benefits: Does the location provide job opportunities that match individual skills and interests? Are there opportunities to start businesses or invest?
  • Social opportunities: Does the location provide opportunity for education? Will people in this location speak a similar language? Are there opportunities to join communities of people with similar backgrounds?
  • Geographic advantages: Does the location have an acceptable climate? Is the location a feasible distance from family?
  • Political freedoms: Does the location provide protection of rights and freedoms?

After identifying key pull factors for each potential immigrant, ask learners to recommend the location in Canada that would best meet the needs and aspirations of these individuals.  Remind learners that their choice of location should be guided by the pull factors and supporting census data that they identified earlier. In addition to the sources listed in Activities 1 and 3, supporting census data can also be found in the following sources:

Invite learners to share their recommendations with the class. Discuss the reasons for any differences between recommendations. To extend this activity, you could invite learners to reflect on their own families. If learners' families recently immigrated to Canada, encourage them to consider what factors pulled their family to Canada. For learners whose families have lived in Canada for generations, ask them to consider what factors might pull their family to move to a different region of Canada.

Assess learner responses using Evaluation rubric 3: Assessing the recommended destination.