Alberta surpasses B.C. as immigration destination

For the first time in decades, Alberta has surpassed British Columbia as a destination for recent immigrants.

More and more international arrivals are settling in the largest prairie province

Samiul Haque, his wife, Mahabuba Begam, and their son, Radh, officially became Canadians on July 3, 2015, during a special citizenship ceremony at the Calgary Stampede Grandstand show. (Calgary Stampede)

For the first time in decades, Alberta has surpassed British Columbia as a destination for recent immigrants.

That's according to the latest census data, released Wednesday by Statistics Canada, which shows how immigration patterns have shifted toward the Prairie provinces in general — and Alberta, in particular.

"Over the past 15 years, the share of recent immigrants in the Prairie provinces has more than doubled," the federal agency said in a release.

Alberta's share of recent immigrants — defined as people who first obtained their landed immigrant or permanent resident status in Canada in the five years prior to a given census — rose from 6.9 per cent in 2001 to 17.1 per cent in 2016.

That's now the third highest among all provinces, just behind Quebec's 17.8 per cent.

Ontario remains the most popular destination for recent immigrants, with 39 per cent living there in 2016.

But that's down sharply from the 55.9 per cent who called Ontario home in 2001.

The proportion of new immigrants in B.C., meanwhile, shrunk from 19.9 per cent to 14.5 per cent over the past decade and a half.

International vs. interprovincial migration

The surge in immigrants settling in Alberta has helped maintain the province's population growth despite an exodus of existing residents who left for other provinces in the wake of the recent recession.

Over the past two years, Alberta lost more than 30,000 residents to interprovincial migration.

During that same time, it gained more than 75,000 people from international migration.

Including births, Alberta's overall population grew from 3,790,191 in 2011 to 4,236,376 in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

That's an increase of 11.8 per cent — by far the fastest population growth of any province.

The next closest was Saskatchewan with a population growth of 7.7 per cent.

The national population grew by 5.6 per cent between 2011 and 2016.