Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton have highest immigrant retention rates: StatsCan

Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton have the highest immigrant retention rates in the country, according to data published by Statistics Canada.

Agency examined new arrivals admitted in 2014 and who filed taxes in 2019

The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers holds language instruction for immigrants to Canada. Edmonton and Calgary have immigrant retention rates above 80 per cent, according to new data from Statistics Canada. (Supplied by the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers)

Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton have the highest immigrant retention rates in the country, according to data published by Statistics Canada.

The agency looked at immigrants who were admitted to Canada in 2014 and filed taxes in 2019.

Five years after being admitted to Canada, 86.1 per cent of immigrants who first settled there had stayed in Vancouver, which had the highest retention rate of any metropolitan area, followed by Toronto (85.5 per cent) and Edmonton (84.6 per cent).

Metropolitan areas, as defined by StatsCan, contain at least 100,000 residents, with at least 50,000 of them living in the core.

Vancouver also had the highest retention rate for family-sponsored immigrants and refugees while Edmonton had the highest for economic immigrants.

The data shows that most tax-filing immigrants stay in the province where they were admitted. More than 85 per cent of the immigrants who came to Canada in 2014 remained in the same province or territory of admission five years later.

Provincially, Ontario had the highest retention rate (93.7 per cent), followed by British Columbia (89.7 per cent) and Alberta (89 per cent). Provinces in Atlantic Canada had the lowest rates. Only 28.1 per cent of immigrants stayed in Prince Edward Island.

The cities with the highest overall retention saw high rates for all of three immigration categories, but some other cities' rates were less even.

Montreal had high retention for family-sponsored immigrants and refugees, but a much lower for economic immigrants, and though Winnipeg retained 82 per cent of family-sponsored immigrants, its retention rate for refugees was about 40 per cent.

Employment an important factor

Marshia Akbar, a researcher at Ryerson University in Toronto, says social, economic and cultural factors influence migrants' mobility decisions, but employment and work experience is considered the most important factor.

The data shows immigrants who were admitted in 2014 with work permits were more likely to stay in their province or territory than those with study permits.

"They work there, they create a sense of belonging and because they already have work experience, it helps them to get another job so they don't necessarily feel the push to go to another province," said Akbar, a senior research associate at Ryerson's Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration.

Nathan Po, an immigration lawyer with McCuaig Desrochers in Edmonton, said he was not surprised to see retention rates above 80 per cent for Edmonton and Calgary. Calgary's rate was 82.9 per cent.

"A vast majority of my clients are looking to build a home here, and for the most part, they're still here," he said.

He added that Alberta tends to have a higher percentage of foreign workers than some other provinces, which could be influencing retention rates.

Statistics Canada used data from the Longitudinal Immigration Database, which does not explain why people stay put. But Akbar and her colleagues are studying that question, examining why some migrants have stayed for more than 10 years in smaller cities and towns in Ontario and Saskatchewan.

This kind of data, Akbar said, can inform successful immigrant retention strategies.

"The friendliness of the community is one of the things that we would say is a way of keeping people to stay," said Josephine Pallard, education program manager at Changing Together, a non-profit that helps immigrant women in Edmonton.

Pallard, who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines more than 50 years ago, said some of the people she serves moved away, only to return to Edmonton after a few months, saying they feel more accepted in the city.

Though most immigrants stay put in Edmonton, she said the biggest reason for leaving is foreign credentials not being recognized in Alberta.

"That's the only barrier that we have noticed from the clients that come here," she said.


Madeleine Cummings is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. She covers local news for CBC Edmonton's web, radio and TV platforms. You can reach her at madeleine.cummings@cbc.ca.