International Immigration

Figure INIM-1. Percentage of Saskatchewan residents born outside Canada 1911 to 2001.
Canadian Plains Research Center
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With the exception of the Aboriginal population, all of Saskatchewan’s residents are either immigrants or the descendants of immigrants: the province, and indeed the country, was largely populated by those born in other countries.

Figure INIM-1 shows the proportion of Saskatchewan residents who were born outside Canada (the definition of “immigrant” used in these data). The number of immigrants in Saskatchewan has been declining as a percentage of the population. In 1911, a few years after Saskatchewan became a province, just under 50% of the province’s 492,000 residents were immigrants. By 2001 the population had doubled, but there were fewer than 50,000 immigrants living in Saskatchewan. Although some of this decline is a result of the natural aging of the population, a good deal is explained by the fact that the province is not able to retain recent immigrants: estimates vary, but it seems that only 50–60% of immigrants who come to Saskatchewan eventually make their home here.

In Canada, immigrants make up 18% of the population. The proportion is as high as 27% in Ontario and 26% in British Columbia, but Saskatchewan has one of the lowest proportions with 5% of the residents born outside Canada. This is higher than in the four Atlantic provinces, but lower than the 12% in Manitoba and the 15% in Alberta. Whereas most of the early immigrants to Saskatchewan were from Europe, recent immigrants tend to come from Asian countries: among those who moved to Canada from 1991 to 2001 and who were living in Saskatchewan in 2001, 42% were born in Asian countries--typically China or the Philippines. Other countries that are common birthplaces among recent immigrants include the United States (11%), the various countries of the former Yugoslavia (9%), and South Africa (4%).

Among current Saskatchewan residents 15 years of age and older, 7% were born outside Canada but another 22% are “first generation” Canadians in the sense that at least one of their parents was born outside Canada. The province may be ready for a new generation of immigrants. Labour market trends indicate that there will be a surge in retirements over the next ten to fifteen years: immigrants may be able to help meet the demand for workers.

Doug Elliott