Four Facts Behind the Story of Asia Pacific Immigration to Canada

Most Canadians know that Canada is a country of immigrants, but are less aware of where these immigrants come from, their intended province/territory of destination, and what kind of benefits they bring to Canada. The following four facts explore the story behind the largest group of immigrants to Canada: Asia Pacific immigrants.

1. Over half of Canada’s total immigrants come from the Asia Pacific

Canada’s past has been shaped by various waves of immigrants coming from the Asia Pacific region. Many Canadians would initially guess Asia Pacific immigration to Canada began in the second half of the 19th century with the arrival of thousands of Chinese who came over first for the gold rush and later to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Immigrants from the Asia Pacific region, however, have been coming to Canada well before Confederation as well, from the ancestors of Aboriginal peoples thousands of years ago to Chinese labourers in the 1700s.

Fast-forwarding to the present, Asia Pacific immigration to Canada is even stronger. From 2000 to 2014, close to two million immigrants from the Asia Pacific region arrived in Canada, representing 52 per cent of Canada’s total immigrants. In other words, an average of more than 126,800 immigrants arrived per year from the Asia Pacific to Canada. In 2014 alone, 133,255 immigrants from the Asia Pacific arrived in Canada, or 52 per cent of the total number of immigrants that year.

As shown in the graph below, the number of immigrants from the Asia Pacific region is fairly large compared to other regions. From 2004 to 2014, the number of Asia Pacific immigrants was on a steady rise along with immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. Meanwhile, immigration from the United States and Latin America has been relatively stagnant and traditional European immigrants have seen a decline in their numbers.

2. The majority of Asia Pacific immigrants to Canada come from China, India, and the Philippines

Canada continues to welcome immigrants from all across the Asia Pacific region, but the majority has been coming from three countries. Over the period of 2000 to 2014, nearly half a million Chinese immigrants came to Canada, representing over a quarter of Canada’s total Asia Pacific immigrants. This makes China the highest source of Asia Pacific immigrants to Canada. Contributing 25 per cent of total immigration from the Asia Pacific (467,000), India was a close second. The Philippines followed with a total of about 350,000, or 18 per cent. Over this period, Filipino immigrants have shown the largest increase out of any Asia Pacific economy. In 2000, only 10,740 Filipinos immigrated to Canada, yet by 2014, the number almost quadrupled to 40,020.

3. Most Asia Pacific immigrants are economic immigrants

More than 50 per cent of Canada’s current immigrants are highly educated and skilled. Many Asia Pacific immigrants in Canada have these qualities and come to Canada as so-called economic immigrants. Although the specific criteria for choosing economic immigrants have changed over the years, the criteria are always based on desired skills and an ability to contribute to Canada’s economy. There are several subcategories, including skilled workers, business immigrants, and provincial or territorial nominees. From 2000 to 2014, they made up close to 65 per cent (1,213,080) of the total immigrants from the Asia Pacific. These economic immigrants primarily come from China, the Philippines, and India.  

Even with the right skills and knowledge, many immigrants face difficulties entering the Canadian labour market. It often takes time for economic immigrants to find proper jobs because of a lack of recognition of foreign credentials, real or perceived language or cultural competency issues, and/or the lack of Canadian work experience. Ensuring these issues are dealt with can help economic immigrants smoothly find a job and settle in Canada.

4. The Prairies becoming a popular destination to settle, Ontario on the decline

Ontario has been the most popular destination for Asia Pacific immigrants over the past decade and a half. Close to one million Asia Pacific immigrants arrived in Ontario in that period. That is more than half of the total number of Asia Pacific immigrants that came to Canada during that time. Following the national trend, most of these immigrants came from India (288,085), China (235,725), Pakistan (130,740), and the Philippines (126,170).

While Ontario is still the most popular destination for Asia Pacific immigrants, its share of newcomers has been on the decline since 2002. British Columbia, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces have been relatively stable since 2000 to 2014. The Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), meanwhile, has seen incredible growth since the early 2000s because of the region’s vibrant economy and the federal government’s emphasis on trade workers needed in the area. Numbers may decrease over the next few years though, particularly in Alberta as energy firms continue to lay off staff because of the 2014 oil price decline.


These four facts show that immigrants from the Asia Pacific are a crucial part of Canada’s immigration story. Each immigrant has a unique background, whether from China or the Philippines, and particular intentions, whether to settle in Ontario or the Prairies. However, all of them bring a kind of diversity to Canada that cannot easily be found elsewhere in the world.