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Immigration and emigration

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Immigration in Canada has been affected by both internal and external factors. Internal factors include government policy and a need for settlers to populate Canada’s West. External factors are world events that bring immigrants to our shores.

These activities provide an opportunity to assess how Canadian history has affected, and been affected by, immigration to and emigration from Canada.

Using text and tables from the Canada Year Book Historical Collection, students will investigate the events and factors that have contributed to this country’s history.


  • To identify internal factors (e.g., government policies) and external factors (e.g., world events) that affected immigration to Canada from 1867 to 1967.
  • To find evidence of the impact of internal and external factors in the data about Canadian immigration in past editions of the Canada Year Book.
  • To locate information using historical sources.
  • To analyse, classify and interpret information from historical sources.
  • To read a variety of charts and tables for specific purposes.
  • To practise Internet research skills.
  • To communicate findings and analyses orally and in writing.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

History, Social Studies


Two class periods for activity 1.
One class period for activity 2.

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Emigration – the movement of people out of a country.
Immigration – the movement of people into a country.
Immigrant – a person who has moved to a new country.
Migration – the movement of people from one area to another for the purpose of settlement.
Pull factors – the reasons why people move to a certain location, including social, political, economic and environmental reasons.
Push factors – the reasons why people leave a certain location, including social, political, economic and environmental reasons.
Countries of origin – countries from which people have emigrated.



Classroom instructions

Activity 1: Immigration to Canada

  1. Before handing out Student worksheet 1, engage students in a discussion about how they would envision immigration to Canada from 1867 to 1967. Would the number of immigrants be the same every year, or would there be variations? If so, what would affect the numbers coming into the country? Students should be able to identify major events such as the First World War, the Second World War, the Depression, and other world events. They may also identify the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 and the appointment of Clifford Sifton as the Minister of the Interior in 1896.

    Point out that over time, the major source of immigrants to Canada has changed from France, to the British Isles, to Western Europe, to Eastern Europe and, in more recent decades, to Eastern and Southeast Asia.

  2. Hand out Student worksheet 1 and give students a few minutes to look at the graph, "Immigrant arrivals to Canada, 1867 to 1967." Are they surprised by what they see? Have them discuss the variations in the graph and suggest reasons for these variations. This graph shows the numbers of immigrants only, not countries of origin.

  3. Ask students to choose a time period to investigate using the Canada Year Book Historical Collection. For this period, they will try to identify the push and pull factors, the main countries that provided immigrants and, if possible, the destination provinces and territories. Emphasize the importance of reading the text as well as reviewing the tables in the various editions.

Activity 2: Emigration from Canada

  1. Discuss emigration with students. As a relatively young country, Canada is attractive to immigrants looking for new opportunities. However, there has also been a certain amount of emigration out of Canada. Emigration is more difficult to measure because one does not have to apply to leave the country. We often get information on Canada's emigrants from the receiving country's immigration department.

  2. Have students complete Student worksheet 2.