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Immigration and emigration

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Canada is a country of immigrants. Students will use statistics from various editions of the Canada Year Book to gain an understanding of where immigrants settled in Canada and how immigration affected the overall population of Canada during the period from 1867 to 1967. They will look at 'push' and 'pull' factors to determine why people leave one region or country and why they are attracted to another.


  • To locate relevant information using historical documents.
  • To analyse, classify and interpret information from historical documents.
  • To read a variety of charts and tables for specific purposes.
  • To scan written text for specific information.
  • To make inferences and draw conclusions.
  • To communicate information and understanding using charts, tables and written text.
  • To use vocabulary specific to the topic and theme.
  • To demonstrate understanding of the importance of immigration in the development of Canada.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

Social Studies, History


10 to 20 minutes for the introduction (steps 1 and 2)
50 to 60 minutes for Part 1 (steps 3 to 7)
50 to 60 minutes for Part 2 (steps 8 to 12)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Boom – a period of wealth or sudden commercial activity.
Depression – a period of economic crisis, when many people lose their jobs and some are unable to care for their families.
Emigrant – a person who has moved from his or her country of origin.
Emigration – the movement of people out of a country.
Immigrant – a person who has moved to a new country.
Immigration – the movement of people into a 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.
Trend – a general tendency or pattern.
War refugees – people who move to another country to escape the danger and troubles of war.


Canada Year Book resources

1937 (PDF)

1967 (PDF)

Classroom instructions

  1. Present the following outline to the class:
    1. We will be using various editions of the Canada Year Book online to learn more about Canada as a nation of immigrants.
    2. We will find the numbers of immigrants to Canada from 1867 to 1967, the period when the most immigrants arrived, and we will identify the provinces that were the most attractive to them. We will discuss why people leave one country and are attracted to a new region or country.
    3. Finally, we will compare immigration statistics with Canada's population to determine how much immigration has affected the overall population of Canada.
  2. Vocabulary is important in this lesson. As a class, discuss the vocabulary as it relates to people immigrating to Canada.

Part 1

  1. Review the meaning of 'push' and 'pull' factors. Have students complete Student worksheet 1 as a class or in groups.
  2. After the students have indicated their own understanding of the factors, introduce the idea that historical events and government policies can affect immigration. Give each group a copy of Student worksheet 2. Discuss the timeline to give a context to the research students will do.

    You can point out factors such as war (e.g., Hungary, Yugoslavia, Vietnam), religious persecution (e.g., Europe and Russia), famine (e.g., Ireland's Great Potato Famine), overcrowding (e.g., big cities in Europe), high rent and taxes (e.g., Europe) and poor farming conditions (e.g., Ukraine, Norway, Finland). To find hints of the historical events related to major waves of immigration from different countries, consult the presentation "One hundred years of immigration."

  3. Have students complete Student worksheet 3, collecting immigration data using the online statistics from Canada Year Book 1937 and Canada Year Book 1957.
  4. Have students complete Student worksheet 4. They will use the timeline in Student worksheet 2 to explain heavy immigration in Student worksheet 3.
  5. Collect student worksheets 3 and 4 and correct them. Use an overhead projector to review answers.

Part 2

  1. Discuss with the class the reasons why some areas of Canada have more immigration and a greater population than others and why immigrants might go there (e.g., jobs available, lots of natural resources, favourable climate, good farm land, proximity to waterways). Have students contribute other reasons why immigrants would choose to move to an area.
  2. Have students complete the table in Student worksheet 5.  Ensure that a range of provinces and territories are covered. Show results on an overhead transparency.
  3. Point out to the class that Canada's population has grown from just over 3 million at Confederation to well over 32 million today. Pose the following question to the class: Does immigration have a large influence on the growth of population? Have the students complete Student worksheet 6 to find the answer.

    Notes to teacher about calculations:
    • Natural increase = births minus deaths
    • Actual increase = natural increase plus net migration
    • Net migration = natural increase minus actual increase
  4. When students work in groups, have them complete Evaluation rubric 1 to assess the work of their group on these tasks.
  5. Use Evaluation rubric 2 to assess learning with respect to students' use of statistics and logical thinking to reach conclusions.


Have students investigate current information about immigration, using the Statistics Canada website and other up-to-date sources (newspapers, magazines, electronic media, etc.).