Sources of National Data on Immigrants

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Pathways to Prosperity is an alliance of university, community, and government partners dedicated to fostering welcoming communities and promoting the integration of immigrant and minorities across Canada. Its April 2015 e-bulletin contains an overview of national data sources on immigrants by REAPontario research team member Ray Bollman. This information is based on three presentations at the November 2014 Pathways to Prosperity conference.

This blog post highlights a few of the data sources of particular interest to REAPontario.


Understanding the role of immigration in Canada is important for both national and community-level policy discussions. Fortunately, a growing number of data-sets are available to assist researchers, policymakers and analysts working in community-based organizations.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) collects data on immigrants when they land in Canada and, for temporary residents, CIC collects data when the individual enters Canada.

Statistics Canada collects data on censuses and surveys that are reported by individuals. The largest dataset, which allows data to be tabulated for detailed sub-provincial geographies, is the Form 2B (long-form) Census of Population for 1971 and every five years from 1981 to 2006. This was replaced by the National Household Survey (NHS) in 2011. The NHS was a 1/3 sample of all households in the 2011 Census of Population. The questionnaire is here. Immigration status was enumerated in Question 11.


In January, 2006, Statistics Canada’s monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) added four questions in order to identify the immigrant population:

  • country of birth of the respondent;
  • whether or not the respondent was a “landed immigrant”;
  • the year the respondent became a landed immigrant (and the month requested for immigrants who arrived within 5 years of the date of the survey enumeration); and
  • the country where the respondent received his/her highest level of education.

These questions are comparable to those used in the 2006 long-form Census questionnaire and the 2011 National Household Survey.

In recent years, a number of datasets have been assembled by linking data from more than one source. One database, the Longitudinal Immigrant Database (IMDB) matches the information reported by immigrants when they land with their annual taxfiler data in each year after their admission to Canada.

Ray D Bollman


Readers are encouraged to link to Ray Bollman’s complete article by accessing the April 2015 e-bulletin.


By Ray Bollman and Sarah Wayland

Sarah V Wayland

Sarah Wayland, Principal Investigator

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