All population growth in Canada is the result of immigration.

If we accept that the human species originated on another continent, that statement is self-evident. Every permanent resident in Canada is either an immigrant or the descendant of an immigrant, and that is what drives population growth in Canada.

The idea that populations must grow in order for a country to be successful is not a global one, but it is certainly evident in North America. However, despite the fact that this notion spans the Canadian political spectrum, there was a fundamental change a few decades ago in the thinking of Canadians at large.

In 1971, the Total Fertility Rate in Canada dropped below the replacement rate of about 2.1 children per woman. Through the baby boom “echo,” it has stayed below that rate, and for the most part significantly below, dropping to a low of 1.49 children per woman in the year 2000.

I was a part of that cohort and our family made a conscious decision in the 1980s, along with many of our peers, to have only two children. We could see the effects already of overcrowding in other countries, and wished to try to preserve the natural beauty, opportunities to interact with nature, and other aspects of Canadian life for our children, and for future generations. Without knowing it, we were following Jonathon Porritt’s dictum that it is environmentally irresponsible to have more than two children.

We were taking individual responsibility for our individual contribution to the total impact of Canadians on this land, as well as trying to set an example for other countries regarding the positive effect that lower populations have on the world around us. It was a conscious choice, and fit with some of the ideas of that time about zero population growth.

Little did we know, however, that larger forces would completely undo our efforts and only make matters worse. From that critical change in 1971, Canadians have allowed more than 7.5 million immigrants into Canada, with a direct impact on population growth.

And, although data are difficult to find, the indications are there that these recent immigrants have a significantly higher fertility rate than the national average. Over the more than forty years since the change, immigrants have also contributed tens of thousands of additional Canadians to the population in the first generation. Adding that compounding effect to the actual number of immigrants each year likely places the total near to the actual population growth figure for the country annually.  In other words, it’s likely that all population growth now is attributable to immigrants and their immediate offspring.

According to articles in the Montreal Gazette and other media, this will all be moot within a few years anyway, as the claim is that, even without accounting for this compounding effect, population growth in Canada will be the direct result of immigration each year, and nothing else.

And each year, we see the incremental negative effects of an increasing population on Canada. Quotas on access to parks, dwindling populations of a variety of species, more pressure on natural areas, and on and on.

As one example among innumerable examples across Canada, I can point to the small stream that used to flow 45 years ago near the house where I was raised in Surrey. We caught trout in that stream, and watched with awe as 20 or 30 pound salmon rested in the pools on their way to the gravel spawning beds upstream.

That stream is now in a culvert far below the surface, and barren of fish and other aquatic life.  In response to a rapidly growing population, the culvert was installed to help “manage” the water flow in order that a residential development could be built. And this was not low density. It fit the Greens’ criterion of moderate density compact development, but it still destroyed a natural area.

Yes, there are better regulations in place nowadays, but lack of enforcement coupled with increased pressure from population growth means that the destruction continues. Shopping malls are built on wetlands. Precious farmland is disappearing under housing developments. Asphalt is spreading across more of the country, not just from new roads but also from additional lanes to handle increased volume on existing roads. And even if every car was a Prius, that would not change.

The negative effects of population growth happen in such small increments that most people do not even notice, much like the example of the frog in the jar of water. But population growth continues inexorably in Canada, actively supported by all political parties despite the fact that Canadians have voted in their bedrooms for zero or negative population growth.

There are, of course, those who stridently deny that population growth, total population, immigration, and overpopulation are issues. They seem to think that, because Canada still is relatively unspoiled when compared to the rest of the planet, spoiling it even more creates some sort of social equity. I suspect that the trout and salmon and other life now gone from a multitude of streams across the country would likely disagree with their perspective, if they could. I suspect that the organisms and species that our sheer numbers have crowded out would likely disagree with their perspective, if they could. What I do know as a fact is that everyone I talk with who is truly in touch with the natural environment in Canada vehemently disagrees with their perspective.

I have to wonder what the deniers think it means to be “green.”


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Slowing immigration

To what extent do you think we should slow down immigration to Canada? Should we target immigration levels to keep our population where it is now or reduce them further so that our population begins to decline?

Ard Van Leeuwen (Dufferin-Caledon, ON)

The views I express on this blog are purely my own and should not be construed to represent the official position of the Green Party of Canada.

Slowing population growth.

Ard, I had a lengthy response prepared and will share it if you wish but, short answer: decline.

Short answers are good. Another quick question then

Or two questions maybe. How much of a priority would you place on slowing down immigration in order to help reduce Canada's population? Would it be a more important objective than, say, reducing Canada's per capita ecological foot print by 10-20%?

Would you slow down immigration across the board or aim it at specific countries of origin or certain skill sets or lack of skill sets?

Ard Van Leeuwen (Dufferin-Caledon, ON)

The views I express on this blog are purely my own and should not be construed to represent the official position of the Green Party of Canada.

Short answers again, and thanks for short questions.

I think that slowing down population growth is more achievable in the short term than reducing Canada's per capita ecological footprint by 10 - 20%, and will mitigate the increase in total footprint that seems inevitable under current policy and practice. But again, I believe that we must work on reducing both our individual consumption and our total consumption. 

To answer your second question: across the board.

Again, there are all sorts of things to add (especially to the second point), but those are the shortest answers I can give.

What evidence?

May I ask what evidence or indicators you have to support your guess that it will be easier to slow immigration than to reduce per capita footprint? 

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins, Barrie ON - although I'm on Cabinet (Nat'l Rev. and Ecol. Fiscal Reform), views here are my own and may not reflect official GPC positions. Please visit

I'd say reduction in footprint is most important

Leaving aside for the moment which might be easier to accomplish, I'd say reduction in per capita footprint in Canada would be by far the higher priority, especially in areas like carbon emmisions where we rank near the top of the world league.

It really weakens any argument that immigration should be reduced out of environmentall concerns when our track record says that those of us already here don't seem to be collectively concerned enough.

Ard Van Leeuwen (Dufferin-Caledon, ON)

The views I express on this blog are purely my own and should not be construed to represent the official position of the Green Party of Canada.

What is the objective?

Thanks, Ard. I appreciate your comments.

Given what climate change professionals are saying about tipping points and runaway climate change, my own highest priority is reduction in total impact and emissions. It would seriously weaken Canada's credibility (what little we now have) if we continue to increase our total emissions (small though they are comparatively) despite our best intentions and despite efforts to reduce personal consumption. What kind of example would that be for the rest of the planet?

And, according to Natural Resources Canada and other sources, we will be increasing our total emissions significantly over at least the next decade. I don't know about you, but that bothers me more than just a little bit.

So, while I agree (as noted several times) that at least part of the solution is the reduction in personal consumption and emissions production, there is IMHO much more work than that to be done.

And I think you pointed to one of many reasons why I believe that it would be easier to reduce immigration than to lower personal consumption in Canada. When faced with a lack of collective will, what do you propose instead as a means to accomplish that latter goal?

What should the GPC preferred solution be?

I think that especially for a small party setting priorities is very important. Our ability to get our message out is limited so we had better choose the right one. Solving increasing emissions with a plan to reduce immigration and population is at best going to reduce footprint by 1% or so a year and even less globally because the immigrants we keep out will still be consuming, even if less so, outside our borders.

I'm less concerned about personal emissions than the fact we don't have in place much of a strategy to reduce the emissions of our economy in general. That's where I think we should focus. In addition to environmental concerns it can even be pitched as an attempt to modernize our economy in order for us to stay competitive with other lower emission economies with which we have to increasingly compete.

Current levels of immigration levels are one thing that most parties and Canadiens seem to be able to agree on, more or less. At least it's not really an issue that comes out during campaigns or in polls. I don't want to distinguish ourselves as the only party that would solve emissions by making lowering immigration levels a priority.

I should come clean and mention that I'm an immigrant and so is my wife. There are a lot of us in Canada and as you mention, rightly considered, all Canadians are immigrants. So, a policy to reduce immigration is going to go against the grain of a lot individuals, not to mention a chunk of Canadian history.

Ard Van Leeuwen (Dufferin-Caledon, ON)

The views I express on this blog are purely my own and should not be construed to represent the official position of the Green Party of Canada.

I'd turn that around, Ard.

Given what I have already said about tipping points and so on, I think it's clear that my priority is to reduce total consumption and emissions, and that policy follows from that. However, as already pointed out, I don't see any general public consensus that would help us make that happen, nor do I see evidence that that is about to change significantly.

And I agree that reducing immigration goes against "a chunk" of our history and current thinking. In fact, it goes against virtually all of human history, as do the arguments against further growth. But, given the evidence that we have overshot the ecosystem supports of this planet, and given the evidence that consumption and emissions are only going to increase further, as I said earlier some new thinking is required, and policies which work together to accomplish the goal we set.

But emissions are not the only issue. Resource scarcity, collapsing ocean fish stocks, soil exhaustion, and a host of other problems are functions to a greater or lesser extent of population size as well.

In other words, as someone who also believes that we must choose the right message, I am convinced that that message must address population issues as well.

Of course, what the Green Party does, and what other parties do, is often driven by political pragmatism, and I understand that. I don't necessarily agree, but I understand. I did bring up one area which I believe needs exploring further, and that is the relatively low TFR in Canada. Does this mean there is widespread, but unrecognized, support for stabilizing population? Are we missing a large segment of voters by not addressing this? I don't know the answers, but I believe that it's worth exploring.

Per-capita emissions.

Ard, we export products that have high emissions to produce.  More specifically, the expected marginal increase of CO2 emissions in Canada per new person is less than the per-capita gross average of CO2 emissions.  I mean, it's not like the amount of oil-sands prduction is related to the population of Canada.

By your standard, immigration has the immediate effect of lowering per-capita emissions on the ledger, but does nothing good for the planet.

Didn't think of it that way

Hmm, I didn't think of it that way, that increasing immigration could in some ways reduce per capita emissions related to oil sands production. In any case, that was not my intention. I think that a lot of our environmental objectives can be advanced if we simply put a significant and increasing price on pollution. I think that immigration arguments are a red herring in that context.

Ard Van Leeuwen (Dufferin-Caledon, ON)

The views I express on this blog are purely my own and should not be construed to represent the official position of the Green Party of Canada.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Sure, Erich, you can ask whatever you want. However, I am under no obligation to answer your questions or really address the issues. After all, I'm just following your example. Why do you want to know?

How blogging discussion works

Well, Rick, since it was you who introduced this blog discussion, it is generally accepted that you are willing to expand on or defend the ideas you put in it, rather than putting that onus on questioners. 

Further, a properly-written blog post which makes controversial assertions (or, as in some of your other ones, puts forward numerical analysis) will contain references or hyperlinks to the source material, so the readers don't even have to ask where your numbers or "facts" come from. For examples, you can see George Monbiot's work, or the site of a professional writer friend whose blogging skills I admire, Chris Tindal. (See what I did there, with the hyperlinks?) This kind of hyperlinking or referencing not only improves the value of your writing for the reader, it also demonstrates that you're not just making things up or passing opinion off as fact.

In contrast, you've mentioned support from the Montreal Gazette but without the date or writer of the story, and the Conference Board of Canada without a link or title of the report, and ecological footprint numbers from 2009 as complied and reported by ?  So people have to either get lucky with Google and hope they've found the source you're drawing from, or ask you to elaborate. But I guess the latter isn't much use, if you're just going to play coy.

If you don't want to defend, explain, or back up your assertions, why are you putting them here in the first place? I'm going to assume you're not just trolling.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins, Barrie ON - although I'm on Cabinet (Nat'l Rev. and Ecol. Fiscal Reform), views here are my own and may not reflect official GPC positions. Please visit

According to Erich, maybe....

Sure, Erich.

If you look around the blogosphere, you will find all sorts of different rules for blogging, both formally stated and informally followed. And you will find that one commonly-accepted purpose for blogging is personal commentary. I note that, in order to get here, I click on the "My Blog" link, not "Blogging according to Erich," or "My Discussion" or anything else. So, is it just you, or is it official GPC policy not to allow personal opinion to be freely expressed? I mean, in case you hadn't noticed, it does say near the top of the page that "blogs are personal opinions."

In short, although you may want to set the rules here, I don't believe that your rules are everyone's rules.

Given that there are no rules or guidelines formally published here, you stick to your own rules then, please, and I'll abide by mine. If you want an academic essay, then you are free to look elsewhere, but please stop with the name-calling. It doesn't look good on you.

Your straw man population grows

Once again, you accuse me of trying to prevent you from freely expressing your opinion. Where have I done that? Quite the contrary, I'm asking you to express it better, to provide some support for your opinions, particularly the ones you express as fact. 

And none of this is "official GPC policy" (have you not read my disclaimer?), nor is it "setting rules" (another straw man); I'm merely pointing out how good or effective blogging discussions work. If you're not interested in having a good discussion, if you choose not to answer reasonable questions or provide well-supported points (or back them up at all, going off on tangents or skirting the question), then you will find that a lot of reasonable readers will freely ignore your opinionated posts. It's a far cry from a good blog post to an academic essay, but certainly a blog can be informative with a minimum of effort.

Oh, and for your third straw man (quite the hat trick), just where in my comment did I call you names? I'm simply pointing out that refusing to provide supporting references or links, even though you write as if you've sourced your points somewhere, is ineffective presentation, eventually undermining your credibility. That's constructive criticism, not name-calling. 

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins, Barrie ON - although I'm on Cabinet (Nat'l Rev. and Ecol. Fiscal Reform), views here are my own and may not reflect official GPC positions. Please visit

Not sorry, my blog

"The lad( ) doth protest too much, methinks."

Oh, and given that you brought up the notion Erich, to be clear, I entertain no assumptions that you are not just trolling.


Well, I am anti-immigrant.

I am anti-immigrant, and I don't make a distinction between being anti-immigrant or anti-immigration.  To be clear, I am not racist nor am I against immigration by race, creed or religion.

Canada simply does not need immigration.  We don't need more people to adopt our high-consumption way of living, nor do we need to alleviate over-populated countries by moving their problems here.  We are a resource exporter.  We are neither the cause nor a contributor to troubled hot-spots today and shouldn't feel to bear the responsibilities of the world as if it is our doing.

Our immigration goal primarily should be properly scrutinized refugees, then preferred immigration between countries where Canadians may be emigrating, and finally a purely random sample of potential immigrants necessary to offset any population decline.

Canada's birth rate is insufficient to replace itself, so population growth we experience is from immigration.  There is a temporary gap where baby-boomers are not yet dying off at the same rate that their grandchildren are having babies, but statistically, our population growth is from immigrants who rapidly assume our resource-hogging lifestyle.

Aside from environmental reasons why immigration is bad, there are also economic reasons why immigration is bad.  Since free-trade (so late 80's) immigrants largely have been used to take low paying service jobs which for one-reason or another cannot be outsourced.  Immigrants who came from poor roots can not appreciate how little they are being paid and are generally less assertive when it comes to protecting their rights than Canadians who've had a lifetime to learn their rights.  Also, it is bad to take in only well educated immigrants from poor countries.

Finally, there is a cultural strain when we refuse to acknowledge that some immigrants may harbour intolerance contrary to customary Canadian attitudes.  (And yes, some Canadians can be intolerant too, but we're stuck with them.)

Is the notion of multiculturalism finally done?

Bram, some good comments, and your comment about raiding other countries for their educated people is particularly salient. And your second sentence above highlights for me the difference between "anti-immigrant" and "anti-immigration." My personal take is that the first focuses on the individual and may in fact have racist overtones, but the second focuses on the broader implications and consequences of the practice and policy. In any case, I for one certainly wouldn't be accusing you of racism based upon what I have seen.

Regarding your last comments, I have much more to say about this in another blog post for next week, but I note that the Dutch and some other nations are backing away from their very liberal multicultural policies and practices, recognizing that the culture they had in the first place was under attack (distress, whatever....) and worth preserving. 

Economic priority

Ard you say:

*I'd say reduction in per capita footprint in Canada would be by far the higher priority, especially in areas like carbon emissions where we rank near the top of the world league.*

I agree. I propose the best way to create jobs is by weaning Canada off fossil fuels and investing in new technology.

I propose the best way to pay for that is by creating money as per ratified BoC policy. Currently there are no specific target expenditures for the BoC's created money, so it seems like a natural use for this capital.

Tech would include electric highways for electric vehicles to wean Canada off fossil fuels, create jobs and add fuel savings back into the economy. See:

Constantine Kritsonis

It could be too early to say

It could be too early to say we do not need immigrants. One would first have to counter prevailing claims we need immigration to fund old age security.


Another avenue to tackle Canada's carbon should be to have carbon tax on imports that are carbon heavy. Europe is currently contemplating a special treatment of tar sands oil along these lines.


Constantine Kritsonis

A few among many, many...

Age distribution..

It's hard to tell from this data alone (, but we do not have the same problem as the US when it comes to supporting the elderly.

I should also point out some of the reason the problem exists as it is, is that people find children to be very expensive.  Squeezing the middle class out of having children and fixing it with immigration seems wrong to me.  Perhaps the solution is to have less immigration and let "the free market" adjust to the reality that people would like to have children.

We are ‘supporting’ the whole

We are ‘supporting’ the whole population, not just the elderly, and its unsustainable.

Doctors are medicalizing every personality trait, every normal mood and individual difference from ‘shyness’ to ‘over-energetic’ into a new ‘disease’ – to be ‘treated’ by drugs.  All in the cause of enormous profits for the pharmaceutical industry.

50% of the kids in every classroom are on a ‘puffer’ and anyone who can’t sit still for 6 hours (which is normal for a healthy child) or who displays aggression (which is absolutely normal for many children) is deemed to have ADD (or some ever-changing acronym) and put on drugs that change the receptor neurology of the brain.  If you have normal grief or transitory depression due to loss of a loved one, divorce or another major stressor for more than 2 weeks, you now have ‘clinical depression’. (Its normal that it lasts one year.)

The consequences are that we have a drugged population, whose liver and kidneys will never survive the stress of continually breaking down these new chemicals.  They will be on kidney machines and in waiting line for liver transplants.  By slowing the metabolism, diabetes is inevitable (already an epidemic) as the body cannot metabolize all the blood sugar.  The brain is plastic; adapts to effect of the drugs, grows new neurons and receptors to compensate – then when the person tries to get off the drug, the withdrawal is more severe than heroine. And we provide zero in the way of help.  So more drugs are added until the person’s breakfast becomes a cereal bowl full of pills. 

We have a sick, legal-drug addicted, obese, sedentary, shut-in population and our health system will never be able to cope.  

Respectfully, D. Scott Barclay

Just one of many places needing new thinking

From overprescription of drugs to "treat" misdiagnosed ADHD in the young to overmedication with antipsychotics of the elderly in "care" homes (and in the province where I live. it is worse than the rest of the country) and everything in between, you are absolutely correct, David.  

The total impact is, and will be, devastating.