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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