According to Statistics Canada, last week Canada’s population surpassed 40 million people, a milestone you might not have realized we were on the verge of reaching.
Statistics Canada’s ‘population clock’ uses modelling to estimate Canada’s population in real time. The counter hit the 40 million mark on Friday afternoon, June 16.
At just 156 years, Canada is a young nation, a nation that has welcomed folks from around the world to become part of the mosaic that is Canada.
Our annual population growth rate currently stands at 2.7 per cent, the highest annual growth rate since 1957, when Canada was in the midst of a post-war baby boom, according to Statistics Canada.
My own grandparents and my then six-year-old mother arrived in Canada by ship from England in the late 1950s. At that time Canada’s population was roughly 17 million.
By the time I was born in 1970 our population had inched upwards to 21 million, and then as a school-aged kid in the 1970s and ’80s our population was roughly 25 million, and for most of my adult life, when I thought of Canada’s population, the number 25 million always came to mind, a number frozen in the time of my school years. But it is amazing to think that our population has nearly doubled to 40 million in my lifetime.
It has been a bit of a year of milestones when it comes to population. At the beginning of this year, the Earth’s population reached 8 billion, more than double the 3.6 billion that inhabited this planet when I came into the world in 1970. So in just my lifetime, a little over half a century, the population of the globe has more than doubled, and here in my home country of Canada our numbers have also nearly doubled.
Last year alone, Canada saw its population grow by more than one million, the largest surge in our population in our history.
Statistics Canada says that if current immigration levels continue, Canada’s population could reach 50 million within the next 20 years. By 2041, Statistics Canada suggests that two in five Canadians could be born abroad.
Though I am far from a flag-waving patriotic type, I have always appreciated the good fortune I have experienced simply by having been born here in Canada.
I could just as easily have been born and raised elsewhere, in a less ideal nation. My mother was born in Egypt and lived her toddler years in England before my grandparents packed up everything when she was a child and moved across the ocean to Canada.
As a first generation Canadian on my mother’s side, I have always been very aware that the place of my birth is little more than a fluke, and a good one at that.
My appreciation for this country skyrocketed in my late 20s and throughout my 30s, as I spent a decade in my former career doing an extensive amount of travel. Over that decade I found myself on five continents and more than 25 countries. Some I visited just a time or two, while other places like Russia and the United States I spent a significant amount of time. Having visited 41 of the 50 U.S. states, I have seen much south of our border, and my time in America when tallied up amounts to more than three years of my life, though it was mostly one-week trips at a time.
It wasn’t until my first trip to India however that I fully realized just how fortunate we are here in Canada. I had seen poverty before of course; in most every country there is some level of poverty to be found. But during my first trip to India, as soon as I walked out of the airport in Mumbai I knew that the trip would be life-changing.
Poverty was everywhere and it was surrounded by wealth. Glistening and regal skyscrapers looking down upon absolute slums was new to me, as was a half dozen children, many disabled in some way (often intentionally I later learned), rushing the car every time it stopped at an intersection, begging for rupees.
It was heartbreaking to witness, and even more heartbreaking to realize that, had I emptied my wallet of every last Canadian dollar and given it to those who begged, it would not have made a bit of difference in the grand scheme. The poverty I saw in my two trips to India was different from the poverty I encountered in places like South America for example, and I think largely because I learned about India’s caste system and how it relegates generations to unrelenting poverty, but also because it was so pervasive. Poverty was the norm, not a tiny minority.
It is that sort of poverty that many escape by moving to Canada. Though we who have lived here all of our lives can easily forget, Canada is a nation of opportunity.
For many around the globe Canada is a safe haven, an escape from the brutality of war, or unimaginable poverty, and less than honourable governments. Canada is a place where all are embraced no matter their race, religion, or culture.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not the type to wave the flag in an expression of blind patriotism, but my travels around the globe taught me some important lessons, perhaps the most important of which is that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. Canada is that greener grass that many around the globe dream of reaching in their quest for a safe, fulfilling life.
So we have reached 40 million residents of this fine nation, and by my mid 70s, just 20 years from now, we are expected to reach 50 million. We aren’t the country that my grandparents and mother arrived in after sailing across the ocean in the late 1950s, and we aren’t the country I was born into in 1970, we are ever evolving, our mosaic ever shifting as folks from around the globe move here, and our population grows.