Newborn in Hospital
(photo via Unsplash)

2020 saw Canada hit its lowest population growth since 1916, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

The downward trend was mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the government agency.

372,727 people were born across the country in 2020, narrowly outpacing a record number of 309,893 deaths. It’s the first time in Canadian history that our national number of deaths have exceeded 300,000 in a single year.

Of those deaths, 1 in 20, or 15,651, were caused by COVID-19.

Statistics Canada says this proportion was less than what was estimated in the United Kingdom (12.3 per cent), and the United States (11.2 per cent), but higher than countries like Australia (0.7 per cent) and New Zealand (0.1 per cent).

The only times Canada has seen similarly low rates of population growth in over 100 years of recorded statistics was when the country was at war.

Annual population growth in 2020 was at its lowest in number since 1945, and at its lowest in percentage since 1916.

However, Statistics Canada says the increased number of deaths was not the main source of lower population growth in 2020. Instead, the country saw a blow to its population mainly due to the pandemic’s impact on immigration.

Border and travel restrictions cut immigration’s share of population growth from 85.7 per cent in 2019 to 58.0 per cent in March 2020.

Before the pandemic hit, the federal government had set an immigration target of 341,000. Ultimately, 184,624 immigrants were welcomed into the country in 2020, the lowest year since 1998.

In terms of interprovincial movement, British Columbia was the province with the highest net gains for the sixth year in a row. In 2020, the western province saw a net increase through interprovincial migration of 20,994 people.

Saskatchewan saw the largest net loss of people to other provinces or territories for the third straight year, with a net loss of 10,318 people.

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