Ottawa, ON — A new report from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), The Leaky Bucket, finds that growing numbers of immigrants to Canada are deciding to leave rather than stay.

The report, produced for the ICC by the Conference Board of Canada, finds onward migration, immigrants leaving Canada, has been increasing slowly for decades, but suddenly surged in 2017 and 2019 — the most recent period of available data. The report also finds the risk of onward migration is particularly high between years four and seven following arrival in Canada.

“As Canada relies more and more on immigrants to fill acute shortages in key sectors like housing and healthcare, our ability to retain them is becoming a matter of vital national interest,” said Daniel Bernhard, CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

“Simply put, if Canada cannot deliver for newcomers and help them become Canadian in their passports and in their hearts, we may soon be discussing our prosperity in the past tense.”

“Canada’s future prosperity depends on immigration,” said Stefan Fournier, Executive Director at The Conference Board of Canada. “Our research in this area shows that immigration leads to economic growth, improves the worker-to-retiree ratio and eases labour shortages that add to inflation. But as our research shows, attracting immigrants is only one part of the equation, we also need to retain them once they’re here in Canada.”

The report contains key recommendations for government including:

  • Begin monitoring the onward migration rate.
  • Invest in programs like the ICC’s Canoo Access Pass, which make the critical early years of immigrants’ time in Canada more enjoyable, driving retention to the benefit of all Canadians.
  • Support further research to help stakeholders understand settlement needs and which initiatives can ease immigrants’ transitions to life in Canada.
  • Support employers to recruit, hire, and retain immigrant workers. All three levels of government can provide tools and training.
  • Invest in infrastructure. As Canada seeks to increase the population, all levels of government need to plan for increased infrastructure including housing and healthcare.

“Immigrating to Canada has never been easy, there have always been challenges but this study points to burgeoning disillusionment,” said Bernhard. “After giving Canada a try, growing numbers of immigrants are saying ‘no thanks’, and are moving on.”

“That’s not just a problem for immigrants. That’s a problem for everyone. That’s why the ICC will do its best to lead with innovation and creativity to so that newcomers and their talents find a permanent home in Canada.”

Read the full report here: The Leaky Bucket (Institute for Canadian Citizenship and Conference Board of Canada, 2023)


The Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) works to unlock Canada for newcomers, facilitating and encouraging the journey towards full and active Canadian citizenship. The ICC is an independent charity, co-founded in 2006 by the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul.

The ICC is best-known for its Canoo Access Pass, a mobile app that currently provides some 250,000 newcomers with free entry to over 1,400 of Canada’s best culture and nature attractions, plus exclusive deals with leading brands, so that they fall in love with Canada, stay, and become citizens.