Canada’s Rising Cost of Living Drives Reverse Immigration Trend

Immigration in Canada

The dream of making it big in Canada is turning into a battle for survival for many immigrants due to the high cost of living and rental shortages, as rising emigration numbers hint at newcomers being forced to turn their back on a country that they chose to make their adopted home.

Rising Emigration Numbers

In the first six months of 2023, official data shows that some 42,000 individuals departed Canada, adding to 93,818 people who left in 2022 and 85,927 exits in 2021. The rate of immigrants leaving Canada hit a two-decade high in 2019, according to a recent report from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), an immigration advocacy group. While the numbers went down during pandemic lockdowns, Statistics Canada data shows it is once again rising.

Reasons for Emigration

Many individuals have left the country or are preparing to do so, primarily because of the high cost of living. For example, Cara, 25, who came to Canada in 2022 as a refugee from Hong Kong, now pays C$650 ($474) in monthly rent for a single-room basement apartment in Scarborough, north of Toronto, which is about 30% of her monthly take-home salary. She works three part-time jobs, making Ontario’s minimum wage of C$16.55 per hour.

Impact of Emigration

Emigration as a percentage of Canada’s overall population currently stands at about 0.09%, according to official government data. Lawyers and immigration consultants warn that a pick-up in emigration could cast a shroud over Canada’s appeal as one of the favored destinations for newcomers.

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Challenges Faced by Immigrants

Skyrocketing housing costs are cited as the biggest reason for the decision to consider leaving the country. On average in Canada, about 60% of household income would be needed to cover home ownership costs, a figure that rises to about 98% for Vancouver and 80% for Toronto, according to a report from RBC.

Government Response

In response to the housing shortage and rising costs of living, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has capped its target for new residents at a half million per year from 2025 onwards to ease pressure on the housing market. However, for some individuals, this might be too little too late.

Impact on the Immigrant Community

For many immigrants, the increasing cost of living has made it difficult to afford basic necessities. Justinas Stankus, 38, who came to Canada from Lithuania in 2019 to pursue a doctorate in political science at the University of Toronto, is considering relocating to Southeast Asia, where the cost of living is lower.


The high cost of living and rental shortages in Canada are prompting many immigrants to consider leaving the country. This trend has the potential to undermine Canada’s appeal as a favored destination for newcomers, casting a shadow over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s immigration policies. As emigration numbers continue to rise, it’s clear that addressing the challenges faced by immigrants is crucial to retaining a diverse and vibrant immigrant community in Canada.

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