Statistics Canada (Canada’s national governmental statistical agency) has just released the results of the 2006 census. The statistics that have caused the most discussion are those related to Canada’s population growth. The news is alarming and just happened to coincide with some reading I’ve been doing on this very topic.
Canada is now a nation of 31.6 million. Since 2001, Canada has grown by 5.4 percent, the highest rate of increase of all the G8 industrialized nation. The growth rate is up from the previous measure of 1996 to 2001 when it rose only 4 percent. This means that there are 1.6 million more Canadians now than there were in 2001. Population growth is usually a good thing as growing nations tend to be healthy nations. The breakdown of this growth is interesting. Of the 1.6 million new Canadians, only 400,000 were native-born while the remaining 1.2 million were new immigrants. So out of every four new Canadian citizens, only one has been born here. The United States, by way of comparison, sees 60 percent of their growth come naturally (though I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that this does not include the vast numbers of illegal immigrants).
The fertility rate for Canadian women between 15 and 49 is a mere 1.5, the same as Canada’s last census. A birth rate is below 2.1 is a population in decline. For a population to sustain itself it must be 2.1 and to grow it must be higher still. A quick look at the birth rates of the G8 nations shows a clear trend:
- Canada, 5.4 per cent population growth, (1.5 fertility rate)
- United States, 5.0 per cent (2.0)
- Italy, 3.1 per cent (1.3)
- France, 3.1 per cent (1.9)
- United Kingdom, 1.9 per cent (1.7)
- Japan, 0.4 per cent (1.4)
- Germany, 0.0 per cent (1.3)
- Russia, -2.4 per cent (1.4)
The population of the West is in decline and further, the population of many industrialized nations is in decline. Canadian newspapers took the opportunity to speak to citizens and focused in on families like this one:
Sally Ritchie is the youngest of eight children, but when it came time with her husband to start their own family, she had no illusions about repeating the pattern of the stereotypical big happy family.
“It was either one or two, but after I had one, that was that,” says Ritchie, whose son Graham is nine. “Nowadays, it’s very, very difficult to have more than one child and be sure that you’re going to be able to put them through university and provide them with the home you want to provide them with.”
“And, frankly, you want to do better for your kids than was done for you . . . and I couldn’t afford to do that if we continued with growing the family,” she says. “And it’s vitally important to me that I have a career.”
Judging by the picture accompanying the story, the parents are now into their late forties or early fifties and likely had no real opportunity to have that second child even if they had wanted one. This is the new pattern in our society: waiting until the late thirties or early forties and having one designer child. As Canadians drift further and further from the nation’s Christian roots, so our emphasis on being fruitful and multiplying, on having and enjoying large families, goes into decline.
“Statscan predicts that net international migration will be the country’s only source of population growth by 2030 because deaths will likely outnumber births in the next two decades or so. Indeed, Canada’s fertility rate now hovers around 1.5 children per woman, less than the replacement rate of 2.1 children. And the baby boomers, who are now between the ages of 40 and 60 and form the largest segment of the population, are entering the back end of their lifespans.” Because of the low birthrates, Canada has become dependent on immigration. There are now almost 250,000 new immigrants per year pouring into Canada. The majority of these settle in or around one of only three major cities–cities that are experiencing massive growth.
Because of its low birthrates and the absolute dependence on growth to sustain our economy, Canada depends on immigration. Another way of looking at this is that Canada has effectively outsourced its breeding. In the United States there is a lot of talk about outsourcing labor. In Canada we have outsourced our breeding. We expect other nations to have the babies and then to ship them over here when they are old enough. The same is true of many European nations, though some of these are not attracting immigrants and are now in a tailspin of population decline. I heard the other day that in Italy within a couple of generations, the average person will have no siblings, no cousins, no aunts or uncles. He will be an only child of only children of only children. The stereotypical picture of the huge Italian family gathering around the table for a meal will be nothing but distant memory. Canada is not far behind and even the United States has a birth rate that is slowing (and would be significantly lower were it not for the Hispanic population).
All-in-all, many Western nations, Canada among them, are effectively committing suicide–or at the very least are knowingly and willingly radically altering themselves. By refusing to have children, people are allowing their nations to decline. The low birthrates can only drive a nation downward. The Canada of the future will looking very little like the Canada of my childhood and the Canada of today. As native Canadians refuse to procreate, we will have to continue to encourage immigration in order to sustain our nation’s economy. This will be increasingly important as the generation of baby boomers hits retirement age and expects the pensions they have been paying for for all the years. Someone has to be able to fund their retirement. But there will be fewer people to do so unless we encourage immigration. But this becomes a vicious cycle, for fewer people will immigrate to a nation when they know they will have to pay high taxes to fund social programs for people they do not know and care nothing about.
Immigration is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of the world’s great nations have thrived because of immigration. But problems arise when immigrants are not properly integrated into the nation. And Canada is a classic example of a country that does not demand integration. Many second or third generation immigrants still feel more affinity for their native country than for Canada; many cannot even speak English; many feel alienated and end up working lower-end, lower-paying jobs. “‘That problem is going to become more pressing, in a way, as the immigrant population becomes a larger and larger proportion of our work force,’ said Jeffrey Reitz, a University of Toronto sociology professor who specializes in immigration issues.” With a lack of integration come social skills (just read about the problems with the Muslim population of France today and you’ll see how scary and how serious these problems can be). Immigration has to be done right and Canada often does not seem to do it right. We may be setting ourselves up for a great deal of trouble.
It is a strange time to be Canadian. It is a strange time to be in the West or to be in an industrialized nation. Today’s Canadians want it all: we want money, careers, success and early retirement. And it seems that they are willing to take this all at the expense of future generations. A refusal to procreate is a refusal to look into the nation’s future and realize that children really are the future of a nation. Without continued growth a nation will enter a decline. We may be dead and gone when that happens, but what kind of a nation are we leaving to our children? As it stands now, we will be leaving them a nation in decline and a nation that is sure to be in turmoil. We’ll leave them a nation that cannot sustain itself.