Context header

Populations at a glance


Canada is home to millions of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. More than 200,000 immigrants and 25,000 refugees each year contribute to the increasing diversity of our population. Here’s a look at present and projected demographics for our population: 

Key demographics by the numbers

What is the issue?

Refugees and immigrant populations

Immigrants and refugees may have different reasons for migrating—in general, immigrants come to Canada hoping for a better life, while refugees seek protection from war, organized violence and persecution.

Newly-arrived immigrants have better mental and physical health than the Canadian-born population. Many refugees have undergone difficult and traumatic pre-migration experiences that constitute salient risks to their mental health. With time in Canada, however, both immigrants’ and refugees’ mental and physical health declines. This is even more apparent for specific subpopulations, such as immigrants from racialized groups or low-income immigrants and refugees. Furthermore, immigrants and refugees tend to experience disparities in their access to services, quality of care and health outcomes.

A blanket approach to service models is not effective. The need for a better understanding of strategies that work in immigrant and refugee mental health, more appropriate support, inter-sector collaboration and more diversity in mental health service provision has been well-recognized.

Access to care and the time taken to receive appropriate care and support have major impacts on treatment outcomes. As a service provider, you are in a key position to support immigrants and refugees during this crucial post-migration period, to promote their mental and overall health.

What we know


The Mental Health Strategy for Canada, released in 2012, identified improved mental health services and support for immigrants, refugees, ethno-cultural and racialized (IRER) groups as a key priority.

Building on the Issues and Options for Service Improvement report, our team collaborated with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to produce The Case for Diversity. This report outlines the economic and social benefits of investing in culturally and linguistically-appropriate and diverse mental health services, and features programs, policies, treatments and supports that have the capacity to effectively address the mental health needs of IRER populations.

Canada’s social and economic prosperity are tied to the success of its diverse populations, and for that reason we must pay attention to the unique mental health needs of immigrants and refugees. Through consultation and research, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) found that respectful engagement and involvement of newcomers in service planning and evaluation, consistent collection of ethno-racial data, and provision of adequate cultural competence training and supports for service providers are top priorities. For that reason, the MHCC is proud to support the work of the Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Project and its efforts to build knowledge, skills, and collaboration in mental health service delivery.
- The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC)


The Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Project aims to help fill this service need by providing settlement, social and health service providers with the knowledge, skills and networks to support the mental health of immigrants and refugees.