Lesson Plan: Immigration in Canada

By: Sara Wheaton

Sara Wheaton

Education Collaborator

Sara Wheaton is a certified geography and history teacher in Ontario. For the past decade she has been working as the Manager of Education Programs for The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, designing engaging and inclusive programs for Canadian Teachers. She is also an occasional teacher for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. She resides in Ottawa on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation.

Note: This lesson plan is designed to be used as a substitute for the Immigration in Canada StoryMap when teachers do not have access to the technology required to bring the StoryMap into their classrooms. This lesson can also be used to supplement and support the use of the StoryMap.

Suggested Subject Areas

Social Studies

Grade Level

Grades 7-12


This lesson plan examines the importance of immigration in Canada. It will explore how immigrants are classed upon entering Canada and the process they must undertake to become a Canadian citizen. It will also examine visual statistics in the forms of infographics, graphs, and maps to show how immigrants have helped to shape communities and cultures in Canada.


Guiding Questions

Learning Goals

In this lesson, students will:

Lesson Outline

Lesson Overview

Minds on: Students will be introduced to the topic of immigration and begin to think about how immigration has helped to shape their class community. 

Action: Students will learn about the different classes of immigrants and examine some facts and figures about how immigrants have impacted Canada. 

Conclusion: Students will discuss what they observed and learned about in the visuals they examined and share any additional information they have or ask any outstanding questions about immigration in Canada.

Minds On

Note: It is important when beginning a discussion about migration that the teacher consider the cultural safety of students who themselves are migrants or whose families have migrated, especially those who have done so under difficult circumstances. This lesson is a celebration of the ways that migrants help shape Canadian communities, but any conversation about migration may be activating for some students. Depending on the dynamic in a specific classroom, it may be helpful to send a letter home to families in advance (or to post on a class blog, send an email, etc.) to let families know in advance about the nature of the conversation and to invite them to share anything with you that could help you support and be sensitive to learners in the classroom.

Depending on the age and stage of your learners, either start by:

Ask students to think about whether they know anyone who has immigrated to Canada (or from Canada to other countries, or between other countries, etc.). Depending on the dynamic in the class, this can happen independently (in notebooks, on post-it notes), in a think-pair-share, or immediately in a group discussion.

If any students in the class are immigrants or whose parents or grand-parents are immigrants and they feel comfortable sharing their experience, allow time for those students to share whatever parts of their experience they’d like to with the class. *As per the note above, letting families and students know this in advance will help prepare these students to decide whether and what to share.*

Once students have a good grasp on what an immigrant is, use the following question to further discussion: 

Depending on your group, it may also be helpful to share that the reasons for migration are usually classified into two categories: push and pull factors.

Sourced from The Helpful Professor.
Sourced from The Helpful Professor.

Explain to students that Canada has a long history of immigration that has helped to shape its current communities and cultures. Statistically, immigrants make up 1/4 or 24% of Canada’s population – that’s more than 8.3 million people! Culturally, immigrants come from all over the world to live in Canada, bringing with them their cultural practices, skills, and heritage. They contribute to the labour force and the economy and bring valuable knowledge to help Canada’s society learn, grow, and expand.

Conduct a survey of the class to determine the birthplace of the students in the class, as well as their parents and their grandparents to show how immigration has helped to shape your classroom community. Complete the chart below. *If there are any students in the class who do not know some of this information or are not comfortable sharing their background – that’s okay! Simply add another row called “unknown.” This is another reason why it is helpful to send a letter home in advance to let families and students know what they will be asked to share.

Total number surveyedBorn in Canada% Born in CanadaBorn Outside Canada% Born Outside Canada

On the board or on chart paper, create (or co-create) a pie graph to represent the data you have collected, using this opportunity to discuss as a class how immigration has shaped your class community.


Explain to students that there are four (4) categories of immigration that the Government of Canada uses to determine if someone can enter the country.

1. Economic Immigrants: immigrants who have been selected for their ability to contribute to Canada’s economy. They are selected through a point system.

2. Immigrants sponsored by family: immigrants who are sponsored by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and are granted permanent resident status on the basis of their relationship to this sponsor. 

3. Refugees:  immigrants who are granted permanent resident status on the basis of a well-founded fear of staying in or returning to their home country. 

4. Other: immigrants who are granted permanent resident status for a reason that doesn’t fit into the other three categories. Usually granted in exceptional circumstances for humanitarian or compassionate reasons.

Activity: Data Analysis

Census Data

Ask students if they know what a census is, and, if possible, co-create a definition together. If students don’t know, support them by sharing that a census is an official count of a population. In Canada, the government department called Statistics Canada holds these census records. Using the Immigration Facts and Figures Handout (five (5) pages, included below), ask students to examine the graphs and maps from the 2021 Census to learn more about immigration in Canada. For each visual included on the handout, there are additional questions also included for students to reflect on. Teachers may print out these visuals for students to use or project them. 

Immigration Facts and Figures Handout


Infographics: Why is immigration important?

Distribute or display the two infographics below. Allow time for students to review the information provided and consider the question “Why is immigration important to Canada?” Have students share their thoughts with a partner and/or reflect on this question in their notebooks.

Infographic #1, sourced from The Conference Board of Canada:

Infographic #2, sourced from the Government of Canada:

Conclusion and Consolidation

After students have had a chance to examine each image and reflect on the questions provided, discuss each image as a class taking up the questions provided. Conclude the class by allowing time for students to share what they have learned, what they have found interesting, and anything else they would like to share. Give students a piece of paper to write down one thing they have learned and a question they may have about immigration in Canada as an exit ticket.

Sources and Additional Resources