John Ibbitson reports on historical demographic shifts revealed by data from the 2016 census and the economic challenges these present. For the first time in history, Canadians over the age of 65 outnumber children, while the overall population continues to grow, thanks to what Mr. Ibbitson calls “enlightened” government policy on immigration.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history

Key Questions to Explore:

  • How are Canadian demographics changing due to an aging population? What are some economic challenges and changes that will result?

New Terminology:

Xenophobic, multiculturalism, skepticism

Materials Needed:

Globe article, Internet (

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

When your students, aged 16 or so, have completed post-secondary education and are looking for their first jobs, there will be 250,000 more Canadians over the age of 65 than there are today. By the time your students are 35 or 36 years old, there will be an additional 750,000 people over the age of 65.

These facts present significant economic challenges for governments as your students age. Fewer working Canadians will need to pay more toward Old Age Security, for example; the market for housing will weaken; and labour shortages will increase.

Students can benefit from a short lesson on Canada’s shifting demographic and what it means to their futures. Using the article, attached, as well as the link provided (Statistics Canada) students will complete a short quiz for homework, and join in a class discussion about their findings in a follow-up session.

To tweak students’ interest, engage your class in a short discussion about the makeup of the Canadian population. Ask:

  • How many people do you know, or know of, who have reached the age of 100?
  • How many centenarians are there in Canada today? (more than 8,000)
  • How many do you think there will be by the time you are around 50 years of age? (More than 40,000)
  • Our population is aging because Canadians have a very low birth rate—the rate of births does not keep up with the rate of deaths. Yet Canada still has a 5% population growth rate. How is this possible? (250,000-300,000 immigrants per year)
  • For every five Canadians, how many have been born in Canada? (Four)

Answer questions and continue the discussion as you prefer, then assign the following work sheet: (NOTE to teachers: Answers are provided for your assistance. Remove them before handing out the sheet)

Work Sheet

For homework, use the article, attached, and the website for Statistics Canada provided, to find the answers to the questions in this “Non-trivial Pursuit:”

From the Ibbitson article:

  • Which Canadian prime minister, in what year, and of which political party, set Canadian immigrations levels at 250,000 per year? (Brian Mulroney, 1992, Progressive Conservative)
  • What is the current population of Canada? (About 36 million)
  • If the current rate continues, how much will the population of Canada grow between now and 2060? (15 million, for a population of over 50 million)
  • During this same period, what will happen to the population of Japan and Italy? (Both will decline; Japan by 30 million and Italy by 10 million)
  • According to John Ibbitson, what attitude by Canadians can foil our attempts to grow our population by immigration? (failure to embrace immigration)
  • Will you find it easier or harder to get a job when you are 40 than it currently is for someone aged 40? ( There will be a shortage of workers by then)
  • Will the price of detached houses be rising or falling in 2050? (Falling, as more people move into shared accommodation—nursing homes and the like)

From Stats Canada:

  • Why might it be easier for a 100-year-old man to find a date with a 100-year-old woman than the reverse? (At that age, women outnumber men 5-to-1)
  • In which province are many municipalities enjoying high populations of people aged 85 and older? (C.) Bonus question: Why, do you think? (Many elderly seek the more moderate climate in B.C.)
  • Approximately how many Canadians were 85 and older, when a boomer was 20 years old in 1966? (100,000)
  • If that boomer lives to be 85, how many other Canadians will be the same age or older? (About 1,200,000)
  • About how many Canadians, 100 years old or older, do NOT live in a collective dwelling—a nursing home or similar? (35%)
  • Finally, as you browsed the article and the Statistics Canada web pages, what facts did you find the most interesting or surprising? Do you think census data are useful and important for Canadians? Why or why not?

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Before you collect their written assignments in a subsequent class, engage students in a discussion about their findings.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can, in general terms, describe the ways Canadian demographics are changing due to an aging population. They can list and explain two or three resulting challenges these post for government.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students report on news about Canadian demographic shifts, including policies on immigration.