Demographic Characteristics of Refugees to Canada from 2015-2018

Researchers: Lori Wilkinson
Affiliation: University of Winnipeg
Keywords: refugees, Canada, 2015 to 2018, admission category, GARs, PSRs, BVORs, age at immigration, gender
Go to: Findings, Graphs


This project uses the IRCC’s Open data portal and IOM’s Global Migration portal to examine the demographic characteristics – age at arrival, admission category, and gender – of refugees to Canada in 2017 and 2018.

Refugees in Canada are admitted under four main categories: Government Assisted Refugees (GARS), Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs), Blended Visa Office-Referred Program (BVOR) and Refugee Claimants. GARs are refugees from the Convention Refugees Abroad class who are supported by the government of Canada or the government of Quebec. PSRs are refugees who are sponsored by a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or group. BVORs are refugees who are referred to Canadian visa offices abroad directly by UNHCR to match identified refugees with private sponsors in Canada. Refugee claimants are asylum seekers who are admitted to Canada because removal to their home country would subject them to the possibly of torture, risk of life, or risk of unusual treatment. This study looks at three of the four major admission categories: GARs, PSRs, and BVORs.


Admission Category

  • Although the GAR category has historically been the major admission category to Canada, these numbers have decreased in recent times, with PRS admission category recording the highest number of refugees to Canada.
  • Between January 2015 and March 2018, out of the 99,290 refugees to Canada, almost half (49.4%) came as PSRs, followed by GARs (43.9%). The BVOR program was introduced in 2013 and only accounted for 6.7% of refugees admitted during this time.

Age at Immigration

  • Historically, the majority of refugees entering Canada are of working age. This continues to be true as 57.3% of refugees admitted to Canada between January 2015 and March 2018 were 18 years and over.
  • However, in both the GAR category and BVOR program, the majority of refugees were under 17 years old: 51.9% in the GAR category and 54.3% in the BVOR program.

Gender of Refugees

  • Historically, higher numbers of male refugees are admitted to Canada compared to their female counterparts. Out of the 99,290 refugees to Canada from January 2015 to March 2018, a majority of them are men (51.8%). This trend is visible across all admission categories.


Figure 1.1: Admission of Resettled Refugees by Admission Category and Age, Canada, January 2015 – March 2018

Figure 2.1:  Admission of Resettled Refugees by Admission Category and Gender, Canada, January 2015 – March 2018

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