BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Immigrants and Refugees

Grade 5


Immigrants and Refugees

Big Idea

Immigration and multiculturalism continue to shape Canadian society and identity.

Essential Question

Is Canada fair to everyone who wants to come?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know:

  • the changing nature of Canadian immigration over time

Curricular Competencies

Student are expected to be able to do the following:

  • make ethical judgments about events, decisions, or actions that consider the conditions of a particular time and place, and assess appropriate ways to respond (ethical judgement)

Core Competencies

I can explain how immigration to Canada has changed over time.

I can analyze whether Canadian immigration laws are fair.

I can recommend changes to Canada’s immigration policy.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning requires exploration of one’s identity.


  • Immigration has always been important to Canada. The annual number of immigrants to Canada has varied over the years due to changes to our immigration policy, the world economy, and events around the globe.
  • A census is an official collection of information about the people of an area. The Canadian government conducts a census every 5 years.



  • What fraction of people in Canada are immigrants? How would you say that as a percentage? (1 in 5, 1/5, 20%)
  • According to Canada’s first census in 1871, where did most of the immigrants to Canada come from? (United Kingdom and Ireland)
  • According to the 2016 Census, where did most of the immigrants to Canada come from? (Asia—top 3 countries were the Philippines, India, and China)
  • How has immigration made Canada what it is today? (Canada is diverse and includes people who were born in over 200 different countries.)
  • Why would it be useful for the government to know how many immigrants come to Canada and what countries they come from? (To track trends in immigration, to inform changes to the immigration policy, and to provide services in first languages.)

Challenge students to work with a partner to generate and write down 10 questions related to immigration in 10 minutes.

Part 1: How does Canada’s immigration system work?

  • Explain that Canada is a country of immigrants. Immigrations laws created Canada as they determined who could be Canadian. Today our immigration laws continue to attract people to Canada. Ask why Canada would want to attract immigrants.


  • Show title slide of Canada’s Immigration Policy. Point out that Canada’s immigration policy has changed over the years to become more fair.

Ask students to recall times when Canada’s immigration policy was not fair.


  • Explain that today, whether or not a person is welcome to immigrate to Canada is no longer based on race, gender, or country of origin. There are three ways that people can immigrate to Canada. (Economic Immigrant, Family-Sponsored Immigrant, Refugee) Canada has policies or guidelines for selecting each of the 3 types of immigrants.


  • Show first slide: Economic Immigrants. Point out that 57% of immigrants are in this category, and this is the group of immigrants the government wants to increase. Ask why the government would want to increase the number of economic immigrants.


  • Show second slide: Point System. Point out the criteria used in the points system. Ask who might consider the points system to be fair? Who might consider the points system to be unfair?


  • Show third slide: Family Sponsored Immigrants. Point out that 27% of immigrants will be joining their family in Canada. However, Canada has a new rule that limits family-sponsored parents or grandparents to 20,000 each year. Ask whether it is fair for Canada to put a cap on the number of sponsored immigrants? If the Canadian government wants more immigration, why would they limit the number of parents and grandparents that can be sponsored? (Note that Canada has an aging population and needs young workers.)
  • Show fourth slide: Refugees. Point out that 14% of immigrants come to Canada for protection because they are not safe in their home country. Ask: What do you already know about refugees? How are refugees different from other immigrants?
  • Explain that Canada requires immigrants to pass a medical exam. Ask: Why does Canada only accept healthy immigrants? (Medical care is very expensive, and Canada provides free medical care.)
  • Show the final slide. Have students respond to the following question in their journals: Is Canada’s immigration policy fair? Why or why not?


Part 2: How would you choose who is invited to come to Canada?


  • Remind students that immigration has always been important to Canada and that immigrants continue to bring their cultures and skills to Canada. Have students brainstorm the cultures and skills immigrants have brought to Canada.
  • Have students imagine that they are the Prime Minister of Canada. Ask:
    • If you were in charge, how would you choose who is invited to come to Canada?
    • Would your priority be to improve the Canadian economy, to reunite families, to help people fleeing dangerous countries, or something else?
    • Who would be at the top of your list?
    • How would you decide if your list was fair?
  • Provide each student with a copy of Choose who to invite? Handout Students can use the websites listed in Additional References to expand their knowledge and understanding of Canada’s current immigration policy.
  • Students should summarize 3-4 current immigration policies and then decide which immigration goal is most important to them by ranking the goals at the bottom of the sheet.
  • Encourage students to think critically about current policies and make recommendations for improvements. Challenge students to choose the best way to share their recommendations for changes to Canada’s immigration policy. Options could include creating a public service announcement, an infographic, a poster, or a brochure.
  • Divide the classroom into 4 areas and assign an immigration goal (economic, family, refugee, and other) to each area. Have students meet in like-minded groups to share how they would choose who is invited to come to Canada. Once everyone has shared in the group, they could choose one group member to share with the whole class.
  • Have students individually reflect on whether their priority system for who should be invited to come to Canada is fair. Why or why not?”


What Canadian immigration policies would you change in order to make a better Canada? Give the reasons why you would like to see the policy or policies changed.

Immigration Advertisements:

  • Have students examine historical immigration posters.
  • Explain that these posters are primary source evidence of the ways that the Canadian government attracted immigrants in the early 1900’s and of the type of immigrants it wanted to attract.
  • Remind students that the Canadian government plans to increase immigration by attracting economic immigrants who would be selected based on their education, skills, and work experience.
  • Have students imagine that they have been chosen to design the Canadian government’s advertising campaign to attract immigrants to their community.
  • Explain that in order to create an effective advertisement to attract immigrants, students will need to find out about the opportunities in their community for:
    • jobs
    • education
    • recreation


  • Encourage students to use a variety of sources to collect information about opportunities in their community.
  • Have students consider the types of advertisements they could use to attract immigrants to their community. (television, flyer, social media, infographic, newspaper, magazine etc.)
  • Divide students into small groups and have each group select a type of media for their advertisement. Alternatively, you could assign students to groups based on their preference for a type of media. Provide each group with at least one example of the type of media they will be creating.
  • Have groups plan their advertisements and help them access the tools and supplies needed to create their ads.
  • Provide groups with time to share their advertisements with their classmates, perhaps using a gallery walk.

Canada. 2018 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration



Canada. Immigration Matters: Canada’s Immigration System



Canada. Immigration Matters. Stories Across Canada



Canada. Understanding Canada’s Immigration System



Canada. Understanding Canada’s Immigration System [PDF]



Canadian Council for Refugees. Refugees and Immigrants: A glossary



News Article

Canada is boosting immigration: Here’s what the government is hoping to accomplish


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Last Reviewed

February 01, 2023

Produced by JES

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