MANITOBA’S population continues to grow at a record pace.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of new immigrants and people from other parts of Canada who made Manitoba their home in 2004 was the highest in at least 35 years.
It’s the second record-setting year of net population growth for the province in a row.
Manitoba’s overall population grew by 9,683 last year. That number includes immigrants, Canadians coming to Manitoba from other provinces and births.
Net in-migration, the number of new arrivals from outside the province minus the number of people who left Manitoba to live elsewhere, was 6,025 — nearly double the figure of 3,234 recorded in 2003.
That net in-migration figure is the highest in the province since annual statistics began being compiled on the issue in 1972. Wilf Falk, of the Manitoba Bureau of Statistics, believes it could be the highest since the huge influx of immigrants around the turn of the 20th century.
"It’s certainly the highest since 1972, and it probably goes farther back than that," he said.
The growth spurt builds on a trend that is reversing years of stagnation.
Even babies are getting in on the act.
According to the statistics, the number of births in Manitoba increased last year for the second year in a row.
Prior to that, the number of babies being born in Manitoba had been on the decline. Last year, Manitoba had the fourth-highest population growth rate among all of the provinces at 0.83 per cent. The national growth rate was 0.91 per cent.
Mohammed Abdul Hamid and his family are among the 7,421 new immigrants who came to Manitoba in the last year.
A total of 6,492 new immigrants arrived in the province in 2003.
Abdul Hamid and his wife Marina arrived from Russia seven months ago. Finding a home in Winnipeg was a long and arduous process for Abdul Hamid.
A Sudanese national, Abdul Hamid fled his homeland to Libya about eight years ago after facing persecution at the hands of the Sudanese government.
Finding life no easier in Libya, Abdul Hamid made his way to Moscow, where he completed his PhD in engineering and met his wife.
Being an inter-racial couple in Russia was difficult, however, and Abdul Hamid and his wife could not even go to the movies together without facing attacks.
"They beat foreigners,” he said. "It was just too dangerous."
Abdul Hamid and his wife arrived in Winnipeg seven months ago, just in time to welcome their first son, Rashid, who was born three months later. Abdul Hamid plans to stay in Winnipeg. He likes the racial diversity and safety of the city.
"People are peaceful here," he said. "My wife and I can go out together. I’m happy. I don’t have to live in fear."
Industry, Economic Development and Mines Minister Jim Rondeau said the population growth is great for the province.
"It’s absolutely wonderful,” he said. "Because we’re growing, there are new houses, there’s new employment. It’s growing the whole economy."
Linda Lalande, executive director of the International Centre of Winnipeg, said the provincial nominee program — which matches newcomers to particular skills or jobs — is making Manitoba popular with new immigrants.
The only challenge with increasing numbers of newcomers, said Lalande, is ensuring there are enough community resources available to help them make the transition.
On January 1, 2005, Manitoba’s population was estimated at 1,174,645, an increase of 9,683 from a year before.