Highlights from Statistics Canada’s two-year update on COVID-19 pandemic’s impact

OTTAWA – The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up many aspects of Canadian life. As the pandemic’s second anniversary arrives, Statistics Canada reviewed the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 across the country. Here are the highlights:

Hate crimes

The number of hate crimes rose by 37 per cent in 2020, with 718 more incidents reported to police than in 2019. The total of 2,669 crimes is the highest number since comparable data has been available. About 60 per cent of reported incidents were motivated by race or ethnicity, with the pandemic seeing an increase in crimes targeting Black, Asian and Indigenous communities.

Social unrest

In March and April 2020, 40 per cent of Canadians reported feeling very or extremely concerned about the possibility of social unrest. Individuals who anticipated the pandemic would affect their finances were almost twice as likely to express such concern. Sixty-one per cent of those expecting a personal financial impact from COVID-19 were worried about civil disorder, compared to 32 per cent of those who did not foresee an impact.

Births and deaths

2020 saw population growth drop to 0.4 per cent, a level unseen since the First World War. That same year, annual deaths surpassed 300,000 for the first time in Canadian history. Life expectancy fell by 0.6 years, representing the largest single-year decline since 1921. COVID-19 shaped Canadians’ plans for parenthood — one in five Canadian adults said the pandemic made them postpone having children or choose to have fewer kids.


The pandemic also negatively affected immigration, with the percentage of population growth from international migration falling from a record high of 85 per cent in 2019 to 68 per cent in 2020. Declines in student- and work-permit holders accounted for the largest net loss of non-permanent residents. However, more Canadians who lived abroad have returned home compared with those emigrating from the country for the first time since comparable records have been available. Since mid-2021, immigration numbers have been returning to pre-pandemic levels.


Supply chain disruptions and high demand pushed headline consumer inflation to a 30-year high of 5.1 per cent in January 2022. Year over year, food prices increased by 5.7 per cent. Canadians paid more for groceries, with prices rising by 6.5 per cent, the fastest annual rate since May 2009. Excluding gasoline, the consumer price index grew by 4.3 per cent, marking the largest annual increase since the index was first introduced in 1999. Wages, however, haven’t been able to keep up — since the spring of 2021, consumer inflation has surpassed average wage growth. In January 2022, the annual increase in average hourly wages, adjusted for changes in workforce composition during the pandemic, was only 2.7 per cent.

Housing prices

Home prices have continued to soar across the country. In 2021, homebuilders in most cities saw double-digit growth in the prices of new homes, with yearly increases exceeding 20 per cent in Windsor, Winnipeg, Ottawa and London. New home prices skyrocketed in the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo area, with the annual increase exceeding 30 per cent. The Bank of Canada reported that the percentage of home purchases made by first-time buyers has continued to inch lower during the pandemic, with repeat buyers and investors accounting for more homebuying. Home ownership and middle-class membership is becoming increasingly costly — according to RBC Economics, housing affordability in the third quarter of 2021 reached a 31-year low.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2022.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which is funding a project by Carleton University’s School of Journalism and The Canadian Press.


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