In the birthplace of exchange traded funds, investors continued to pile into the products last month despite volatility that sent stock indexes into bear market territory.

Equity ETFs in Canada saw about $4.1 billion of net inflows in March while fixed income experienced a “rare moment” of $1.3 billion in outflows as liquidity vanished from the bond market, according to National Bank of Canada. In total, the nation’s ETFs saw $2.9 billion in inflows last month.

It’s a boon to the index-tracking industry that often sees high inflows in times when equities are rising, but a blow to conventional wisdom that says active stock pickers should benefit during periods of market turbulence. Mutual fund assets totaled $1.6 trillion at the end of February, decreasing 3.1 per cent compared to the prior month, according to the Investment Funds Institute of Canada’s most recent report.

CI Financial Corp., the largest independent Canadian seller of mutual funds, plunged 10 per cent on Friday to its lowest in almost 17 years after CEO Kurt MacAlpine said market uncertainty led to higher redemptions at the end of March, including a large one from an institutional investor.

The movement of capital into stock ETFs in Canada was “perhaps a sign of investors opting for rapid market exposure after liquidating single-security positions,” Daniel Straus, vice president of ETFs and financial products research at National Bank Financial, said in a report.

In Canada, volatility in the stock market hit a record high as the S&P/TSX Composite Index plunged by more than 20 per cent from its peak in February. It is currently down 24 per cent for the year.

For the first quarter, Canadian ETFs drew $15 billion in inflows. “This is impressive given the extraordinary market environment, proving once again that investors use ETFs to express market in calm or volatile markets alike,” Straus said.

Product launches continued in March with 11 new issuances, almost half of which were ESG products. That compares with 15 in February and 25 in January. In the U.S., only four new ETFs started trading in March, the slowest pace since August as companies refrain from ETF debuts amid the market mayhem.