Canada ranks 38th by population, comprising about 0.5% of the world's total, with over 38 million Canadians as of 2020. Being, however, the fourth-largest country by land area (second-largest by total area), the vast majority of the country is sparsely inhabited, with most of its population south of the 55th parallel north and more than half of Canadians live in just two provinces: Ontario and Quebec. Though Canada's population density is low, many regions in the south such as the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor, have population densities higher than several European countries. Canada's largest population centres are Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa with those six being the only ones with more than one million people. The large size of Canada's north, which is not arable, and thus cannot support large human populations, significantly lowers the country's carrying capacity. Therefore, the population density of the habitable land in Canada can be modest to high depending on the region.
The historical growth of Canada's population is complex and has been influenced in many different ways, such as indigenous populations, expansion of territory, and human migration. Being a new world country, immigration has been, and remains, the most important factor in Canada's population growth. The 2016 Canadian census counted a total population of 35,151,728, an increase of around 5.0 percent over the 2011 figure. Between 1990 and 2008, the population increased by 5.6 million, equivalent to 20.4 percent overall growth.
Historical population overview
Scholars vary on the estimated size of the indigenous population in what is now Canada prior to colonization and on the effects of European contact. During the late 15th century is estimated to have been between 200,000 and two million, with a figure of 500,000 currently accepted by Canada's Royal Commission on Aboriginal Health. Although not without conflict, European Canadians' early interactions with First Nations and Inuit populations were relatively peaceful. However repeated outbreaks of European infectious diseases such as influenza, measles and smallpox (to which they had no natural immunity), combined with other effects of European contact, resulted in a twenty-five percent to eighty percent indigenous population decrease post-contact. Roland G Robertson suggests that during the late 1630s, smallpox killed over half of the Wyandot (Huron), who controlled most of the early North American fur trade in the area of New France. In 1871 there was an enumeration of the indigenous population within the limits of Canada at the time, showing a total of only 102,358 individuals. According to the 2011 Canadian Census, indigenous peoples (First Nations – 851,560, Inuit – 59,445 and Métis – 451,795) numbered at 1,400,685, or 4.3% of the country's total population.
The European population grew slowly under French rule, thus remained relatively low as growth was largely achieved through natural births, rather than by immigration. Most of the French were farmers, and the rate of natural increase among the settlers themselves was very high. The women had about 30 per cent more children than comparable women who remained in France. Yves Landry says, "Canadians had an exceptional diet for their time." The 1666 census of New France was the first census conducted in North America. It was organized by Jean Talon, the first Intendant of New France, between 1665 and 1666. According to Talon's census there were 3,215 people in New France, comprising 538 separate families. The census showed a great difference in the number of men at 2,034 versus 1,181 women. By the early 1700s the New France settlers were well established along the Saint Lawrence River and Acadian Peninsula with a population around 15,000 to 16,000. Mainly due to natural increase and modest immigration from Northwest France (Brittany, Normandy, Île-de-France, Poitou-Charentes and Pays de la Loire) the population of New France increased to 55,000 according to the last French census of 1754. This was an increase from 42,701 in 1730.
During the late 18th and early 19th century Canada under British rule experienced strong population growth. In the wake of the 1775 invasion of Canada by the newly formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, approximately 60,000 of the 80,000 Americans loyal to the Crown, designated later as United Empire Loyalists fled to British North America, a large portion of whom migrated to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (separated from Nova Scotia) in 1784. Although the exact numbers cannot be certain because of unregistered migration At least 20,000 went to Nova Scotia, 14,000 to New Brunswick; 1,500 to PEI and 6,000 to Ontario(13,000 including 5,000 blacks went to England and 5,500 to the Caribbean). For the rest of the 1780s additional immigrants arrived from the south. From 1791 An additional 30,000 Americans, called "Late Loyalists," were lured into Ontario in the 1790s by the promise of land and swearing loyalty to the Crown. As a result of the period known as the Great Migration by 1831, Lower Canada's population had reached approximately 553,000, with Upper Canada reaching about 237,000 individuals. The Great Famine of Ireland of the 1840s had significantly increased the pace of Irish immigration to Prince Edward Island and the Province of Canada, peaking in 1847 with 100,000 distressed individuals. By 1851, the population of the Maritime colonies also reached roughly 533,000 (277,000 in Nova Scotia, 194,000 in New Brunswick and 62,000 in Prince Edward Island). To the west British Columbia had about 55,000 individuals by 1851. Beginning in the late 1850s, the immigration of Chinese into the Colony of Vancouver Island and Colony of British Columbia peaked with the onset of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. By 1861, as a result of natural births and the Great Migration of Canada from the British Isles, the Province of Canada population increased to 3.1 million inhabitants. Newfoundland's population by 1861 reached approximately 125,000 individuals.
The population has increased every year since the establishment of the Dominion of Canada in 1867; however, the population of Newfoundland was not included prior to its entry into confederation as Canada's tenth province in 1949. The first national census of the country was taken in 1871, with a population count around 3,689,000. The year with the least population growth (in real terms) was 1882–1883, when only 30,000 new individuals were enumerated.
The 1911 census was a detailed enumeration of the population showing a count of 7,206,643 individuals. This was an increase of 34% over the 1901 census of 5,371,315. The year with the most population growth was during the peak of the Post-World War II baby boom in 1956–1957, when the population grew by over 529,000, in a single twelve-month period. The Canadian baby boom, defined as the period from 1947 to 1966, saw more than 400,000 babies born annually. The 1996 census recorded a total population of 28,846,761. This was a 5.7% increase over the 1991 census of 27,296,859. The 2001 census had a total population count of 30,007,094. In contrast, the official Statistics Canada population estimate for 2001 was 31,021,300.
Canada's total population enumerated by the 2006 census was 31,612,897. This count was lower than the official 1 July 2006 population estimate of 32,623,490 people. Ninety percent of the population growth between 2001 and 2006 was concentrated in the main metropolitan areas. The 2011 census was the fifteenth decennial census with a total population count of 33,476,688 up 5.9% from 2006. On average, censuses have been taken every five years since 1905. Censuses are required to be taken at least every ten years as mandated in section 8 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
Components of population growth
In 2010, Canada's annual population growth rate was 1.238%, or a daily increase of 1,137 individuals. Between 1867 and 2009 Canada's population grew by 979%. Canada had the highest net migration rate (0.61%) of all G-8 member countries between 1994 and 2004. Natural growth accounts for an annual increase of 137,626 persons, at a yearly rate of 0.413%. Between 2001 and 2006, there were 1,446,080 immigrants and 237,418 emigrants, resulting in a net migration of just over 1.2 million people. Since 2001, immigration has ranged between 221,352 and 262,236 immigrants per annum.
Population by years
Ephemeral European settlements
|1000||L'Anse aux Meadows
|30 to 160||Archaeological evidence of a short-lived Norse settlement was found a L'Anse aux Meadows, on the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundland (carbon dating estimate 990–1050 AD.) There is no record of how many men and women lived at the site at any given time, however archaeological evidence of the dwellings suggest it had the capacity of supporting 30 to 160 individuals.|
|400||Jacques Cartier established Charlesbourg-Royal at Cap-Rouge on his third voyage. Even though scurvy was cured through the indigenous remedy (Thuja occidentalis infusion), the impression left is of a general misery with the effort being abandoned. During the winter 35 of Cartier's men perished.|
|200||In 1542, Jean-François Roberval tried to re-invigorate the Charlesbourg-Royal colony at Cap-Rouge which Roberval renamed France-Roy, however after a set of disastrous winters the effort was abandoned. En route to Charlesbourg-Royal, Roberval had abandoned his near-relative Marguerite de La Rocque with her lover on the "Isle of Demons" (now called Harrington Island), in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, as punishment for their affair. The young man, their servant and baby died, but Marguerite survived to be rescued by fishermen and returned to France two years later.|
|1583||St. John Bay
|260||Humphrey Gilbert with 260 men planned a settlement; however, during exploration of the coast line a ship was lost containing many of the prospective colonists and their provisions.|
|50||Marquis de La Roche-Mesgouez and 40 convicts (peasants and beggars) with 10 soldiers settled on Sable Island, but this colonization attempt failed, culminating in a revolt with only 11 survivors evacuated.|
|16||François Gravé Du Pont with 16 men built a fur trading post at Tadoussac; however, only five of the men survived the winter before returning to France.|
|79||The St. Croix settlement of Maine was the first real attempt at a year-round base of operation in New France. The expedition was led by Pierre Du Gua de Monts with 79 settlers including François Gravé Du Pont, Royal cartographer Samuel de Champlain, the Baron de Poutrincourt, apothecary Louis Hébert, a priest Nicolas Aubry, and Mathieu de Costa a linguist. The St. Croix settlement was abandoned the following summer for a new habitation at Port-Royal after 35 died of scurvy.|
Former colonies and territories
|44||The 44 colonists are surviving members of 79 from the now abandoned St. Croix settlement of Maine. However, the habitation at Port-Royal was also abandoned and left in the care of the local Mi'kmaq. The settlement was later moved upstream and to the south bank of the Annapolis River, keeping the name Port-Royal and becoming the capital of Acadia.|
|1608||Quebec City||28||Samuel de Champlain establishes the colony with 28 settlers. Half of the men that winter the first year die of scurvy or starvation. Nevertheless, new settlers arrive resulting in Quebec being the first permanent settlement, and also the capital of, the French colony of Canada.|
|40||The Newfoundland Colony is established by John Guy his brother Phillip and his brother-in-law William Colston with 39 colonists who spend the winter of 1610–1611 at Cuper's Cove. By the fall of 1613 sixteen structures are completed by about 60 settlers on the site. As England tried to create a foothold in the north, other settlements were established at Bristol's Hope, Renews, New Cambriol, South Falkland and Avalon, an area that became known as the English Shore. However the majority of the population did not stay year round returning in the spring of each year. Over the next 100 years the English colonies of Newfoundland grew very slowly, and had only 3,000 permanent residents by the 1720s.|
|1629||Quebec city||117||*90 wintering belonged to Kirke's English Expedition that had captured the city. Under brief British control the city begins to grow and be fortified. Prior to 1632 only eight births were recorded among the 60 to 70 permanent European settlers. The first European child born in Quebec had been Hélène Desportes, in 1620.|
|1641||New France||240||De facto population of Canada (New France) and Acadia, now situated partly in the future United States.|
|50||New colony with the majority of immigrants coming directly from France led by Paul de Chomedey and Jeanne Mance, a lay woman.|
|1666||Canada (New France)||3,215||The 1660s marked the only real "wave" of French settlers arriving until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Following the initial wave of French settlers natural growth was the main contributing factor to population growth. Quebec city 2,100, Trois-Rivieres 455, Montreal 655. (Comprising 528 families with 2,034 men and 1,181 women. Professionals included 3 notaries, 3 schoolmasters, 3 locksmiths, 4 bailiffs, 5 surgeons, 5 bakers, 8 barrel makers, 9 millers, 18 official merchants, 27 joiners, and 36 carpenters.)|
|10,750||Estimated indigenous population in and around New France territory 10,750, including 2,150 warriors. (Mohawks 5 villages, 96 lodges, 300 warriors - Oneidas 1 village, 100 lodges, 200 warriors - Onondagas 2 villages, 164 lodges, 350 warriors - Cayugas 3 villages, 100 lodges, 300 warriors - Senecas 4 villages, 324 lodges, 1,000 warriors).|
|1679||Acadia||515||Majority are from the Poitou region of France.|
|1681||New France||9,677||New France sees new settlements develop as residents leave Quebec City (population 1,345) and Trois-Rivières (150) with Montreal gaining influence (population 1,418).|
|1687||Newfoundland||663||French population only.|
|1695||New France||13,639||Population of Saint John River New Brunswick 49.|
|1698||New France||15,355||English population of Newfoundland at the time 1,500.|
|1705||Newfoundland||520||French population only|
|1706||New France||16,417||Covering territory that is now situated partly in the United States of America and partly in Canada.|
|1712||New France||18,440||Married - men 2,786, women 2,588. Unmarried - males 6,716, females 6,350.|
|1718||New France||22,983||Married - men 3,662, women 3,926. Unmarried - males 7,911, females 7,484.|
(Prince Edward Island)
|1730||New France||33,682||Married - men 6,050, women 5,728. Unmarried - males 11,314, females 10,590.|
|17,575||Estimated population of First Nations in New France that are now within Canada - Abenakis 2,950 - Algonquins, Ottawas, Potawatomi, Saulteaux and Crees 11,475 - Wyandot-Huron 1,300 - Iroquois 1,850.|
|1737||New France||39,970||Married - men 7,378, women 6,804. Unmarried - males 13,330, females 12,458.|
|1741||Newfoundland||6,000||English population only.|
|1749||Nova Scotia||2,544||Married - men, 509 ; women 509. Unmarried - men, 660 ; women, 3. Children-boys, 228 ; girls, 216. Servants-men, 277 ; women, 142.|
|1,000||French population only.|
|1749||Acadian Mainland (New Brunswick)||1,000||French population only.|
|1749||Acadian Peninsula||13,000||French population only.|
|1749||St. John Island
(Prince Edward Island)
|1,000||French population only.|
|1752||Acadia (non-French)||4,203||British and German population only. Men over sixteen years old, 574 ; women over sixteen years old, 607. Children boys, 1,899 ; children girls, 1,123.|
|1760||New France||70,000||Expulsion of the Acadians three-quarters of the Acadian population of 18,000 forcibly relocated between 1755 and 1764.|
|1765||Province of Quebec (1763–91)||69,810||French and English populations.|
|1775||Province of Quebec (1763–91)||90,000||French and English populations.|
|1785||Newfoundland||10,244||French and English populations.|
|1790||Nova Scotia||30,000||French and English populations.|
|1797||St. John Island
(Prince Edward Island)
|4,500||French and English populations.|
|1806||Prince Edward Island||9,676|
|1822||Prince Edward Island||24,600|
|1833||Prince Edward Island||32,292|
|1846||Assiniboia (North-West Territories)||4,871|
|1861||Colony of Vancouver Island||3,024|
|1871||Prince Edward Island||94,021|
|Year||Canada as a whole||Population||Provinces/Area|
|1871||Indigenous population||102,358||Prince Edward Island 323 - Nova Scotia 1,666 - New Brunswick 1,403 - Quebec 6,988 - Ontario 12,978 - British Columbia 23,000 - Rupert's Land 33,500 - Manitoba 500 and Labrador and the Arctic Watersheds 22,000|
Canada as a whole since confederation
Census data by years and projected data
Modern population distribution
By province and territory
- List of population centres in Alberta
- List of population centres in British Columbia
- List of population centres in Manitoba
- List of population centres in New Brunswick
- List of population centres in Newfoundland and Labrador
- List of population centres in the Northwest Territories
- List of population centres in Nova Scotia
- List of population centres in Nunavut
- List of population centres in Ontario
- List of population centres in Prince Edward Island
- List of population centres in Quebec
- List of population centres in Saskatchewan
- List of population centres in Yukon
By cities and municipalities
- List of largest Canadian cities by census
- List of the 100 largest municipalities in Canada by population
- Demographics of Canada
- Immigration to Canada
- Interprovincial migration in Canada
- List of Canadian provinces and territories by Human Development Index
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