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2006 Census: Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006: Subprovincial population dynamics

Canada's population becoming more urban

In 2006, nearly 25 million people, more than 80% of Canadians, were living in urban areas1. The proportion of urban residents is similar in the United States but smaller in the other G8 countries, with the exception of the United Kingdom, where it is close to 90%.

Figure 5 Proportion of the Canadian population living in urban regions since 1901

Canada's urban population surpassed its rural population during the 1921 to 1931 period. At that time, the primary sector, mainly agriculture and exploitation of natural resources, was much more important in the Canadian economy than it is today.

Since then, the urbanization rate has been rising almost without a break in Canada. New employment opportunities generated by the development of the manufacturing sector and the service industry contributed to the rapid growth of the country's urban population. The high concentration of new immigrants in the country's largest cities was also an important population growth factor.

  1. The distinction between urban and rural areas is used only in this section, for the purpose of describing historical trends. In the rest of the report, comparisons are made between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas (see Note 2).

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