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Between 2001 and 2006, Canada's population grew by 1.6 million, which translates to a growth rate of 5.4%. That is slightly higher than the rate for the period between the 1996 and 2001 censuses (+4.0%).
An increase in international immigration was responsible for the acceleration of Canada's growth rate over the last five years. Since 2001, an average of about 240,000 newcomers have arrived in Canada each year, for a total of some 1.2 million immigrants in five years. Roughly two-thirds of Canada's population growth now comes from net international migration.
The remaining one-third of the population gain is due to natural increase, the growth that results from there being more births than deaths. However, natural increase is becoming less important as a factor in population growth for two reasons: Canadian fertility has remained at about 1.5 children per woman for the last 10 years, and the population is aging, which means the annual number of deaths is increasing. According to population projections, net immigration may become the only source of population growth by about 2030.
Figure 1 Canada's population growth during the last 50 years
50 years of population change
Despite its recent increase, Canada's population growth rate remains much lower than it was 50 years ago. Between 1956 and 1961, the population expanded by 13.4%, roughly three times faster than in the last five years. At that time, in the middle of the baby boom, women were having an average of more than 3.5 children.
The post-baby boom decline in fertility and the increase in deaths due to population aging have both played a role in slowing the pace of population growth substantially. The brief reversal of this trend that occurred in the late 1980s was due to an increase in immigration which coincided with a slight rise in fertility.
Canada's 2006 Census held on May 16th counted 31,612,897 Canadians. Fifty years earlier, in the first national quinquennial census, Canada's population was 16 million, about half of what it is today.
If current fertility, mortality and international migration trends continue, no population decline is expected in the next 50 years and Canada's population can be expected to number 43 million in 2056.
Figure 2 Population of Canada in the last 50 years
Canada experienced more rapid population growth than any other G8 country in the five years leading up to the 2006 Census. While the number of Canadians increased by 5.4%, the growth rate was 3.1% in Italy and France, 1.9% in the United Kingdom and nearly zero in Japan and Germany. During the same period, Russia's population shrank by 2.4%.
Figure 3 Population growth in G8 countries from 2001 to 2006
Of the G8 countries, only the United States had a growth rate comparable to Canada's, at 5.0% between 2001 and 2006. The U.S. rate was, nevertheless, slightly lower than the Canadian rate, as has been the case for every intercensal period over the last 50 years except for the 1996 to 2001 period.
Nearly 60% of America's population growth is attributable to natural increase, as its fertility rate of close to two children per woman over the last few years is the highest of the G8. In Canada, two-thirds of the population growth stems from international immigration. Canadian women have an average of 1.5 children.