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2006 Census: Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006: National portrait

Two out of three Canadians live near the southern border shared with the United States

With a land area of close to 10 million square kilometres, Canada is the second-largest country in the world, behind Russia. On the other hand, with 31.6 million people, it ranks about 35th in population size, well back of China and India, the most populous countries on the planet, with more than 1 billion people each.

At 3.5 people per square kilometre, Canada is sparsely populated. For comparison, the population density is nine times higher in the United States (31 people/km2), 31 times higher in France (109 people/km2) and 70 times higher in the United Kingdom (246 people/km2).

Yet Canada's population is not spread evenly over its territory. Most Canadians live in the southern part of the country (Flash) (Alternate format), leaving the northern regions of Canada much less densely populated.

The southern part of the country is also home to Canada's large urban centres, where population density averages 245 people per square kilometre. The municipalities of Westmount, on the island of Montréal, and Vancouver have the highest population density in the country, at more than 5,000 people per square kilometre. Three of the five most densely populated municipalities are in the Montréal metropolitan area: Westmount along with Côte St-Luc and Montréal, which have 4,500 people per square kilometre.

This photograph shows a crowd of pedestrians walking through a shopping district in a downtown area.In many cases, the zones with the highest population density are also the ones that met all the prerequisites for settlement: the proximity of major rivers, a favourable climate, fertile land and abundant natural resources. Over the course of more than three centuries, the Canadian population has moved steadily westward: from the Atlantic provinces (Flash) (Alternate format) to the St. Lawrence valley (Flash) (Alternate format), then along the Great Lakes (Flash) (Alternate format), and from there to the Prairies, with the construction of the railway (Flash) (Alternate format) through to the valleys and onto the Pacific coast of British Columbia (Flash) (Alternate format) and later to the Canadian north (Flash) (Alternate format). Even today, the majority of Canada's population is spread out along those great settlement routes.

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