Roughly six million Canadians were living in small towns and rural areas in 2006. Rural areas close to urban centres1 experienced a much higher rate of population growth (+4.7%) than more remote rural areas (-0.1%).
In this section, the terms 'rural areas' and 'non-metropolitan areas' are used interchangeably to refer to areas that are not part of a CMA or a CA.
Reference map: Canada. Statistical Area Classification by census subdivision (CSD), 2006
The population of remote rural areas was also older than that of rural areas close to urban centres. Remote rural areas had a much higher proportion of people aged 65 and over (16.1%) than metropolitan areas (13.2%) or rural areas close to urban centres (13.9%).
Table 9 Percentage of persons aged less than 15 years and persons aged 65 years and over by area type, 2001 and 2006
A number of the small towns and rural communities with the youngest populations in 2006 were located in Alberta, particularly the northern part of the province. As in 2001, Mackenzie No. 23 was the youngest rural area in Canada, as the proportion of children there was more than one in three.
Sylvan Lakes and Lakeland County, also in northern Alberta, are not only on the list of Canada's youngest rural areas but are also among the rural areas with the highest rates of population growth since 2001.
There are other reasons for the high proportion of children in some rural areas: the presence of a large Aboriginal population (Iqaluit, Nunavut and Big Lakes, Alberta) or the presence of particular communities, such as Mennonites (Stanley and Hanover, Manitoba and Mapleton and Wellesley, Ontario) or Mormons (Taber, Alberta), which have higher fertility rates.
Table 10 Small towns and rural communities with the highest proportion of persons aged less than 15 years in 2006
In contrast, some of the oldest small towns and rural communities were very popular with retired people, such as Capital G, on Vancouver Island; Summerland, in the Okanagan Valley; Trail, in the Kootenay Valley in British Columbia; Perth and Wasaga Beach, Ontario; and Saint-Sauveur, Quebec. In all cases, the proportion of seniors in the population was greater than one in five.
Table 11 Small towns and rural communities with the highest proportion of persons aged 65 years and over in 2006
As was the case in other parts of Canada, the age structure in the rural parts of Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut is different from the age structure found in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit. The age pyramid of rural areas of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut was characteristic of a population with high fertility and lower life expectancy, so that the base of the pyramid was much wider than the top. It is also the only age pyramid for a Canadian region in which the large baby-boom cohorts are not clearly visible between the ages of 41 and 60.
The working-age population was proportionally larger in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit than in the rural areas of the three territories. This situation, which is typical of most large urban centres in Canada, has to do with the labour market in urban areas, which attracts and retains workers who, mainly in the case of Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit, come from other parts of the territories or other parts of Canada.
Figure 27 Age pyramid of the population of the territories' three capitals compared to the rural areas of the three territories in 2006