The Canadian Population in 2011: Population Counts and Growth

Highlights

  • On May 10, 2011, 33,476,688 people were enumerated in the census. This is almost twice as many as in 1961 and approximately 10 times as many as in the 1861 Census.

  • Between 2006 and 2011, Canada's population grew by 5.9%, up slightly from the previous intercensal period (2001 to 2006), when it grew by 5.4%.

  • Canada's population growth between 2006 and 2011 was the highest among G8 countries, as was the case in the previous intercensal period (2001 to 2006).

  • Every province and most territories saw its population increase between 2006 and 2011.

  • The rate of population growth increased in all provinces and territories between 2006 and 2011, except in Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

  • Saskatchewan had a strong increase in the growth of its population, going from ‑1.1% between 2001 and 2006 to 6.7% between 2006 and 2011.

  • The rate of population growth has doubled in Yukon and Manitoba since 2006.

  • The rate of population growth of Prince Edward Island (+3.2%), New Brunswick (+2.9%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (+1.8%) has increased substantially between 2006 and 2011.

  • The rate of Ontario's population growth declined slightly in the past five years to 5.7%, its lowest level since the period between the 1981 and 1986 censuses.

  • In Quebec, population growth increased slightly, from 4.3% between 2001 and 2006 to 4.7% between 2006 and 2011.

  • In 2011, the population share of the Prairie provinces and British Columbia was 30.7%, for the first time surpassing that of the Atlantic provinces and Quebec combined (30.6%).

  • In metropolitan and non-metropolitan Canada, only census metropolitan areas as a group have registered a population growth above the national average since 2006, 7.4% compared with 5.9%.

  • In 2011, more than 23.1 million people, or nearly 7 Canadians in 10 (69.1%), were living in one of Canada's 33 census metropolitan areas, an increase compared with 2006 (68.1%).

  • Of all census metropolitan areas located in the Prairie provinces and British Columbia, only Winnipeg (+5.1%) and Victoria (+4.4%) had population growth below the national average.

  • The rate of population growth in almost all census metropolitan areas located in Ontario slowed between 2006 and 2011.

  • Between 2006 and 2011, 10 of 15 census agglomerations with the highest population growth were located in Alberta.

Part 1: National portrait

Highest population growth among the G8 countries

Canada's population grew by 5.9% between 2006 and 2011, up slightly from 5.4% for the previous intercensal period of 2001 to 2006 (Figure 1).

The rate of Canada's population growth between 2006 and 2011 was the highest among the G8 countries,Footnote 1 as was the case between 2001 and 2006 (Figure 1). Only two other G8 countries registered an increase in their population growth in recent years: the United Kingdom and Russia.

Figure 1 Population growth rate (in percentage) of the G8 countries, 2001 to 2006 and 2006 to 2011

Canada's slightly higher population growth since 2006 is a result of small increases in fertility, the number of non-permanent residentsFootnote 2 and, to a lesser extent, the number of immigrants.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, Canada's population growth has been driven mainly by migratory increase, since natural increase, or the difference between births and deaths, now only accounts for about one-third of this growth. Canada's substantial migratory increase largely explains why it ranks first for population growth among the G8 countries. The population growth of the United States and of France, for example, is mainly a result of natural increase, with migratory increase being proportionally lower in those countries.

The document Population growth in Canada: From 1851 to 2061 in the Census in Brief series sheds light on the growth of Canada's population from 1851 to 2011 and looks ahead to what could happen between now and 2061.

33.5 million Canadians enumerated

On May 10, 2011, 33,476,688 people were enumerated in the census (see Box 1 and Figure 2). This is almost twice as many people as in 1961, when Canada was experiencing a major baby boom. It is also about 10 times as many people as in the 1861 Census, a few years before the signing of the British North America Act that created the Canadian Confederation, when 3.2 million people were enumerated in the census.

Box 1

The census is designed to conduct a complete count of the population. Inevitably, however, some individuals will not be enumerated (undercoverage) while others, usually less numerous, will be enumerated more than once (overcoverage). To determine the number of people who were missed or counted more than once, Statistics Canada conducts postcensal studies of the coverage of the census population, using representative samples of the population. Results of these studies are usually available approximately two years after the Census Day. They are used, in combination with census figures and other sources, to develop the population estimates produced by Statistics Canada at regular intervals. These population estimates can be used to follow the trends in the Canadian population on a quarterly basis and to understand the underlying components of population change. Thus the population estimates differ from census counts, and are usually higher. Census counts are never adjusted for undercoverage or overcoverage.

End of text box 1.

Figure 2 Population of Canada, 1851 to 2011

With 33.5 million inhabitants, Canada is the least populous country in the G8. The United States ranks first with 309 million inhabitants in 2010, or nine times as many as Canada (Table 1). Two other G8 countries have populations of more than 100 million, namely Russia and Japan. Emerging market countries such as China and India, with respectively 1.3 billion and 1.2 billion inhabitants, have populations approximately 40 times larger than Canada's. The megacityFootnote 3 of Tokyo (Japan) alone, with its population of 35 million in 2011, is more populous than Canada.

Table 1 Population counts for the G8 countries and other selected countries, 2010 or 2011

Part 2: Provinces and territories

Higher population growth in all provinces and territories except Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut

Compared to the previous five-year period (2001 to 2006), the rate of population growth between 2006 and 2011 has increased in all provinces and territories except Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (Figure 3). Furthermore, all provinces and most territories saw its population increase between 2006 and 2011. Two provinces had seen their population decline between 2001 and 2006, namely Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan.

The largest increases in population growth rate were in Saskatchewan, Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba.

Of all provinces and territories, Yukon, at 11.6%, has experienced the largest population growth between 2006 and 2011. As in the previous two intercensal periods (1996 to 2001 and 2001 to 2006), Alberta posted the highest population growth among the 10 provinces since 2006 at 10.8%, almost double the national average (+5.9%).

Figure 3 Population growth rate (in percentage) of provinces and territories, 2001 to 2006 and 2006 to 2011

Highlight table on population counts and growth by provinces and territories

Strong increase in Saskatchewan's population growth

After negative population growth (-1.1%) between 1996 to 2001 and 2001 to 2006, Saskatchewan saw its growth exceed the national average between 2006 and 2011, at 6.7%. This level was the third largest among Canada's provinces, behind two other Western provinces, Alberta (+10.8%) and British Columbia (+7.0%).

With this strong growth, Saskatchewan's population topped 1 million in the 2011 Census, an increase of more than 65,000 people from 2006. Saskatchewan had reached the 1 million mark once before in census history, in 1986.

An increased influx of immigrants and interprovincial migratory gains are the main factors behind the turnaround in Saskatchewan.Footnote 4 The province received more than 28,000 immigrants between 2006 and 2011, compared with approximately 9,500 between 2001 and 2006. Saskatchewan also had net gains of almost 12,000 interprovincial migrants in the past five years, whereas it recorded net losses of 35,000 people during the previous intercensal period (2001 to 2006). In the past five years, the natural resources and energy sectors generated economic growth in various regions of this Prairie province, which also had one of Canada's lowest unemployment rates.

Population growth doubled in Yukon and Manitoba

In Yukon and Manitoba, population growth since 2006 was double the rate of the previous intercensal period (2001 to 2006), from 5.9% to 11.6% in Yukon, and from 2.6% to 5.2% in Manitoba.

In Yukon, the rise is related to the increased number of immigrants and non-permanent residents between 2006 and 2011, as well as gains in Yukon's migratory exchanges with Canada's other provinces and territories.

In Manitoba, the increase is mainly due to the fact that the province received twice as many immigrants (more than 64,000), compared to the period from 2001 to 2006 (slightly less than 34,000).

Population growth is up in all Atlantic provinces, but still remains below the national average

The population growth rates of Prince Edward Island (+3.2%), New Brunswick (+2.9%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (+1.8%) have each increased substantially between 2006 and 2011.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, population growth was positive for the first time since the period from 1981 to 1986. This increase is attributable to fewer losses in net migratory exchanges with other Canadian provinces and territories as well as to higher numbers of non-permanent residents and, to a lesser extent, to the number of immigrants settling there.

Immigration is the main factor explaining the increase in Prince Edward Island's population growth, with more than 8,100 immigrants having settled there since 2006 compared with slightly more than 1,100 between 2001 and 2006.

The rate of population growth in New Brunswick between 2006 and 2011 is the highest since the intercensal period from 1976 to 1981. Between 2006 and 2011, this province received twice as many immigrants as it did in the previous intercensal period. As well, New Brunswick lost fewer people as a result of interprovincial migration.

In Nova Scotia, the population growth also increased slightly, from 0.6% between 2001 and 2006 to 0.9% between 2006 and 2011.

Lowest population growth for Ontario since the 1981 to 1986 period

Ontario's population grew by 5.7% between 2006 and 2011. This is slightly lower than the growth of 6.6% between 2001 and 2006, and the lowest population growth since the period from 1981 to 1986. Nevertheless, this growth was close to the national average. Ontario received approximately 96,000 fewer immigrants in the past five years than in the period 2001 to 2006, and migratory losses to the other provinces and territories were approximately twice as large. Some of Ontario's economic sectors were especially affected, both by structural changes in the Canadian economy and by the global recession of 2008-2009. An example of how both of these factors combined in 2008-2009 was the auto industry.

Slight increase in the rate of population growth in Quebec

In Quebec, population growth increased slightly, from 4.3% between 2001 and 2006 to 4.7% between 2006 and 2011. Increased numbers of immigrants and non-permanent residents and higher fertility were partly offset by larger losses in interprovincial migration.

The population share of Canada's Western provinces now exceeds that of the Eastern provinces

In 2011, the population share of the Prairie provinces and British Columbia combined reached 30.7%, a proportion which for the first time exceeded that of the Atlantic provinces and Quebec combined (30.6%) (Figure 4). The increased share of the Western provinces since 2006 is essentially due to the population growth of the Prairie provinces, whereas, in the past, was mostly attributable to the growth of British Columbia.

In the last 60 years, the population share of British Columbia and Ontario has steadily increased while that of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces has declined. Consequently, the gap between Quebec and Ontario, for example, has gradually widened, going from four percentage points in 1951 (28.9% versus 32.8%) to nearly 15 percentage points in 2011 (23.6% versus 38.4%).

Essentially, these changes are the result of three factors: interprovincial migration that is often favourable to Western provinces, especially to Alberta and British Columbia; fertility that is generally higher in these provinces (except British Columbia) than the provinces in Eastern Canada; and on average a larger influx of immigrants, especially in Ontario and British Columbia.

Figure 4 Population share of Canada's regions, 1951 to 2011

Part 3: Portrait of metropolitan and non-metropolitan Canada

In metropolitan and non-metropolitan Canada, only census metropolitan areas as a group have experienced a rate of population growth above the national average

Between 2006 and 2011, only census metropolitan areas (CMAs – see Box 2) as a group has grown at a rate above the national average, at 7.4% compared with 5.9% (Table 2). The population living in all other regions of Canada, that is in census agglomerations (CAs) and in regions outside of CMAs and CAs, grew at a rate lower than the national average.

Box 2

According  to the geography of the 2011 Census, Canada has 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs) (see CMA/CA maps), a number unchanged since 2006, as well as 114 census agglomerations (CAs) (see CMA/CA maps), up from 111 in 2006. Five new CAs have been added since 2006: Steinbach (Manitoba) and High River, Strathmore, Sylvan Lake and Lacombe (Alberta). Two CAs in 2006 ceased to be CAs in 2011: La Tuque (Quebec) and Kitimat (British Columbia).

Outside of CMAs and CAs, a distinction can be made between regions located close to CMAs or CAs and those that are remote from such regions (see map Statistical Area Classification, 2011). This distinction is based on the concept of census metropolitan influenced zones (MIZ).

Regions located close to CMAs or CAs refer to census subdivisions (CSD) outside CMAs and CAs classified as strong metropolitan influenced zone (strong MIZ). In those regions, more than 30% of the labour force commutes to work in the CMA or CA.

Regions remote from CMAs and CAs refer to CSDs outside CMAs and CAs classified as either moderate, weak or no metropolitan influenced zones (moderate MIZ, weak MIZ or no MIZ).

The data presented in this document are based on the final 2011 geographic boundaries.

End of text box 2.

In 2011, more than 23.1 million people, or nearly 7 Canadians in 10 (69.1%), were living in one of Canada's 33 CMAs, an increase compared with 2006 (68.1%). More than one Canadian in three (35.0%) was living in one of Canada's three largest CMAs, Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. The population growth of these three CMAs taken together was higher than the other CMAs (7.9% compared to 6.9%) and was due mainly to immigration since each year, a majority of immigrants choose to settle in these areas.

According to the 2011 Census, just over 4.3 million people were living in the 114 census agglomerations (see Box 2), up slightly from the 4.1 million enumerated in 2006 (Table 2). The population growth of these areas (+4.2%) changed slightly from the 2001 to 2006 period and remained below the national average.

Slightly more than six million Canadians were living in regions outside of CMAs and CAs in 2011, accounting for 18.0% of the overall Canadian population, compared with 18.8% in 2006 (Table 2). Regions outside of CMAs and CAs can be divided in three categories, that is, those located close to CMAs or CAs, those located remote from CMAs and CAs, and those located in the territories, excluding the CAs of Yellowknife and Whitehorse.

The majority of the population living outside of CMAs and CAs (72.7%) lived in areas located remote from CMAs and CAs. Between 2006 and 2011, the population growth of regions located close to CMAs or CAs (+4.3%) and those in the territories (+3.8%) remained much higher than that of regions remote from CMAs and CAs (+0.7%).

In the provinces, population growth of regions outside of CMAs and CAs located close to CMAs or CAs is based mostly on internal migration, which is often favourable to them. This is related to the phenomenon of urban spread, since access to nearby large CMAs or CAs is often facilitated by the presence of major roads and public transit lines. Population growth in regions located remote from CMAs and CAs is often lower because many young adults leave these regions to pursue studies or start a career elsewhere in Canada, often in one of the large CMAs.

In the territories, population growth of regions outside of CAs is driven by higher fertility than elsewhere in Canada.

Table 2 Population (as count and as share of total population) and growth rate of metropolitan and non-metropolitan Canada, 2006 and 2011

Between 2006 and 2011, all census metropolitan areas located in Western Canada have had higher population growth than the national average, except Winnipeg and Victoria

The four Canadian CMAs with the highest rates of population growth since 2006 are located in Western Canada: Calgary (+12.6%), Edmonton (+12.1%), Saskatoon (+11.4%) and Kelowna (+10.8%) (Figure 5). Of all the CMAs located in the Prairie provinces and British Columbia, only Winnipeg (+5.1%) and Victoria (+4.4%) had population growth below the national average.

Among other CMAs with growth exceeding the national average, two were located in the Atlantic provinces (Moncton and St. John's); one was located in Quebec (Québec CMA); another overlaps Quebec and Ontario (Ottawa - Gatineau); and three were located in Ontario's Greater Golden HorseshoeFootnote 5 (Toronto, BrantfordFootnote 6 and Oshawa).

After at least two intercensal periods (1996 to 2001 and 2001 to 2006) in which their respective populations declined, the CMAs of Saint John and Saguenay have experienced positive population growth since 2006.

Population growth up substantially in Saskatchewan's two census metropolitan areas, Saskatoon and Regina

Saskatchewan's two CMAs, Saskatoon and Regina, registered strong increases in their population growth in the past five years compared with the previous intercensal period. In Saskatoon, for example, population growth increased from 3.5% between 2001 and 2006 to 11.4% between 2006 and 2011, the third largest increase among all CMAs after Calgary and Edmonton.

Increased internal migration, mainly from other provinces, as well as an increase in the number of immigrants settling in these two CMAs,Footnote 7 are factors that contributed to this sizable increase in their population growth.

Slower population growth in all Ontario census metropolitan areas except Toronto, Ottawa Gatineau, Kingston and BrantfordFootnote 8

All CMAs in Ontario saw their population grow more slowly between 2006 and 2011, except Toronto, Ottawa – Gatineau, Kingston and BrantfordFootnote 8. For example, the growth of Barrie, which led the way from 1996 to 2001 (+25.1%) and from 2001 to 2006 (+19.2%), fell to 5.6% between 2006 and 2011, a level slightly below the national average of 5.9%.

Only two of the 33 CMAs, both located in Ontario, have seen their population decline since 2006: Thunder Bay and Windsor. Windsor's population growth fell substantially from 5.0% between 2001 and 2006 to ‑1.3% between 2006 and 2011.

For most CMAs located in Ontario, these changes were mostly due to much smaller gains in net interprovincial migration than in the previous intercensal period.

Figure 5 Population growth rate (in percentage) of census metropolitan areas, 2001 to 2006 and 2006 to 2011

Ten of the 15 census agglomerations with the strongest population growth between 2006 and 2011 are located in Alberta

From 2006 to 2011, 10 of the 15 census agglomerations posting the highest population growth were located in Alberta (Table 3). As in the period between 2001 and 2006, Okotoks (Alberta), was the census agglomeration with the largest population growth between 2006 and 2011, at 42.9%. Wood Buffalo (Alberta), which ranked second for growth between 2001 and 2006, was again in second place between 2006 and 2011, with 27.1%.

Table 3 Census agglomerations with the highest population growth between 2006 and 2011

Twelve of the 15 census agglomerations registering a decrease in their population between 2006 and 2011 were located in Ontario, Quebec or the Atlantic provinces

Of the 15 census agglomerations registering a decrease in their population between 2006 and 2011, 12 were located in Ontario, Quebec or the Atlantic provinces (Table 4). Thompson in Manitoba, Chatham‑Kent in Ontario and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia had decreases in excess of 4.0%.

Table 4 Census agglomerations with the lowest population growth between 2006 and 2011

Part 4: Portrait of municipalities (census subdivisions)

The census is the only data source that provides a statistical portrait of the population of all municipalities in Canada, also called census subdivisions (CSDs).

Table 5 shows, by province and territory, the most populous municipalities in 2011. Among these municipalities are the central municipalitiesFootnote 9 of census metropolitan areas, such as Toronto (Ontario), Montréal (Quebec) and Calgary (Alberta), but also other large municipalities such as Mississauga (Ontario), Surrey (British Columbia), Laval (Quebec), Longueuil (Quebec) and Burnaby (British Columbia).

Table 5 Most populous municipalities (census subdivisions) by province and territory, 2011

Twelve of the 15 municipalities with the highest population growth between 2006 and 2011 are located in CMAs or CAs

Of the 15 municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more that posted the largest population increases in the last 5 years, only 3 were located outside of CMAs and CAs: La Broquerie (Manitoba), Blackfalds (Alberta), and Marieville (Quebec) (Table 6). However, these three municipalities are all located close to a CMA or CA, Steinbach, Red Deer and Montréal respectively.

Table 6 Municipalities (census subdivisions) with the highest population growth between 2006 and 2011

Between 2006 and 2011, four municipalities in a CMA had population growth exceeding 50%. Two are located in the Toronto CMA (Milton and Whitchurch-Stouffville), one is located in the Saskatoon CMA (Martensville), and the fourth is in the Québec CMA (Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval).

The fifteen municipalities with the largest decreases were all located in regions outside of CMAs and CAs

Among Canada's 709 municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more in 2011, 161, or 23% of these, had their population decreased in the last 5 years. The 15 municipalities with the largest decreases were all located in regions outside of CMAs and CAs, and 13 were located remote from a CMA and a CA (Table 7). Thunder Bay Unorganized and Hearst (Ontario) and Inverness Subdivision A (Nova Scotia) have each lost approximately 10% of their population since 2006.

Table 7 Municipalities (census subdivisions) with the lowest population growth between 2006 and 2011

The document The Census: A tool for planning at the local level in the Census in Brief series and the Census Profile provide additional information at the local area level.

Additional information

Additional information on specific geographies can be found in the Highlight Tables as well as in the new census product Focus on Geography Series.

Acknowledgments

This report was prepared by Laurent Martel and Jonathan Chagnon, of Statistics Canada's Demography Division, with the assistance of staff members of Statistics Canada's Census Subject Matter Secretariat, Geography Division, Census Operations Division, Dissemination Division and Communications Division.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

The G8, or the 'Group of 8,' is an informal discussion group and economic partnership consisting of eight of the world's most powerful economies: the United States, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada and Russia.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Since 1991, the Census of Canada has enumerated non-permanent residents, who are therefore included in the population counts. Non-permanent residents are people from another country who, at the time of the census, had a work or study permit or were a refugee claimant, as well as family members living with them in Canada.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

According to the United Nations, a megacity is an urban agglomeration with at least 10 million inhabitants, generally characterized by the presence of major political and economic functions.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

Footnote 4

The increase in Saskatchewan's population growth was also due, although to a lesser extent, by a rise in the number of non-permanent residents.

Return to footnote 4 referrer

Footnote 5

The Greater Golden Horseshoe is a densely populated and industrialized region in south-central Ontario that includes nine census metropolitan areas.

Return to footnote 5 referrer

Footnote 6

The population growth in the CMA of Brantford between 2006 and 2011 must be used with caution due to an incompletely enumerated Indian reserve in 2006 that was enumerated in 2011. Without this addition, the population growth of Brantford would have been 3.8% between 2006 and 2011.

Return to footnote 6 referrer

Footnote 7

An increase in the number of non-permanent residents also accounts for part of the increase in the population growth of these two CMAs.

Return to footnote 7 referrer

Footnote 8

The population growth in the CMA of Brantford between 2006 and 2011 must be used with caution due to an incompletely enumerated Indian reserve in 2006 that was enumerated in 2011. Without this addition, the population growth of Brantford would have been 3.8% between 2006 and 2011.

Return to first footnote 8 referrer

Footnote 9

The central municipality (census subdivision) of a CMA or CA most often is the one that lends its name to the CMA or CA. All other municipalities within the boundaries of the CMA or CA are considered peripheral to the central municipality.

Return to footnote 9 referrer