From 1891 to 1961 the population of Canada almost quadrupled from 4.8 million to 18.2 million. Before the Great War much of the growth was rural, especially in the rapid occupation of the western prairies.
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.
By 1961 at least 70% of the population lived in urban centres, two-thirds of which lived in metropolitan centres (over 100,000). 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.
Throughout the period the historical character of the population, largely British or French in origin, was significantly modified in much of Canada as a result of two great waves of European migration (1896-1913, 1946-61). Ukrainian, German, and other European groups established rural settlements in the Prairies, and in the 1950s a combination of large-scale immigration and migration from rural to urban areas increased the ethnic diversity of most Canadian cities dramatically.
In 2006, nearly 25 million people, more than 80% of Canadians, were living in urban areas. 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%.
The population of Canada continues to shift as Canada attracts more diverse immigrants. More than 200 different ethnic origins were reported in the 2006 Census. An estimated 5,068,100 individuals were members of the visible minority population. They represented 16.2% of the total population in 2006, up from 13.4% in 2001. The 2006 Census also enumerated 6,186,950 individuals who were born outside of Canada. They represented one in five (19.8%) of the total population. This is the highest proportion of foreign-born population in 75 years. A majority of the 1.1 million recent immigrants lived in Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver.
This piece outlines the population growth and urbanization rates of Canada from the late 1800s to present. Users can scroll through the years to witness the bar graphs representing various regions increase.