Geography of Canada: Lecture 5
• Today, the population of Canada is estimated to be 35 million.
• At the time of confederation, the population was 3.4 million.
• We have seen a steady increase in the population size since 1951 (table 4.5). Every
second census (10 years), the population increases about 3 million (healthy growth).
• Only 10% of countries have a population higher than Canada (we are just small in
comparison to the U.S with 9X as many people)
Current Population Trends
1. The rate of natural increase is declining. This is because people are having fewer kids.
2. The population is aging. This will be a problem for our generation in the future.
3. There is a high birth rate among the Aboriginal population.
4. Highest growth is occurring in Ontario (constant since confederation), B.C (attracted to
landscape), Alberta and Saskatchewan (mainly due to oil and pot ash industries)
• Population Density: Number of people divided by land area.
• Canada is the 2 largest country in the world by land area.
• As a result, its population density is one of the lowest in the world (3.7 people per km^2) • Canada’s physiological density (amount of arable/usable land per person) is similar to
that of the U.S. This means that we make good use of the land that we have.
Note: 2 areas of population (east and west) It is too harsh of a climate to live in the North
and too difficult to build in the Canadian Shield. Also note Palliser's triangle. Towns and
settlement surround this triangle in the prairies.
Regional Population Density
• Density varies greatly among the regions.
• Ontario has the highest population density of all provinces (13.4 people per km ).
• This is despite the fact that Northern Ontario is sparsely populated.
• Ontario and Quebec combined are home to 62% of Canada's population (KNOW THIS
NUMBER). Note: Ontario contains almost 40% of Canada's population. The west is growing quickly
due to oil in Alberta and slowly in Atlantic Canada due to problems with the economy.
• Definition: Dispersal of people within a geographic area
• Canada’s population distribution is one of the most unevenly dispersed in the world.
• 75% of the population is located within 100km of the U.S border.
• The inhabited part of an area is referred to as an ecumene. Canada has a small
ecumene compared to other countries. The U.S has a large ecumene.
• There are 4 population zones
Isolated Settlements Densely Populated Zone
• This zone lies within the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Lowlands.
• The largest metropolitan areas in this zone are Toronto (since 1971), Montreal (used to
be larger than Toronto), Ottawa, Quebec City, Hamilton, Oshawa, London, Windsor.
• Agricultural land in this area is the most fertile in Canada.
Moderately Populated Zone
• This zone extends from coast to coast roughly between the 49 and 50 parallels of
latitude (where Canada/US border lies).
• Major cities in this zone are Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax (all of
these cities are North of this parallel).
• The population is increasing slowly and unevenly.
Sparsely Populated Zone
• This zone extends from coast to coast over the mid section of the country. • The common landscape in the zone is boreal forest.
• Major population centers include Fort McMurray (oil in Alberta), Whitehorse, Yellowknife.
• Less than 1% of Canadians live in this zone.
Isolated Settlements Zone
• This zone occupies the northern part of Canada and is inhospitable for settlement.
• Less than 0.1% of Canada's population lives there.
• Most reside in Native settlements.
• The largest population centers are Labrador City and Iqaluit (not technically cities)
• Definition of urban: An area with a population of at least 1000 and at least 400 people
per km .
• Canada's population is 82% urban (anything over 70% is considered high).
• The urban population did not increase much until the 1920s.
• The least urbanized region is Atlantic Canada (many fishing villages). The worst
economies correlate with the least urbanized regions.
• The TOP 3 urban centers in Canada are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. In 1971,
Toronto overtook Montreal as Canada's largest metropolitan area. This is because big
corporations moved from Montreal to Toronto due to worries about Quebec separation.
The jobs followed.
6 Major Urban Centers
• These metropolitan areas are each home to over 1 million people:
Problems with Urbanization?
• Urban sprawl is an environmental concern (forced to travel->car emissions :() • Sprawl leads to more traffic, retail loss from downtown cores (mom and pop stores), air
pollution, loss of agricultural land.
• It is most prevalent in the largest centers but is evident in all CMAs.
• Provincial government created the green belt around Toronto and Ottawa to inhibit too
Census Metropolitan Area (CMA)
• Definition: An urban core together with adjacent areas that have a high degree of social
or economic integration with the urban core of the area.
• The urban core of a CMA must contain at least 100, 000 people.
• There are 33 CMAs in Canada; 15 of those are in Ontario. London is a CMA, and the
smaller surrounding cities are included (Strathroy, St. Thomas, etc)
• From the 2006 census to the 2011 census, CMA growth rates were highest in Calgary,
Edmonton, and Saskatoon. These cities have benefitted from jobs in the oil industry.
Population Change (Key Terms)
• Crude birth rate: Number of births per 1000 people in a given year. Each generation
this is falling in Canada.
• Crude death rate: Number of deaths per 1000 people in a given year.
• Rate of natural increase: Difference between the crude birth rate and the crude death
• Net migration: Difference between immigration and emigration.
• Until 1986, most of Canada’s population growth was due to natural increase.
• After that time, the number of immigrants exceeded the number from natural increase.
• As Canada transitioned from a more rural population to an industrial country, fertility
rates declined (main result of more women in the workforce)
• The crude birth rate has fallen dramatically over the past 100 years.
• Explanations: Shift of people from rural areas (need people to work on farm) to towns
and cities (cheaper to have smaller families), Increase in number of women in workforce,
widespread acceptance of family planning.
• The crude death rate has also fallen dramatically over the past 100 years. • Explanations: Medical advances, improved nutrition, water purification.
Note: Natural increase is decreasing towards 0 (point where births=deaths)
• Definition: The level of fertility at which women have enough daughters to replace
• The replacement fertility rate is 2.1.
If a woman has 2.1 births in her lifetime, then on average each will have a
daughter and son. This is required to keep a positive natural increase.
The current fertility rate in Canada among women (aged 15-49) is 1.6. Unless we
start attracting immigrants, our population will decline.
Demographic Transition Theory
• Definition: The shift of birth rates and death rates from high to low levels. The decline in
death rates precedes the decline in birth rates (as a country industrializes)
• It is based on the assumption that changes occur as a society moves from pre industrial
• The demographic changes occur in 5 phases. Phase 1: Late Pre-Industrial
High birth and high death rates
Little to no natural increase
Many countries in Africa are stuck here :(
Phase 2: Early Industrial
Death rates fall as healthcare improves.
Extremely high rates of natural increase (still high birth rates)
Common in Asia & Middle East
Phase 3: Late Industrial
Birth rates fall as women enter workforce
High but declining rates of natural increase (still increasing, but slower)
Phase 4: Early Post-Industrial
This is the stage Canada is currently in!
Low birth and death rates
Little or no natural increase; stable population.
Phase 5: Late Post-Industrial
Sweden and Norway are in this stage already!
Falling birth rates They have declining populations.
• This refers to a time of relatively high birth rates in North America (1946 to 1964).
• Many schools were built in the 1960s.
• The median age in Canada has been rising steadily (currently approx age 38).
• The ratio of dependent age groups (younger than 15 or older than 64) to the productive
age group (15 through 64).
• 1961: 70 dependents / 100 working age
• 2011: 46 dependents / 100 working age
• This decrease demonstrates the affect of the Baby Boom. However, as baby boomers
retire, the old age dependency ratio will rise.
Old Age: Dependency Ratio
• 1961: 14 elderly / 100 working age
• 1991: 18 elderly / 100 working age
• 2011: 22 elderly / 100 working age
Implications of Greater Age Dependency
• An aging population places demands on the working-age members of the population. Ex: Government health care costs will increase as baby boomers become senior
• There are fewer working taxpayers to cover major costs such as healthcare and
Character of Canadian Society
• The population is more multicultural than that of most countries.
• Early 1800s: British immigrants
• 1840s: Irish immigrants (potatoe famine caused people to leave Ireland)
• Early 1900s: Eastern Europeans
• Since 1960s: Immigrants from all around the world
• Currently, the majority of immigrants are from Asia and the Middle East (58% combined).
• New immigrants tend to settle in larger cities (due to jobs/family contacts) The main
cities of settlement are Toronto and Vancouver. Quebec is lower down the list because
many immigrants know English over French.
• 24% of Canada's population was born outside of the country.
• Why does the federal government encourage immigration? 1. It is becoming necessary to keep the population growing
2. Newcomers add to Canada's work