Geography 2010A/B Chapter Notes -Urban Sprawl, Canadian Shield, Demographic Transition
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Geo Notes – Oct/12
Canada’s Human Face
- Canada’s population: Canada’s population continues to grow and age, and it is also moving in new
geographic, social, and religious directions. There is also a high aboriginal birth rate. The population
exceeded 33 million in 2009. The most growth has taken place in BC, western Canada, and Ontario. Canada’s
demography has changed. Demography is the study of human populations, including their size, composition,
distribution, density, growth, and related socio-economic characteristics. Immigration plays a major role in
these demographic and social changes. A census occurs every 5 years to estimate the population size.
Undercounting can occur, which is when some households are missed and the estimated population is low.
There are three factors that account for Canada’s population growth – natural increase, territorial
expansion, and immigration. Natural increase used to be the primary factor, but birth rates have decreased,
and now immigration is the primary factor in population growth. The last territorial expansion took place in
1949 when Newfoundland joined confederation. Canada’s population density, which is the total number of
people in a geographic area divided by the land area, is very low (3.5 people/km2). The reason for this is
that most of the land in Canada is not capable of supporting human settlement.
- Population distribution is the dispersal of people within a geographic area. Canada’s population is unevenly
distributed. The area around the border is Canada’s ecumene (the portion of the land that is settled). There
is a highly concentrated population core surrounded by more thinly populated zones. ON and QC contain the
majority of the population. These regions have a lot of political force and this is a source of regional
alienation. Canada’s core population zone lies in the great lakes-st. Lawrence lowlands. This is Canada’s
most densely populated area. Its economy is based on manufacturing and its agriculture lands contain the
most fertile farmlands. The secondary core zone occupies the southern portions of the Appalachian uplands,
the Canadian shield, the interior plains, and the cordillera. This is a band 300km north of the US border. This
is a moderately populated zone and the population is increasing slowly and unevenly. A major city here is
Vancouver. The third zone is sparsely populated and is located in the boreal forest (Canadian shield, interior
plains, cordillera). Fort McMurray, AB is the only major city here. It is a resource town, which is an urban
place where a single economic activity focused on resource extraction (ex. mining, logging) dominates the
local economy. A resource town can also be a town built near a mine to house the workers and their families.
Whitehorse and Yellowknife are also in this zone and they are regional service centres, which are urban
places where economic functions are provided to residents living within the surrounding area. The fourth
zone is an almost uninhabited zone with isolated centres. Most people here reside in native settlements,
which are small aboriginal centres often found on reserves. This zone has the lowest population density. It is
the least productive area in the country. A major city here is Labrador City. There is a high rate of natural
increase in the aboriginal population, but there is also a lot of emigration.
- Urban population: Canada is an urban country – 80% of the population lives in cities and towns. There has
been a shift from rural to urban, and this began in the 1920s. A census metropolitan area is an urban area
with a population of at least 100,000, together with adjacent smaller urban centres and rural areas that have
a high degree of economic and social integration with the larger urban area. The majority of Canada’s
population resides in CMAs and there are 33 CMAs. Atlantic Canada is the least urbanized part of Canada.
Cities are attractive because they are where most business and employment opportunities are found, and
amenities are readily available. A city’s prosperity is determined by the creativity of its business and
university communities. Urbanization is associated with economic development, so the rate of urbanization
has varied across Canada. The shift from rural to urban communities is associated with two factors – the