Geography   |   Highlights & Analysis   |   Index

Canada's 2001 population: growth rates and trends

One of the lowest census-to-census increases

Canada's population over the last 50 years - Chart Canada's population over the last 50 years - Table Canada's population over the last 50 years

Canada registered a population growth rate of 4% between 1996 and 2001, an increase of about 1.16 million people, according to the first data from the 2001 Census of Population. There have been only two other periods in which the population grew this slowly: during the Depression of the 1930s and the period between 1981 and 1986.

Between 1981 and 1986, the population increased by only 966,150 as a result of exceptionally low levels of immigration. Fewer than half a million immigrants settled in Canada during that period.

During the baby boom years, the census recorded five-year growth rates of 14.6% in 1956 and 13.4% in 1961. By the mid-1960s, however, the growth rate was declining as fertility rates dropped. There was a brief reversal of the downward trend in growth between 1986 and 1996 when a large number of immigrants arrived and a small increase in fertility occurred.

Canada's population over 100 years - Chart Canada's population over 100 years - Table Canada circa 1875 The five years leading up to the 2001 Census were marked by a decline of about one-third in natural increase compared to the 1991 to 1996 period. The number of deaths rose primarily because Canada's population is aging. Also, the number of births declined, for two reasons. First, the already low fertility rates dropped even further in the late 1990s. Second, the generation of parents who were born in the second half of the 1960s and early 1970s belonged to the smaller "baby bust" generations that followed the baby boom.

With natural increase declining, immigration accounted for more than one-half of Canada's population growth between 1996 and 2001.

Canada compared to the world

International growth rates compared to Canada - Chart International growth rates compared to Canada - Table International growth rates compared to Canada

Canada's 4% growth rate is well above that of many other developed countries. The population of the less developed nations increased at a rate of 8.4%, while more developed countries grew at a far slower rate of 1.5%. The population of the world rose 7% between 1995 and 2000, according to the United Nations.

For the first time in 100 years, the demographic growth rate in Canada was lower than in the United States. This is due to the American fertility rate, which is exceptionally high for a developed country. The annual average number of births for each woman has remained above 2.0 in the United States for the last 10 years.

The population of Mexico, the other member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), increased 8.5% between 1995 and 2000, about double that of Canada.