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Population of Canada 1800-2020

It is presumed that the first humans migrated from Siberia to North America approximately twelve thousand years ago, where they then moved southwards to warmer lands. It was not until many centuries later that humans returned to the north and began to settle regions that are now part of Canada. Despite a few short-lived Viking settlements on Newfoundland around the turn of the first millennium CE, the Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), became the first European to explore the coast of North America in the late 1400s. The French and British crowns both made claims to areas of Canada throughout the sixteenth century, but real colonization and settlement did not begin until the early seventeenth century. Over the next 150 years, France and Britain competed to take control of the booming fur and fishing trade, and to expand their overseas empires. In the Seven Year's War, Britain eventually defeated the French colonists in North America, through superior numbers and a stronger agriculture resources in the southern colonies, and the outcome of the war saw France cede practically all of it's colonies in North America to the British.

Increased migration and declining native populations

The early 1800s saw a large influx of migrants into Canada, with the Irish Potato Famine bringing the first wave of mass-migration to the country, with further migration coming from Scandinavia and Northern Europe. It is estimated that the region received just shy of one million migrants from the British Isles alone, between 1815 and 1850, which helped the population grow to 2.5 million in the mid-1800s and 5.5 million in 1900. It is also estimated that infectious diseases killed around 25 to 33 percent of all Europeans who migrated to Canada before 1891, and around a third of the Canadian population is estimated to have emigrated southwards to the United States in the 1871-1896 period. From the time of European colonization until the mid-nineteenth century, the native population of Canada dropped from roughly 500,000 (some estimates put it as high as two million) to just over 100,000; this was due to a mixture of disease, starvation and warfare, instigated by European migration to the region. The native population was generally segregated and oppressed until the second half of the 1900s; Native Canadians were given the vote in 1960, and, despite their complicated and difficult history, the Canadian government has made significant progress in trying to include indigenous cultures in the country's national identity in recent years. As of 2020, Indigenous Canadians make up more than five percent of the total Canadian population, and a higher birth rate means that this share of the population is expected to grow in the coming decades.

Independence and modern Canada

Canadian independence was finally acknowledged in 1931 by the Statute of Westminster, putting it on equal terms with the United Kingdom within the Commonwealth; virtually granting independence and sovereignty until the Canada Act of 1982 formalized it. Over the past century, Canada has had a relatively stable political system and economy (although it was hit particularly badly by the Wall Street Crash of 1929). Canada entered the First World War with Britain, and as an independent Allied Power in the Second World War; Canadian forces played pivotal roles in a number of campaigns, notably Canada's Hundred Days in WWI, and the country lost more than 100,000 men across both conflicts. The economy boomed in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a stream of socially democratic programs such as universal health care and the Canadian pension plan were introduced, which contributed to a rise in the standard of living. The post war period also saw various territories deciding to join Canada, with Newfoundland joining in 1949, and Nunavut in 1999. Today Canada is among the most highly ranked in countries in terms of civil liberties, quality of life and economic growth. It promotes and welcomes immigrants from all over the world and, as a result, it has one of the most ethnically diverse and multicultural populations of any country in the world. As of 2020, Canada's population stands at around 38 million people, and continues to grow due to high migration levels and life expectancy, and a steady birth rate.

Population of Canada from 1800 to 2020

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Release date

August 2019



Survey time period

1800 to 2020

Supplementary notes

Data for the years 1800 until 1949 is available here.

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