Census 2016: Did the population in your hometown shrink or grow?
How has your neighbourhood changed over the past five years? Is it booming or in decline? We can now answer that question in detail with the first release from the 2016 census, which this year offers a rich portrait of who we are and how we live.
This week’s release shows growing numbers of Canadians have moved to the West during a slow exodus from the Atlantic provinces. The national population grew to 35.2 million — an increase of 1.7 million from 2011.
The census also revealed which boomtowns are attracting people and where they tend to settle. Two out of three people, for example, live within 100 kilometres of the Canada-U.S. border. Statistics Canada has also laid out projections that reveal immigration will be the key growth driver in the decades ahead.
The heat map below shows population changes, region by region. It also includes information about the total count of private residences in each area.
Provincial population shifts, decade by decade
Nationally, the population grew five per cent from 2011 to 2016 — a slight decrease from the 5.9 per cent rate of growth recorded in the previous census.
Population change by province
% change (-)
Population change by province
% change (-)
|Newfoundland and Labrador|
|Prince Edward Island|
Two-thirds of the growth was driven by migration, the difference between the number of people leaving and entering the country. Natural increase, or the difference between the number of deaths and births, accounted for one-third of the increase. The current national birth rate is 1.6 children, according to Statistics Canada. Remarkably, the federal agency estimates that by 2046, Canada’s growth is expected to be driven almost entirely by migration, owing to low fertility rates and an aging population.
In 2016, the Prairies recorded the highest rates of provincial population growth — a feat not seen since they joined Confederation. Alberta led the country with a rate of 11.6 per cent, even as demand in the oil industry cooled. (Census data was collected in May 2016 and therefore may not reflect the province’s recent economic slump.)
At the other end of the spectrum, New Brunswick was the only province to record a loss, with a decline of 0.5 per cent. Across the Atlantic provinces, sluggish immigration levels, a low birth rate and an aging population pulled down the population rates, according to the federal agency.
Ontario remains Canada’s most populous province with 13.4 million residents, representing 38.3 per cent of the population. Its rate of growth was a modest 4.6 per cent, owing in part to lower immigration levels. Quebec’s rate of growth also fell below the national average at 3.3 per cent, while its population grew to eight million.
About 113,600 people, representing 0.3 per cent of Canada’s population, lived in the three territories in 2016. Nunavut, which boasts the highest fertility rates in the country, experienced a notably high rate of growth at 12.7 per cent.
Canada leads G7
Canada continues to lead the G7 group of industrialized nations with growth of one per cent per year. The consistent uptick was driven largely by immigration, according to Statistics Canada. Among the G20 countries, Canada placed eighth behind, in order, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, Mexico, Indonesia and India.
Statistics Canada will release more data from the 2016 census according to the following schedule:
- May 3: Age and gender.
- May 10: Agriculture.
- Aug. 2: Families, households, marital status and language.
- Sept. 13: Income.
- Oct. 25: Immigration and ethnocultural diversity, housing, and Aboriginal peoples.
- Nov. 29: Education, labour, commuting times, language, mobility and migration.
- The map above is divided according to census divisions — groups of neighbouring municipalities, as defined by the province, for the purpose of planning and managing resources (such as police and ambulance services). Statistics Canada defined these divisions for provinces and territories that aren’t required by law to do so themselves. The map also includes information about the number of private dwellings in each division. A private dwelling is a residence equipped with heat or power sources that allows for year-round living. The living quarters also must have a private entrance.
- Data in the provincial numbers table above is for Nunavut and the Northwest Territories after 2001. Nunavut became a territory on April 1, 1999. Given the boundary changes, we have included data for this region only after 2001.
- Data for this release by Statistics Canada was drawn from the mandatory short-form census.