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Population growth and age structure

International immigration
Interprovincial migration
Nuptiality and divorce
A portrait of the mobility of Canadians between 2001 and 2006

Population growth and age structure

  • As of January 1, 2008, the population of Canada had reached 33,143,600 persons, up 10.5 per 1,000 inhabitants or 344,900 people compared with the previous year. Approximately two-thirds of this growth can be attributed to net international migration.
  • Natural growth was at its highest level since 2001 at 114,900 persons in 2007 due to an increase in the number of births and accounted for one-third of Canada’s demographic growth in 2007.
  • The populations of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Nunavut grew at a faster pace than the national average in 2007. Alberta posted the strongest demographic growth at a rate of 19.5 per 1,000 inhabitants, almost twice as high as the national average. In contrast, Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province in 2007 to experience a decrease in its population (loss of 1.2 per 1,000 or 3,600 persons).
  • As of July 1, 2007, the population of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) was 21,599,700, almost two-thirds of Canada’s population. The population of census metropolitan areas climbed 12.2 per 1,000 population in 2006, faster than the national rate that year (10.2 per 1,000).
  • Between 2006 and 2007, the Calgary and Edmonton census metropolitan areas experienced the fastest demographic growth in the country at 34.9 per 1,000 and 28.3 per 1,000, respectively. Saskatoon and Regina also saw their populations rise at a pace faster than the national average with rates of 19.8 per 1,000 and 13.8 per 1,000, respectively between 2006 and 2007.
  • International immigration was the key factor in demographic growth in Canada’s three largest census metropolitan areas: Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. At 15.8 per 1,000 between 2006 and 2007, Toronto’s demographic growth surpassed that of the country as a whole.
  • In recent decades, there has been a decrease in the proportion of the population represented by persons aged 14 years and younger and an increase in the proportion of persons aged 65 years and older. As of January 1, 2008, 16.9% of the population was 14 years or younger and 13.5% was 65 and older, while in 1972 these persons represented 28.9% and 8.1%, respectively of the population.   
  • As of January 1, 2008, the median age, which separates the population into two groups of equal size, continued to rise, reaching 39.1 years in Canada. In 1981, the median age was 29.3 years compared to only 26.3 in 1972.
  • The aging of the Canadian population can be ascribed to two trends: the persistent lower birth rate and the steady extension of life expectancy. The aging of the vast baby boom generations (born between 1946 and 1965) is also contributing to the changes observed in the age structure.  
  • Despite its aging population, Canada joins the United States as among the youngest nations in the G8. 
  • The population of Atlantic Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) was the oldest in the country with more people aged 65 and older and fewer people aged 14 or less compared to the rest of Canada. In contrast, the Prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) had the country’s youngest populations. Almost one person in five was aged 14 years or younger in each of these provinces. 
  • As of July 1, 2007, Abbotsford, British Columbia was the census metropolitan area with the youngest population with 19.5% of persons under 15 years. Calgary and Edmonton were also among the youngest census metropolitan areas. 
  • St. Catharines-Niagara, Ontario was home to the largest proportion of persons aged 65 and older (17.9%). The census metropolitan areas of Trois-Rivières and Saguenay in Quebec, and Victoria, British Columbia were among the oldest census metropolitan areas in Canada.


  • In 2005, there were 342,200 births in Canada, 5,100 more than in the previous year. This was the third straight year of increased births.
  • In 2005, the total fertility rate reached 1.54 children per woman, up slightly from 2004 (1.53). This is the highest rate recorded since 1999. Canada’s fertility rate is higher than some countries, such as Japan (1.3), Italy (1.3), Greece (1.3) and Germany (1.4), but lower than a number of European countries, including France (1.9), Norway (1.8), Denmark (1.8), the United Kingdom (1.8), Sweden (1.8) and Belgium (1.7).
  • Almost half of the 342,200 births in 2005 involved a mother aged 30 years or older (48.9%), a proportion almost twice as high as in 1981 (23.6%). This figure reflects the delay in starting motherhood. In 2005, fertility among women aged 30 to 34 years was the highest of all age groups, including that of women between the ages of 25 and 29 years.
  • The gap is narrowing between the fertility rates of women at either end of the reproductive spectrum, specifically those aged 15 to 19 and 40 to 44 years. In 2005, there were 13.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, compared with 7.1 for 1,000 women aged 40 to 44 years. In 1981, these rates were respectively, 25.8 and 3.2 per 1,000 women.  
  • Multiple births have declined among women aged 15 to 29 and increased among those 30 years and older. Close to one in five women (19.3%) aged 35 to 39 years gave birth to twins in 2005. 
  • Alberta and Quebec were the provinces posting the largest increases in the number of births. In Alberta, births rose 3.3% between 2004 and 2005 to 42,100, while in Quebec, the increase was 3.1% to 76,300.
  • Saskatchewan recorded the highest fertility rate among the Canadian provinces in 2005 with 1.87 children per woman, followed by Manitoba at 1.82. 
  • In Atlantic Canada, total fertility rates were lower than in the rest of Canada (1.54 children per woman). Newfoundland and Labrador was the province with the lowest fertility rate at 1.34 children per woman. British Columbia had the second lowest rate (1.39 children per woman).   
  • Despite a decline in its number of births, Nunavut continued to have the highest fertility rate in the country (2.72) in 2005, followed by the Northwest Territories (2.11).
  • In 2005, fertility rates were lower (1.51) in the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) than in other areas of the country (1.59). However, some census metropolitan areas had fertility rates higher than the national average, including Abbotsford, British Columbia (1.84), Calgary (1.68) and Edmonton (1.66) in Alberta. Other census metropolitan areas posted lower fertility rates, as was the case in Victoria (1.29) and Vancouver (1.30).   
  • The number of abortions continued to decrease. In 2005, Canadians underwent approximately 96,800 abortions in hospitals, down 3,200 from 2004. The number of abortions per 100 live births also fell from 29.7 in 2004 to 28.3 in 2005.
  • Quebec had the highest number of abortions per 100 births in 2005 (38.3%), while Prince Edward Island had the lowest (9.4%).


  • In 2005, Canadian vital statistics offices recorded 230,100 deaths, up 1.6% from the previous year. This is the highest number of deaths observed since vital statistics were established back in 1921.
  • At all ages, and especially between ages 15 and 34, men were at higher risk of dying than women. Among young people aged 15 to 34, most deaths occurred as a result of external causes, such as suicides and highway accidents, affecting more men than women.
  • In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 5.4 deaths per 1,000 births. This rate has been relatively stable since the mid 1990s. The rate was slightly lower among girls (5.0 per 1,000) compared to boys (5.8 per 1,000).  
  • The gap between the life expectancy of women and men in 2005 (4.7 years) was the lowest recorded in 40 years. Men enjoyed a life expectancy of 78.0 years and women of 82.7 years.
  • The combined life expectancy of men and women was 80.4 years in 2005, up slightly from 2004 when it broke the 80 year threshold for the first time. Canada’s average life expectancy is comparable to that of countries like France, Italy, Australia, Norway and Spain.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador was the province with the lowest life expectancy (78.2 years) while British Columbia had the highest (81.2 years). Three other provinces also exceeded the 80-year threshold: Alberta (80.3 years), Quebec (80.4 years) and Ontario (80.7 years).
  • In 2004, mortality rates associated with tumours (213.3 per 100,000) and cancers (212.2 per 100,000) exceeded those of diseases of the circulatory system (212.2) for the first time. Although these causes of death have been on the decline for several decades, tumours and cancers remained the primary cause of death among men in Canada in 2004. For women, diseases related to the respiratory system remained the leading cause of death.

International immigration

  • In 2007, Canada welcomed 236,800 new immigrants, which represents an immigration rate of 7.2 new arrivals per 1,000 population, down from 2006 (7.7 per 1,000) and 2005 (8.1 per 1,000).
  • Canada’s net immigration rate (the difference between immigrants and emigrants expressed per 1,000 population) was almost double that of the United States and higher than that of other G8 countries.
  • In 2007, 131,300 immigrants, or more than half (55.4% of the total), qualified in the economic category of the immigration policy. This number was lower than in 2005 (156,300) and 2006 (138,300).
  • Some 56.5% of immigrants in 2007 came from an Asiatic country. China, India and the Philippines combined accounted for about one-third of all immigrants admitted to Canada in 2007.
  • More than eight in ten immigrants (82.6%) chose to reside in one of Canada’s three most populous provinces: Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
  • Ontario alone welcomed almost half (47%) of all new immigrants in 2007. This was the first time since 1984 that this province has received less than 50% of the immigrants to Canada.
  • The age structure of new immigrants to Canada was mostly composed of persons in the most economically active age groups, specifically, persons aged 25 to 44 years.

Interprovincial migration

  • In 2007, more than 370,800 Canadian residents changed province, a record number since 1981.
  • Saskatchewan experienced a reversal in its interprovincial migration exchanges in 2007 with a net gain of over 10,200 persons from other locations in Canada. In 2005, the number of people who left for other provinces was 9,700 greater than the number who came into the province. In 2006, this loss was 2,900.
  • Net migration in Newfoundland and Labrador continued to be negative, although losses have been lessening for a few years. In 2005, the net interprovincial migration deficit was about 4,500 persons in this province; it was only 700 in 2005.
  • In 2007, New Brunswick posted its first positive net migration since 1990 with respect to other provinces and territories (net gain of 1,100 people). This gain was in contrast to the losses recorded in 2005 (2,700) and 2006 (3,600).
  • Of all provinces and territories, Ontario has experienced the largest net loss of residents in each year from 2003 to 2007. In 2006, 32,300 more residents left the province than entered it, while in 2007, this deficit was 17,800.
  • Alberta continued to post positive net interprovincial migration, but this balance was considerably lower in 2007 (gain of 10,600) compared with the previous year, when the total was 58,200.
  • Net interprovincial migration for British Columbia reached a five-year high of 13,400 residents in 2007.
  • Despite the fact that Alberta’s attraction to residents of other provinces diminished somewhat in 2007, it remained one of the key provinces for interprovincial migration exchanges in Canada. Alberta continued to be one of the primary destinations for residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia and the Yukon and Northwest Territories.  

Nuptiality and divorce

  • In 2003, 147,400 marriages were celebrated, a slight increase (0.4%) from the previous year.
  • The rise in marriages can be ascribed to the growth in the population rather than to a trend toward marriage. The crude marriage rate has remained stable since 2001 and was 4.7 per 1,000 in 2003.
  • The average age at the time of a first marriage has continued to rise. In 2003, it was 28 years for women and 30 years for men, which reflects a five-year increase since the end of the 1970s when it was around 23 years for women and 25 years for men.
  • The only provinces/territories that experienced an increase in the number of marriages and in the crude marriage rate between 2002 and 2003 were Ontario, British Columbia and the Yukon.   
  • Slightly more than one person in ten (10.8%), aged 15 and older, or 2.8 million persons, were living in a common-law relationship in 2006. This proportion was 3.8% in 1981. This type of union continued to be popular among young adults and in Quebec where over one-third (34.6%) of couples were living common-law.
  • The 2006 Census data revealed that 90,700 persons were living in same-sex unions in Canada, up from the 2001 Census numbers of 68,400.
  • There were 69,600 divorces in 2004, a drop of 1.7% compared to the previous year. This is the first time since 1998 that the number of divorces has been below 70,000. A similar decline occurred in the crude divorce rate, which fell from 36.4 divorces per 10,000 persons in 1987 to 21.8 per 10,000 in 2004.
  • In 2004, the median age at the time of divorce was 43.0 years for men and 40.0 years for women.
  • The number of divorces was up in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. In contrast, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Yukon experienced a drop in their divorce numbers.

A portrait of the mobility of Canadians between 2001 and 2006

  • According to the 2006 Census, 40.9% of persons aged 5 years and older were not living at the same address five years ago, 15.0% were not living in the same municipality, and 2.9% were not living in the same province. These are the lowest proportions recorded in at least 35 years.
  • The aging of the population is only partially responsible for the decrease in the proportion of migrants in recent decades since this decline was observed in all age groups.
  • Only three provinces recorded net interprovincial migration gains in the 2001 to 2006 period: Alberta (88,180 persons), British Columbia (22,130) and Prince Edward Island (600).
  • The census metropolitan areas (CMAs) of  Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver all experienced negative net migration between 2001 and 2006, with losses of 42,455, 104,760 and 21,815 persons, respectively.
  • The census metropolitan areas of Edmonton and Calgary posted the largest migration gains of 30,792 and 27,239 persons, respectively.
  • Barrie and Oshawa also reported substantial gains, a large proportion of their exchanges being with the Toronto census metropolitan area. Barrie and Oshawa saw net migration rates of 11.1% and 6.6% respectively, ranking them first and third among all census metropolitan areas between 2001 and 2006.
  • Among all census metropolitan areas, Saguenay, Quebec and St. John, New Brunswick posted the largest losses between 2001 and 2006. Saguenay lost 4,740 persons through internal migration, or 3.2% of the population at risk of migration in 2001. For its part, St. John lost 3,310 persons, representing a net migration rate of -2.9%.
  • Between 2001 and 2006, the majority of census metropolitan areas recorded migration losses in favour of other provinces or territories, but remained major centres of attraction within their own province.
  • The 2006 Census data showed the phenomenon of urban spread. Overall, between 2001 and 2006, even within the census metropolitan areas, central municipalities experienced losses in favour of peripheral municipalities. The phenomenon was especially evident in the Toronto and Montréal census metropolitan areas where peripheral municipalities posted net migration rates of 7.0% and 4.3%, respectively in their exchanges with the central municipalities.
  • Urban spread also occurred outside the census metropolitan areas. Between 2001 and 2006, rural areas located close to an urban centre gained a total of 58,936 persons in their migration exchanges with the rest of the country, the vast majority (56,161 persons) coming from exchanges with census metropolitan areas.
  • In the case of remote rural areas, they experienced an overall net migration loss of 47,060 persons between 2001 and 2006. The net deficit of these remote rural areas is largely ascribed to the departure of large numbers of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 years.
  • All other factors being equal, several socioeconomic characteristics are associated with higher mobility: being between the ages of 20 and 29 years, having no children in the house, the recent birth of a first child, being divorced, separated or widowed, being a recent immigrant, being Aboriginal, and living in a rural area.
  • The probability of migrating varies by type of destination. The central municipalities of Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver are often preferred by persons under the age of 30, single persons, persons without children, persons with an undergraduate or graduate degree, and recent immigrants to Canada, especially those who belong to a visible minority group.
  • The peripheral municipalities of Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver are more often favoured by migrants aged 30 years and older, married or widowed migrants or those living common-law, parents of a first newborn child, persons of visible minorities, and recent immigrants.
  • All other factors being equal, census metropolitan areas other than Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver attract more young people under the age of 30 and persons without children.
  • Aboriginal migrants are more likely to choose a medium-size urban centre, while widowed migrants, those who are part of a visible minority group, and to a lesser degree, those who are immigrants, are less likely to do so.
  • The proportion of migrants who choose a remote rural area or a territory as their destination is highest among persons aged 45 years or older, persons who are not part of a visible minority group, Aboriginals and persons living in a rural community.