Canada: Faces and Places

Few people are permanent residents of any one place.Migration (movement from one location to another) occurs for various reasons for various people and involves a host of push-andpull factors. Push-and-pull factors are those reasons why a person feels “pushed” from a present home and “pulled” to the attracting qualities of a different home. Consider factors of push-and-pull as you read about Canada's population and settlement clusters in this chapter.


In Canada's early history, fur trading and fishing influenced European settlement patterns. Neither industry required large permanently settled population bases, although growing permanent settlements such as Quebec City and Montreal did exist. The fur trade industry operated efficiently with expansive numbers of mobile (free-to-move) trappers and explorers. In the financially developing fisheries of historical Canada, many fishermen came seasonally to North America for their work and then returned to Europe. Not having to maintain permanent settlements for the fishermen kept profits for the fishing industry at a higher level. Push-and-pull factors were at work here.

Thus, as time progressed, the population grew more slowly than the agricultural and industrial population of the 13 colonies of the United States. As mentioned previously, this population difference was evident when the conflict of the French and Indian War occurred. Canadian settlement patterns evolved over time. Fur trading posts grew into established populations. The seigneurial system of farming stabilized and strengthened agricultural settlements in Quebec. The transcontinental railroad brought many eager settlers to central and western Canada with dreams of establishing family farms. The growing number of permanent settlements, increasing immigrant populations, and expanding industries such as fishing, mining, and lumbering brought increases in numbers of urban dwellers over time. Today, nearly 80 percent of Canadians live in urban areas (communities with populations of 10,000 people or more).


As determined by the 2001 census, Canada's population is 30,007,094. This shows a growth of 4 percent (one of the smallest census-to-census growth rates Canada has experienced) since the 1996 census. As an interesting comparison, the city of Tokyo, Japan, has a population of only a few million fewer people than the entire country of Canada.

A significant population growth of 10 percent occurred in Alberta over the past five years. This increase is due to Alberta's booming economy, most notably along the Edmonton-Calgary corridor. Much of this growth was interprovincial (population movement between provinces). An increase was also recorded in the province of Ontario, which had 6 percent growth. These arrivals were particularly visible in the “Golden Horseshoe” running through Toronto—with Toronto as an anchor, this horseshoe-shaped cluster of cities spreads along the shore of western Lake Ontario between Oshawa and St. Catharines. Much of Canada's manufacturing and service-related industry is located in this densely populated region. In fact, the horseshoe has grown to the north and west, and it now includes growing cities in the region extending from Barrie to Windsor (the “Windsor corridor extended horseshoe”).

Push-and-pull factors occur at a dizzying speed in this densely populated region.

Cultural diffusion (the spreading of cultural traits from a point of origin over a larger area) is evident in the colorful clothing styles, art,music, delicious cuisines, and celebrated traditions throughout this region. People proudly share their heritages—unique to the countries from which they have moved. Walking through the Kensington Market area in Toronto, there is a riot of spectacular sights, smells, and sounds of the neighborhood.

Here, pulsing action offers everything from coconut milk (enjoyed directly from the coconut with the aid of a straw through an opening in the shell) to airy fabrics to rhythmic sounds of global music. Such multicultural enrichment has also taken place in the bustling city of Montreal, the second-largest city in Canada,which is located on a 30-mile-long (48-kilometerlong) island in the St. Lawrence River.

Vancouver, too, offers diverse cultural delights. British Columbia saw a provincial increase of nearly 5 percent in population, with much of its growth occurring in the Lower Mainland and southwestern Vancouver Island. International immigrations are responsible for the majority of this growth. In fact, 75 percent of British Columbia's growth was from Asian populations, particularly from India, Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan. Many of these Asian immigrants settle in the Vancouver and Richmond areas. Unlike much of the Asian population, the newcomers from India are more likely to settle in destinations outside of these two cities and even away from the lower mainland areas: Surrey and Abbotsford are home to approximately 40 percent of the Indian population.

The choice of settlement areas may be related to the fact that a higher proportion of Indian immigrants are involved in manufacturing and agricultural industries. As is true in other Canadian cities with colossal immigrant populations, the reuniting of families has been a main theme in Canadian immigration policy.

The territory of Nunavut recognized an 8 percent growth in population. High birth rates occur among the Inuit. This, in combination with development in the capital city of Iqaluit, has raised the territory's population.

Along with the valued growth in Canada, declines in population have also come about. Population declines occurred in areas with resource-based economies such as northern Quebec, although the Greater Montreal area of Quebec showed an increased population. Newfoundland and the Yukon Territory experienced the emigration (moving away) of people to other provinces in Canada, as did the Northwest Territories. Overall, the six provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan have remained quite stable in their population.


The main source of population growth for Canada as a whole results from immigration. More than one-half of the immigrants who came to Canada between 1996 and 2001 settled in Ontario. This influence is most remarkable in the global fabric of Toronto. With a population of 4.6 million (nearly one of every seven Canadians lives in this sprawling city), foreign-born residents make up more than 50 percent of Toronto's population. Thus, minorities now compose the majority of Toronto's population! Every year more than 70,000 immigrants and refugees add diversity to the cultural mosaic of Toronto. Toronto's citizens come from nearly 170 countries and speak more than 100 languages. This kaleidoscope of cultures is evident in the splendid aromas and tastes of global foods, new ideas, world economic connections, and cultural richness of the city.Unfortunately, ethnic conflict and pressure on social services and language training also are visible within the cultural landscape of this vibrant city.

The federal government is committed to holding the immigration level at 1 percent of the population per year.With a present population of approximately 30 million, this means a goal of 300,000 new immigrants for the current year.

The higher numbers of immigrants who tend to settle there challenge larger cities. Health and education services feel the pressure of such increases. Infrastructure supports (such as highways, water and sewer systems, and electricity) are striving to keep pace with population demands. Housing and transportation accommodations feel the strain of increased populations. Job opportunities—and attaining the qualifications for those jobs—are additional issues of concern.

Less-populated provinces, however, are eager to attract more immigrants to both rural and urban areas. This desire has the potential to improve the provinces' (and territories') economic base and help them experience gains in population. Finding the balance between attaining these preferred immigrant populations and providing necessary support services is a work in progress for Canada.


As mentioned in Chapter 2, the majority of Canada's population lives in the narrow belt of land bordering the United States. Nearly 90 percent of Canada's population lives within 100 miles of the Canadian/U.S. border.

Population density refers to the number of people living per unit of land area—such as a square mile or square kilometer. (Canadians use a mixture of metric and imperial measurements in Canada, even though the official measurement system is metric.) The population density for the country of Canada is approximately 8.7 people per square mile (3 per square kilometer). This ranks Canada among the world's lowest population densities. The measure seems to indicate that fewer than nine people live on each square mile of Canadian land, but this statistic is misleading: Population settlements are not evenly distributed. There are crowded urban areas, where the population density is much higher, as well as more open, lesspopulated vistas. Clusters of cities, communities, and villages are interspersed with farms and physically isolated settlements. It is this variety on the canvas of Canada's landscape that offers a multitude of choices for the residents.

Rural areas and small towns account for 20 percent of Canada's population. Growth in these rural areas and communities since the last census depended on the proportion of residents who commuted to larger urban areas for work. Where the proportion was high, growth occurred, mainly as a result of people moving just beyond urban boundaries to live in a more rural setting.

Urban areas, home to 80 percent of Canada's population, are seeing population shifts as well. The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, has a population density of 11,545 people per square mile.Moving east,Toronto has a population density of more than 16,000 people per square mile. These high-density areas have many people living in multidwelling, high-rise housing complexes.

In the eastern province of Nova Scotia, the city of Halifax has 150 people per square mile. These cities present a sampling of the vast range of population densities for urban areas in Canada. Yet, population distributions in rural areas may leave miles of sweeping space between you and the nearest neighbor!


Multiculturalism (many cultures or ways of life) is a characteristic often used to describe Canadian society. French, British, and Aboriginal origins comprise approximately three-fifths of the country's population. The ethnicity and nationality of Canada is represented in the remaining two-fifths of the population. Nationality refers to a “belonging” or sense of self-identity when asked, “What are you?” Ethnicity is a bit more difficult to define. It refers to a group of people living as a minority population within a larger culture. An example of this is the ethnic area known as “Little Italy” in Toronto.

In 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt a policy of multiculturalism. A subsequent, powerful legislative policy that followed in 1988 is known as the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. This policy affirmed Canada's recognition and value of its rich ethnic diversity. In 1997, the Department of Canadian Heritage restructured and renewed the multiculturalistic program. Three main goals offer focus for the program. One goal is that of identity—fostering a sense of belonging and attachment to Canada. Another goal is civic participation. Developing citizens who are active in their community and country will be instrumental in shaping the future of Canada. The third goal concerns social justice—building a country that respects and treats people of all origins fairly. By recognizing and celebrating Canada's multiculturalism, it is hoped that common goals of belonging, sharing, and social justice will occur. This, in turn, will bring opportunity and economic prosperity to the citizens. It is a valuable investment in Canada's future.


Canada is a bilingual country: It has two official languages. The Official Languages Act makes both English and French official languages of Canada. English is the mother language of 59 percent of Canadians, while French is the first language for 23 percent of the population. This official bilingualism is reflected in the use of the French language in federal domains such as Parliament, the court systems, and in all federally printed documents.

While French and English are both official languages in Canada, French is spoken almost exclusively in much of Quebec. A much smaller percentage of people speak French in other provinces and territories. For example, fewer than 3 percent of people in the western provinces are fluent in French.

French immersion programs are available in Canadian schools. These immersion programs offer students throughout Canada the opportunity to study and learn in the French language. Participation varies according to one's location in Canada. It also varies according to grade levels in schools where French immersion is offered. Communities seeing benefits of bilingualism in the future work force and in the economic base offer more support for participation in French immersion programs.

As mentioned previously, more than 100 languages can be heard when traveling in Toronto and throughout Canada. As a sampling, in one city, you might hear Chinese, Italian, Punjabi, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, German, Vietnamese, Arabic, Tagalog (Filipino), Greek, Cree, Ukrainian, Hindi, and Inuktitut!

Languages are as unique as they are abundant in Canada. For instance, in the Arctic North, aya-yait songs of the Inuit act as spoken maps for the often-deceiving landscape. There, even the wind patterns in the snow communicate the path to your destination if you listen and look observantly.


Christianity accounts for over 80 percent of religious affiliations in Canada. Of those people, 46 percent are Roman Catholic and 36 percent are Protestant. Most Christian Canadians of French descent are Roman Catholic, while most British descendents are Protestant.

Early French settlers were devout Roman Catholics, hoping to convert the native peoples already living there to Roman Catholicism. Much of the devotion has lessened in the modern age as church-attendance records, especially in Quebec, continue to decline. The French presence of the dominant Roman Catholic religion can be seen in architecture throughout portions of eastern Canada. Tiny French villages in Quebec and New Brunswick have majestic stone churches with glistening tin roofs and ornate interiors. The Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal's oldest and grandest Catholic church, offers magnificent stained-glass windows and intricately carved wood in the interior.

The religious makeup of Canada is diversifying (becoming more varied) along with the faces of its population. Immigration patterns over the years have produced an increase in the faiths of Judaism, Muslim, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. As affiliations grow, lessen, and change, Canada's religious composition reflects the diverse people who live there.


Aboriginal peoples were the first inhabitants of the land area now known as Canada. Their survival, in every location on the land, depended on respect for the environment, sharing, and cooperation. Descendents of these original dwellers have passed spiritual beliefs and cultural traditions from generation to generation.

The Constitution Act of 1982 recognizes three main groups of Aboriginal Peoples: the First Nations (formerly referred to as “Indians”), the Metis, and the Inuit. About 3 percent of the Canadian population is currently recognized as Aboriginal. The majority (69 percent) of Aboriginal Peoples are First Nations; Metis comprise 26 percent; the Inuit, 5 percent of these Aboriginal populations.

First Nations

The people of the First Nations are as varied as the landscapes on which they lived. Along the west coast, the resourcerich waters brought a bounty of salmon, shellfish, and whales. These plentiful resources made permanent settlements possible for coastal people. Leisure time allowed for the carving of cedar and stone into elegant objects of art, including huge totem poles, some of which can be seen in museums throughout the world today.

In the wide expanses of the prairie, families cooperated in hunting migratory buffalo. The buffalo supplied food, tools, clothing, and hides for the easily transported tepees used as the families' homes. The nomadic Woodland First Nations, Iroquoian farmers of southeastern Ontario, and hunting groups of the First Nations in the Mackenzie and Yukon River basins each had distinct cultures. These Aboriginal cultures were based on the peoples' spiritual connection to the land and the life forms it supported. Today, more than one-half of the First Nations peoples live on reserves, sections of land set aside for Aboriginal Peoples.


The Metis are descendents of French fur traders who married First Nations women. The Metis (a French word meaning “mixed”) developed their own distinct culture on the prairies. The open prairie had been the buffalo hunting grounds of the Metis for hundreds of years, but farms built by settlers and the transcontinental railroad cars that brought farmers' wheat to market changed the traditional ways of life for the Metis.


The Inuit lived and settled throughout northern regions of Canada. The majority of the Inuit population still lives there today. Historically, hunting seals, whales, caribou, and polar bears provided means of survival for the people. Today, some Inuit still hunt for food and clothing resources in traditional ways.

An important tool created by the Inuit was the inuksuk, a stone figure placed on the physical landscape. The term inuksuk (plural, inuksuit) means “to act in the capacity of a human.” These stone monuments were placed on the mystifying land to guide people as they journeyed across the barren landscape devoid of physical landmarks. Inuksuit were also used as hunting aids. Attaching strands of windwaving vegetation (such as arctic heather) around the necks of these stone statues, arranged in two wide rows, frightened the caribou and directed them between the rows to a more restricted hunting area. An inuksuk might also serve as a message center, mark a place where a sacred or significant event happened, or serve as a “road sign” for navigation through the northern lands.

Not only the physical landscape held inuksuit: Traditional legends, figures in string games played with children, and a winter constellation also hold images of inuksuit in spiritual landscapes for the Inuit today. Additionally, some inuksuit still remain as signatures upon the stark landscape of the North.

European Contacts with Aboriginal Peoples

When increased numbers of Europeans arrived in what is now Canada, aboriginal (native to an area) ways of life were changed forever. Contact with Europeans brought diseases previously unknown to the Aborigines. The contacts also brought guns and land treaties. These treaties granted certain rights and benefits to the Aboriginal Peoples in exchange for giving up titles (ownership) to the land. Certain rights to hunt, fish, and trap on ancestral lands are examples of the Aboriginal rights that were granted.

Today, the Canadian government and Aboriginal Peoples continue to negotiate new agreements for land and recognition of rights. Aboriginal leaders are acting to preserve their cultures and remaining traditional ways of life. After decades of persistence and dedication by these concerned leaders, the government and general public have an awareness of the once-free, self-sustaining nations of the Aboriginal Peoples.

In seeking their own forms of government, such as the Inuit have done in the territory of Nunavut since 1999, Aboriginal peoples want to maintain the rich diversity of their traditional cultures. They hope, also, to assume their natural place in Canadian society.

This chapter began with historical considerations of pushand-pull factors. It is closing with the same concept in mind. Canada, a country with diversity in its faces and places, reflects the multiculturalism of its past and present. The role of government in Canada's policymaking for this diverse population will be discussed in the next chapter.