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Population Characteristics, Distribution of Population

Canadian average, Nunavut Territory, Canadian population, population distribution, metropolitan areas

Although Canada has a very low population density of 3.2 persons per sq km (8.3 persons per sq mi), this is a misleading statistic. Actually the population is highly concentrated, with about three-quarters of all Canadians living within about 300 km (about 200 mi) of the U.S. border. Canadians are further concentrated into about 25 metropolitan areas. The 1996 census showed 59.6 percent living in such areas, and a total of 77.9 percent living in all urban areas. The percentage of urban dwellers has remained relatively stable since 1971.

There is also a regional dimension to population distribution in Canada. In 1996 almost two-thirds of the people, 62 percent, were concentrated in Quebec and Ontario. Nearly all of the rest lived in the other eight provinces: 17 percent in the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan; about 8 percent in the Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick; and about 13 percent in British Columbia. The Yukon Territory, the Nunavut Territory, and the Northwest Territories were sparsely inhabited, with only about 0.3 percent of the total population.

During the last quarter of the 20th century, the Canadian population shifted westward. British Columbia and Alberta were beneficiaries of this movement and enjoyed growth rates well above the Canadian average. However, Ontario continued to be the most populous and economically vibrant province.

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