Canada : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
81 years

35,182,000 (2013); 81 per cent of people live in urban areas and 44 per cent in urban agglomerations of more than one million people; growth 1.0 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 11 per 1,000 people (17 in 1970); life expectancy 81 years (73 in 1970). Population density is among the lowest in the world, but large areas are climatically hostile, and 85 per cent of Canadians live within 350 km of the US border.

The 2011 census found that about 19 per cent of people were of English origin, 15 per cent of French origin, 14 per cent Scottish, 14 per cent Irish and ten per cent German. Other ethnic origins which surpassed the one million mark were Native American, Italian, Chinese, Ukrainian, East Indian, Dutch and Polish. More than 200,000 immigrants arrive each year from more than 150 countries.


Official languages are English and French; English is the mother-tongue of 57 per cent and French 22 per cent (2006 census). In the prairies, the most common non-official mother tongue is German; in central Canada, Italian; in British Columbia, Chinese; in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Inuktitut; in the Yukon, the Athapaskan languages of the Dene family; and in the Atlantic region, Micmac. Canada’s aboriginal people speak some 50 languages belonging to 11 distinct linguistic families.


Some 84 per cent of people adhere to a religion: Christians 74 per cent (Roman Catholics 43 per cent, Protestants 23 per cent, Eastern Orthodox 1.6 per cent); Muslims two per cent; Jews 1.1 per cent; Hindus one per cent; Buddhists one per cent; and Sikhs 0.9 per cent.


Public spending on health was eight per cent of GDP in 2012. Health insurance, provided by the provinces with federal government financial support, covers all the population. The leading causes of death are circulatory system diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases and accidents. Smoking has declined dramatically, from over half of men to a minority. There are 16 faculties of medicine in Canada (2014). Infant mortality was five per 1,000 live births in 2013 (28 in 1960).


Public spending on education was 5.4 per cent of GDP in 2011. Education policy varies with province but the period of compulsory education generally starts at the age of six. Most primary and secondary schooling is publicly funded. The school year starts in September.

Post-secondary education expanded rapidly during the 1980s and 1990s; women have shown the faster increase, and now outnumber men. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada represents 98 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university-degree-level colleges (2013). There is virtually no illiteracy among people aged 15–24. There are more than 1,000 public libraries, containing more than 70 million volumes.

Canada hosted the Third Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1964 and the 14th Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2000. Commonwealth Education Ministers meet every three years to discuss issues of mutual concern and interest.


Leading daily newspapers include The Globe and Mail (Toronto, but distributed nationally), The Gazette (Montréal, in English), Le Journal de Montréal, National Post, La Presse (Montréal, in French), Toronto Star and Vancouver Sun. Maclean’s is a weekly news magazine.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) provides national, public radio and TV services in English and French, and in the indigenous languages of the northern provinces; also an external service, Radio Canada International. Sociétié Radio-Canada is the national, public radio and TV provider in French. CPAC is a private, not-for-profit digital parliamentary and political channel. Numerous private radio and TV stations are licensed to broadcast.

Some 99 per cent of households have TV sets (2009). There are 944 personal computers per 1,000 people (2006).


Country code 1; internet domain ‘.ca’. Mobile phone coverage is good. Most areas have good internet connections, and there are internet cafés in most towns; post offices are in all towns.

For every 1,000 people there are 497 landlines, 784 mobile phone subscriptions and 858 internet users (2013).

Public holidays: 

New Year’s Day, Victoria Day (Monday on or preceding 24 May), Canada Day (1 July), Labour Day (first Monday in September), Thanksgiving (second Monday in October), Remembrance Day (11 November), Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Most provinces have additional public holidays.

Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday.