Canada: Country and Foreign Investment
History, Population, Language and Culture
This page was last updated on 5 June 2019.
The earliest settlers in Canada were prehistoric hunters who, around 40,000 to 30,000 BC, crossed from Asia via the Bering Strait, which was frozen over at that time. These people formed the various indigenous tribes (normally known in Canada as First Nations) that settled throughout the region.
The first European recorded to visit Canadian territory was the Enlgishman John Cabot in 1497. France then claimed parts of the region in 1534 and started to establish settlements in the 17th century. The English, especially the Hudson Bay Company, also showed an early interest in Canada.
After the Seven Years War (an international conflict known rather parochially in North America as the French and Indian Wars) Canada was ceded to the United Kingdom in 1763. During and after the American War of Independence, many people loyal to the British crown were persecuted, and as a result some chose to move north to Canada, bolstering the region’s population. Canada was established as a self-governing state in 1867 but retained its ties to the British Crown.
The country’s 1867 constitution established a federation of four provinces, later subdivided into 10 provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan) and three territories (the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon Territory). On 17 April 1982, a new constitution was approved solidifying the territory’s autonomy from the UK.
In 2019, the population of Canada was 37.4 million; this represents a 6.5% increase on the 2016 census figure , which was 35,151,728. In the census, the number who listed as Canadian or Canadian with mixed origins was 11.1 million. This figure is slightly lower than those of origins in Great Britain, which was 11.6 million. People of French original totalled 4.7 million and those of Irish ancestry 4.6 million. First Nations (indigenous) people numbered more than 1.5 million. Other most frequently reported origins, in descending order, were German, Italian, Chinese, Indian and Ukrainian.
The 2006 census estimated the “visible minority” population at just over 5 million (16.2% of the population), and included Blacks (2.5%), South Asians (4%), Chinese (3.9%), and Latin Americans, Arabs, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese (together, 5.1%). Two-thirds of visible minority individuals had arrived in Canada as immigrants since 2001.
Owing to its strong economic links to the US, and temperate conditions in the south, 90% of the population is concentrated within 160 km of its southern boundary with the US. Further north, the country is less populated due to the Arctic climate.
English and French are the official languages of Canada. According to the 2016 census, English has 19.5 million mother tongue speakers and French 7.2 million. Other languages spoken (by number of first language speakers) are: Mandarin 600,000; Cantonese 560,000; Punjabi 500,000; Spanish 460,000 and Tagalog (Filipino) 430,000.
Approximately 67% of Canadians are Christian (39% Roman Catholic, 27% various Protestant denominations and over 1% other Christian) and about 2% are Muslim.