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The racial and ethnic makeup of the Canadian people is diversified. About 35 percent of the population is composed of people of British origin. People of French origin total about 25 percent of the population. The vast majority of French-speaking Canadians reside in Qubec, where they make up about three-fourths of the population; large numbers also live in Ontario and New Brunswick, and smaller groups inhabit the remaining provinces. French-speaking Canadians maintain their language, culture, and traditions, and the federal government follows the policy of a bilingual and bicultural nation. During the 1970s and 1980s the proportion of Asians among the Canadian population increased, and today those who count their ancestry as wholly Asian make up 8 to 10 percent of the population. More than two-thirds of the Asian immigrants live in Ontario or British Columbia. The remainder of the population is composed of people of various ethnic origins, such as German, Italian, Ukrainian, Netherlands Dutch, Scandinavian, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, and Native American.

Blacks have never constituted a major segment of the Canadian population, but their history has been an interesting one. Although Louis XIV of France in 1689 authorized the importation of slaves from the West Indies, black immigration into Canada has been almost entirely from the United States. Some Loyalists brought slaves north with them during and after the American Revolution (1775-1783). The British troops that burned Washington in the War of 1812 brought many slaves back with them to Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, Nova Scotia abolished slavery in 1787 and was followed six years later by Upper Canada, thus setting precedents for the whole British Empire. The presence of free soil in Canada was a major influence in the operation of the Underground Railroad, which, during the abolition campaign in the United States, transported many slaves into Canada, particularly to Chatham and Sarnia in Ontario. Blacks make up less than 2 percent of the Canadian population.

Indigenous peoples make up nearly 4 percent of Canada's inhabitants, including those who claim at least part-indigenous ancestry. These people belong predominantly to the Algonquian linguistic group; other representative linguistic groups are the Iroquoian, Salishan, Athapaskan, and Inuit (Eskimoan). Altogether, the indigenous people of Canada are divided into nearly 600 groups, or bands.

Population Characteristics

The population of Canada (1995 estimate) is about 28,537,000, compared with 27,296,859 counted in the census of 1991. The overall population density in the mid-1990s was about 3 persons per sq km (about 7 per sq mi).

Approximately three-quarters of the people of Canada inhabit a relatively narrow belt along the United States frontier, with about 62 percent concentrated in Qubec and Ontario. Nearly 17 percent of the population lives in the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan; about 9 percent in the Atlantic provinces, which include Newfoundland and the Maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick; and about 12 percent in British Columbia. Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories are sparsely inhabited, having only about 0.3 percent of the total population. About 78 percent of the population is urban.

Political Divisions

Canada comprises ten provinces, each with a separate legislature and administration; the Yukon Territory, which is governed by a federally appointed commissioner, assisted by an elected executive council and legislature; and the Northwest Territories, which is governed by a federally appointed commissioner and an elected assembly. In descending order of population (1991 census) the provinces are the following: Ontario, Qubec, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island.

Principal Cities

Among the leading cities of Canada are Toronto, Ontario, a port and manufacturing city (Census Metropolitan Area population, 1991, 3,893,046); Montral, Qubec, a port and major commercial center (3,127,242); Vancouver, British Columbia, a railroad, shipping, and forest-products manufacturing center (1,602,502); Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada and a commercial and industrial city (Ottawa-Hull metropolitan area, 920,857); Edmonton, Alberta, a farming and petroleum center (839,924); Calgary, Alberta, a transportation, mining, and farm-trade center (754,033); Winnipeg, Manitoba, a major wheat market and railroad hub (652,354); the city of Qubec, Qubec, a shipping, manufacturing, and tourist center (645,550); Hamilton, Ontario, a shipping and manufacturing center (599,760); London, Ontario, a railroad and industrial center (381,552); Saint Catharines, Ontario, an industrial and commercial city (Saint Catharines-Niagara metropolitan area, 364,552); Kitchener, Ontario, a city of manufacturing industries (356,421); and Halifax, Nova Scotia, a seaport and manufacturing city (320,501).


The largest religious community in Canada is Roman Catholic. Nearly half of Canadians who are Roman Catholic live in Qubec. Of the Protestant denominations in Canada the largest is the United Church of Canada, followed by the Anglican Church of Canada. Other important Protestant groups are the Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Pentecostal. Nearly 2 percent of the population are Eastern Orthodox, and Muslim and Jewish adherents each number about 1 percent. Immigration in recent years has brought a substantial number of Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs to the country. Nearly 13 percent of Canadians claim no religion.