Vancouver’s Density Higher than Any Other City in Canada: Census Data

In first of seven 2016 Census data releases, Statistics Canada reveals population numbers, growth and densities

February 8, 2017

Canada Census 2016 population

Vancouver’s population growth may only be the 11th highest out of all Canada’s Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) but Vancouver proper has the highest number of people per kilometre, according to new 2016 Census data released February 8 by Statistics Canada.

In the first of seven promised tranches of data collected in the 2016 Census, to be released throughout this year, the federal statistics agency revealed population numbers, growth rates and densities for cities, regions, provinces and territories across Canada.

The population of Vancouver CMA (Metro Vancouver) stood at 2,463,431 in 2016, which was the third-largest of Canada’s CMAs after Toronto (just under six million) and Montreal (just over four million).

Vancouver CMA’s population was 6.5 per cent higher than in the 2011 data, which put it in 11th place of all CMAs in terms of growth rate and above the national average. In BC, Vancouver’s five-year growth rate was outstripped by population growth in Kelowna (sixth-highest nationally at 8.4 per cent) and Victoria (eighth at 6.7 per cent). Furthermore, Vancouver’s 6.5 per cent was notably lower than the 9.5 per cent growth it posted over the previous five years in the 2011 Census data.

Nationally, the Census counted 35,151,728 people living in Canada as of May 10, 2016, which is up 5.0 per cent since 2011, making it the highest national population growth of the G7 countries. Statistics Canada reported, “About two-thirds of Canada's population growth from 2011 to 2016 was the result of migratory increase (the difference between the number of immigrants and emigrants). Natural increase (the difference between the number of births and deaths) accounted for the remaining one-third.”

Despite its somewhat slowing growth rate, Vancouver proper (census subdivision, not CMA) had the highest population density in the country, with 5,492.6 residents per square kilometre inside the city limits. Also in the national density top 10 rankings were New Westminster (4,543.4 people/sqkm), North Vancouver (4,465.1) and Victoria (4,405.8) – putting them respectively in sixth, seventh and eighth place overall.

That compares with a national density of only 3.5 people per square kilometre overall (compared with 35 people/sqkm in the US). However, Statistics Canada noted that two-thirds of the Canadian population lives within 100km of the US border, in an area just four per cent of Canada’s total size.

Vancouver's 5,492.6 people per square kilometre may be Canada's highest, but pales in comparison with the densest cities in the world, which are topped by Manila in the Philippines at 41,515 people per square kilometre, according to Wikipedia. Vancouver's density levels put it in line with the 44th densest conurbation in the United States.

To see Statistics Canada's full breakdown and data tables, click here.

Joannah Connolly is the editor and content manager of and Real Estate Weekly newspaper, and editor-in-chief of Western Investor and West Coast Condominium. She also moonlights as the host of the Real Estate Therapist call-in show on Roundhouse Radio 98.3FM every Saturday, 9-10am. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 20 years of media experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture and business media. Like many of the residents of her newly adopted town, Joannah has a decidedly unhealthy passion for Vancouver real estate and is often to be found scouring property listings well above her pay grade.
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