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

Joannah Connolly
February 8, 2017

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
Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.