Society and Culture
Canada is a democratic society with a cultural mosaic where Indigenous peoples, historic settlers and their descendants and immigrants have shaped the country’s ethnic and cultural fabric, creating the multicultural nation we have today. The diversity of Canada’s population continues to grow, with immigration exceeding 250,000 people per year since 2000. The richness of cultural diversity in Canada can be demonstrated in many ways, including language. While the official languages of French and English remain the most abundantly spoken, the 2016 census estimated there are over 70 Indigenous languages and approximately 22% of respondents reported speaking their foreign mother tongue.
The Population of Canada
- The total population of Canada grew to greater than 38 million during 2020, despite slowed immigration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Descendants of French settlers carry on French Canadian culture today across Canada. As of 2016, 6,890,300 French-speaking people live in Quebec, while 1,024,198 live in the other provinces and territories.
- More than 1.67 million people in Canada self-identified as an Indigenous person in Canada's 2016 Census of Population. Indigenous peoples are the fastest growing population in Canada and grew by 42.5% between 2006 and 2016.
- As of 2016, Canada welcomed 1,212,075 new immigrants who permanently settled in Canada between 2011 and 2016, representing 3.5% of Canada's total population. This data from Statistics Canada shows the geographical representation of immigrant arrival pre and post 2001.
- Continued population growth is expected, with estimates of a medium-growth rate scenario placing the Canadian population at about 55 million by the year 2068.
- The majority of our population, approximately 72% in 2020, live in metropolitan areas with the most populous being Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver.
Did You Know?
The Constitution of Canada recognizes, and affirms the rights of the three distinct Indigenous peoples of Canada: First Nations, Inuit and Métis. There are various forms of agreements made between the Crown and Indigenous peoples that outline ongoing rights and obligations on all sides. For example, these agreements can be in the form of historic and modern treaties, self–government agreements, amongst others that reflect the unique relationship each Indigenous Peoples have with the Crown.
Each distinct Indigenous peoples have their own unique history, languages, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs:
- There are more than 630 First Nation communities in Canada representing between 60 – 80 distinct nations who speak more than 70 languages divided into 12 language families.
- In 2016, 977,230* people in Canada identified as being of First Nations heritage, representing a growth of 39.3% since 2006.
- The Métis emerged as a distinct Indigenous people and nation in the historic Northwest during the late 18th century.
- In 2016, 587,545* people identified as Métis across Canada; comprising approximately one third of all Indigenous people in Canada.
- Inuit are the Indigenous peoples of the vast Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, living primarily in Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland encompassing 35% of Canada’s landmass and 50% of its coastline.
- In 2016, the Inuit population reached 65,025*, with approximately 60% of Inuit reporting the ability to conduct a conversation in Inuktut (the Inuit language).
The long history and close relationship between Indigenous peoples in Canada and their ancestral and current territory, along with their culture and society have fostered continuous generations of Indigenous Knowledge holders. It is recognized that there is no single definition of Indigenous knowledge, and is understood that as a term it refers to: “a set of complex knowledge systems based on the worldviews of Indigenous peoples”.
Indigenous knowledge systems reflect the unique cultures, languages, governance systems and histories of Indigenous peoples from a particular location. Indigenous knowledge systems, based on unique worldviews and ways of knowing, are dynamic and evolve over time and build on the knowledge base and experiences of earlier generations while continuously adapting to current conditions. First Nations, Métis and Inuit each have distinct ways of employing and describing their knowledge systems.
There are many Indigenous-led cumulative effects initiatives and organizations across Canada. One example is the Indigenous Centre for Cumulative Effects, which was established in 2019 as an Indigenous not-for-profit corporation, whose mission is to create networks, and develop and share knowledge to empower community-based approaches to culturally relevant cumulative effects assessment, monitoring and management to support Indigenous well-being and decision-making.
*denotes population numbers from the 2016 Census of the population, where some Indigenous people belong to multiple Indigenous identities.
Diversity of Canada’s society and cultures
The interactive map below shows data related to place names across Canada produced through a collaborative project by Natural Resources Canada and federal, provincial and territorial members of the Geographical Names Board of Canada. Place names have an important role in recognizing, preserving and strengthening Canada's history and culture. In Canada close to 30,000 official place names are, or may be, of Indigenous origin. Stories from the Land: Indigenous Place Names in Canada illustrates a selection of places in Canada with names that have origins in multiple Indigenous languages that convey stories, knowledge, and descriptions of the land. Many more Indigenous place names exist in Canada and will be added in future releases of this data, as this project is on-going. Recognizing Women with Canadian Place Names, illustrates a sample of close to 500 places in Canada, that show geographical features such as lakes, rivers, mountains, and other locations that have been named to commemorate women.
The map also illustrates diversity through languages spoken across Canada. Statistics Canada data illustrates the geographical distribution of mother tongue spoken, including English, French, and other languages. Mother tongue refers to the first language learned at home in childhood.
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