Why Canada has such a low Population Density?

If you’ve ever been to Canada, or if you live in Canada, you may already know about how easy it is to find an un-populated back-road, or maybe you have witnessed the miles upon miles of farmlands and forests in between towns. It’s a very peaceful country, and while our central cities are packed with life, people, industry, and activities, they pale in comparison to how much of our land is actually uninhabited. In this article, we go over the reasons why it has been and tends to remain one of the lowest population density’s worldwide.

Why is Canada’s population so low?

1. Uninhabitable Forested Land

It is no surprise that Canada values it’s resources as a country. Forty-two percentage of Canada is covered by forests, which make around 10% of the world’s forested land. Forestry remains to be one of Canada’s largest industry’s, and because of this, efforts are put in place to keep the area protected. After parts of a forest are cut down, they are still crown land, and are allowed to regrow without any other industries being allowed to take over the area while it regrows. In 2017 it employed about 209,940 people in the country and contributed 24.6 billion that same year(around 1.4 billion provincially). While the forestry industry makes a smaller percentage of the economy than Canada’s other energy sectors, it creates a massive amount of jobs, which is why much of Canada remains to be forested.

2. National Parks

The natural beauty of Canada remains intact thanks to the preservation efforts put in place by the government to create National Parks. While many people see National Parks as simply fun tourist attractions and places to buy souvenirs, they were actually created to help keep the population in control and stop the development of railroads, cities, and factories happening in their pristine area. So while some of these parks may be fun areas to check out, many of them, especially in the far north, are not even intended to be reached by people. The parks that are made as tourist attractions are heavily monitored, do not allow hunting, and make your camp or set up tents in designated sites only.

3. Immigration/Acquiring a Canadian Visa

You really don’t hear about a lot of illegal immigration into Canada do you? This is not to say that people do not ever attempt it, it definitely does happen, but more so with people going through the legal system and simply not coming back, making it very easy for them to track down. Canada has natural border walls: the Pacific and the Atlantic on both sides, and has the United States below, which tends to be an immigration magnet and not the other way around.

That being said, if you are trying to legally obtain a visa into Canada, it can be very difficult. Many factors can add into your eligibility such as if you are coming as a refugee requiring sanctuary, or if you have work lined up, but if you do not have these factors, the process can become more difficult, and may tend to rely on you learning another language, as Canada is known as a bilingual, multi-cultural society. Your eligibility may be determined by several factors including: age, education, experience, I.E.L.T.S(International English Language Testing System), or spouse adaptability. They also take into account how much money you are coming into the country with or if you have relatives in the country.

4. The Weather

Rocky Mountains

If you do not like the cold, Canada may not be for you. Winter’s can reach temperatures below -50 Celsius, which alone may be enough to discourage many people from coming here. We are famous for our winter sports like hockey for a reason, our longest season is a cold and snow-covered winter. Our winters tend to last from around November to the end of March, although it is not uncommon for us to get snow at random times throughout the year. There is a common saying in few towns “Don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.” and that rings especially true in the far north and the far west. Vancouver is a city that is famous for consistent year-round precipitation, and this can make for a very uncomfortable time for anyone who is not used to the weather or humidity or simply does not like the cold.

5. Driving

Now, let’s say we combine this unpredictable weather with sharp and winding roads up and down through the Rockies, and just for fun, let’s throw in an excessive amount of wildlife. Not just smaller wildlife that you may be used to such as lizards, gopher’s, or other relatively harmless creatures that you may be used to, depending on where you are from, but elk, deer, and moose. There are around 400,000 whitetail deer in Canada(and that’s only the one breed of deer), and if someone you know here in the rural area has been lucky enough to not have hit a deer, it is almost guaranteed they know somebody who has. These factors make driving in Canada altogether quite treacherous. However, if you are not in a main city or central hub, you very well may need a vehicle to get around. Therefore, if you do not have your driver’s license and enough money to get set up with a vehicle, you may want to choose where you are living very carefully in Canada. The majority of people who work in the oilfield will need to have a vehicle to get to work and one that has 4 wheel drive at that. Lease roads or logging back-roads can become very difficult to get through as they are not always plowed and have a dirt base to them, again emphasizing the necessity of a vehicle.

6. Cost of Living

The downside to living in these central hubs or city centers such as Vancouver or Toronto is that they also tend to have the highest cost of living. Toronto has a high average rental of the average market rent. The weather also tends to add to the cost of living as it takes more power to heat your house during the very long winters.

7. The Territories

The Northwest Territories had an estimated population of 44,895 people in 2019, with an area of 1,144,000 square kilometers, or 442,000 miles. This is the most populated Territory, while being only the second-largest, and has a population density of 0.039 people per kilometer to give you a solid idea.

These territories largely effect the population density of Canada as a whole. Much of the territories remain so sparsely populated because they are in fact uninhabitable; Nunavut is mainly Arctic Tundra, and while the Northwest Territories do have a slightly warmer climate, they are still made up of Tundra, as well as Boreal forest. Most of the Yukon has a subarctic climate, which is characterized by brief warm summers and long, cold, harsh winters, making it not the most attractive place for many people to live.

8. Lack of Tourist Attractions Outside of Large Cities

Canada has it’s a fair share of tourist attractions, and since tourism is a large industry for us, most of our main cities are located near or around these attractions. Toronto has Niagara falls and the CN Tower, Banff has beautiful lakes and the rocky mountains surrounding it, Vancouver has the city, the beautiful Island, with whistler not being far from it, and Edmonton has the famous West Edmonton Mall. But what lies in between these wonders? Mostly farmland, oilfield, and smaller towns and cities. This is not to say you will not see some nice scenery, lakes, and nature along the way, but as far as the wow factor goes, it can be a lot like our population, quite sparse. There are a lot of amazing things to see in Canada, however, most people who want to go about seeing these things will simply take a domestic flight across the country, and some of those flights tend to get fairly expensive.


Canada is a beautiful country and contains a great opportunity for those moving here. We take in more immigrants every year, bringing in a record high of over 300,000 last year alone, so our density will be seeing a noticeable increase. However, the uninhabitable parts will keep our population density low for quite a long time, so if you are moving to Canada and simply looking at the overall size and population, you may be very surprised at how densely populated some of these areas can be.

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