Why does Canada have so much land?

Canada is a big country, there’s no doubt about it. It is the second-largest country in the world in terms of landmass or area, coming in after Russia. Canada is so big, in fact, that if each person in Canada spread out, they would have 0.25 km2 to themselves! Canada has so much land because of some key treaties that were created to create the borders of this country.

Canada is interesting because it is so large, especially compared to its relatively small population. We’ll take a look at just how large Canada is, and some of the key statistics and comparisons. Next, we’ll look a bit further at the history that shaped the creation of Canada as a country to figure out why Canada has so much land. 

How big is Canada? 

One of the most famous things about Canada is its size—everyone knows that it’s a large country. But, it can be hard to actually conceptualize just how large the country is. Here are some key statistics about the size of Canada from Statistics Canada:

  • The total area of Canada: 9,984,670 km2, second only to Russia at 17.13 million km2. The USA, China, and Brazil round out the top five largest countries in the world.
  • Length of the land border: 8,890 km with the United States. This is the longest international border in the world.
  • Length of the coastline in Canada: the coastline is along three oceans (Pacific, Atlantic, and the Arctic) and is 243,042km long. This is the largest coastline in the world.
  • Size of national parks: there are 43 national parks in Canada that cover 224,466 km2.
  • Freshwater area: Lakes and rivers make up 891,163 km2.

Here are some other interesting facts about the size of Canada:

  • Nunavut is the largest territory in Canada with 21.3% of the country’s land area.
  • Quebec is the largest province in Canada with 15% of the country’s land area.
  • The biggest province, Quebec, is larger than the countries of Germany, Spain, Ukraine, and Turkey, for comparison.
  • Canada is essentially the same size as the continent of Europe; it is 0.98 times the size of Europe.
  • Canada has one of the lowest population density ratios in the world—with a current population of around 38 million, there are fewer than four people per square kilometer.
  • Depending on how fast you drive and the conditions, it would take around 100 hours to drive across the country.

How was Canada formed?

Those statistics show us just how large Canada is. But how was the country formed? How did it end up being such a large country, despite the small population? Canada was officially formed as a country in 1867, but it was populated for a long time before that. Indigenous peoples inhabited the land for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. The name “Canada” is derived from a Huron-Iroquois word, “Kanata,” which means village or settlement. 

Canada became known to Europeans in the 16th Century when the French explorer Jacques Cartier, and others, began to explore and settle the land. The first settlements were along the St. Lawrence River in what is now Quebec and Ontario. Other areas of eastern Canada were explored and settled by the British. This was happening at the same time the USA was being settled by Europeans. The war of 1912 between the US and soon-to-be Canada resulted in Canada holding its ground and not conceding land to the Americans. 

The British North America Act in 1867 created a confederation between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada, which was divided into provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Over time, Canada expanded to the north and the west, creating the full country it is today. The last territory to be created was Nunavut, which was formed out of a portion of the Northwest Territories in 1999. 

Does anyone protest Canada’s size?

One might wonder why Canada has the right to such a large landmass, especially considering the small population. Why don’t other countries try to take the land away? Have there ever been protests over Canada’s size and right to their land?

The reality is, most of Canada is uninhabitable. It is cold with dense forests in most of the northern areas. That is why the vast majority of the population live close to the US border—it’s simply more pleasant to live there. About 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the border. Of course, there are people who live in the northern climates, but it is not as desirable to many people. For this reason, countries and other populations are not interested in contesting Canada for this area. 

There have been interesting conversations regarding Canada’s ability to protect its landmass from potential invasion. Though it seems unlikely that other countries want to inhabit the northern regions of the country, there has been some controversy over their ocean rights. Recently, Russia has been expanding its presence in the north and submitted a petition to the UN to claim some of the continental shelves of the Arctic Ocean. This would infringe on some of Canada’s area, where they have exclusive rights to the resources in the sea (i.e. fishing). 

There are also ongoing discussions and negotiations with Indigenous communities throughout Canada. Treaties between the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples define ownership and rights to certain areas of land. Treaties have already been signed in the past, and there are more that are currently underway. 


Canada is a large country—no doubt about it. We looked at a few of the statistics to show just how large of a country it is and some interesting facts about it. Canada was created in 1867 after European settlers came to the area and started creating communities. Today, it occupies a large area of land that is still under some treaty negotiations with Indigenous communities. There are a lot of interesting things to learn and know about Canada. And, if you plan on visiting, be prepared to travel far distances! Roadtrip anyone?

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