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2006 Census Highlights


The May 16, 2006 Census population and dwelling counts were released by Statistics Canada on March 13, 2007. This first release of information from the 2006 Census of Population reported that British Columbia had a count of 4,113,487, a gain of 205,749 from the 2001 Census count. Between July, 2007 and May, 2008 further information on the characteristics of the Canadian population gathered from this Census will be released in 'topic' groups, sets of census variables on related subjects. These will begin with detailed information on the age and sex composition of the population in July, and continue through topic groupings, such as marital status, language, ethnicity, education, migration, etc. until the final release of information on income and housing in May 2008.

The Province

British Columbia was again the third fastest growing province in Canada, increasing 5.3% between 2001 and 2006 (4.9% between 1996 and 2001). On May 16, 2006, B.C.'s population was counted as 4,113,487, compared with 3,907,738 in May 2001. For the first time since the 1951-1956 intercensal period, B.C.'s population growth of 5.3% was slightly lower than the national rate of 5.4%. In the previous five year period, B.C.'s population had increased 4.9, %, more than the 4.0% increase in the Canadian population. Alberta, at 10.6%, and Ontario at 6.6% had the strongest population growth among the provinces in the 2001-2006 period, while Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador lost population, with growth rates of -1.1% and -1.5%, respectively. The three Territories also had greater growth rates (Northwest Territories at 11.0%, Nunavut at 10.2% and Yukon Territory at 5.9%), but due to improvements in collection in NWT the increase is likely overstated.

Census 2006 - Population Growth Rates - BC and Canada

Regional Districts

In a turn-around from the last census period, more than half (16 out of 28) of the regional districts in the province experienced population growth between 2001 and 2006. The regions that grew were again concentrated in the southwest mainland, eastern Vancouver Island and Okanagan areas, plus the northeast corner of the province. Central Okanagan (9.8%), Nanaimo (9.4%), Sunshine Coast (8.4%), Fraser Valley (8.2%) and Northern Rockies (7.5%) regional districts registered the strongest growth. The Greater Vancouver (6.5%) and Capital (6%) also demonstrated growth higher than the provincial 5.3%. The twelve areas that declined in population were concentrated in the northwest, southeast and central areas of the province. The regions with the highest percentage loss were Stikine (-15.7%), Central Coast (-15.7%), Mount Waddington (-11.1%) and Skeena-Queen Charlotte (-9.35%).


Overall, among the municipalities with a 2006 population greater than 5,000 persons, five of the top ten municipalities with the highest 2001-2006 growth were on Vancouver Island. Of the other five, only one - Kelowna - was outside the lower mainland. Among very large municipalities (those with populations of more than 100,000), the strongest growth in the 2001-2006 period was shown by Surrey (13.6%), followed by Kelowna (10.6%) and Abbotsford (7.2%). Among the 43 municipalities with a population less than 100,000 and greater than 10,000, Langford (19.2%), Port Moody (15.5%) and Courtenay (14.5%) had the highest growth rates, while Prince Rupert (-12.5%) and Terrace (-6.5%) had the strongest negative change. Of the 18 municipalities with a 2006 population count between 5,000 and 10,000, View Royal at 20.6% and Sooke at 11.1% had the largest growth rates, while Kitimat (-12.6%) and Quesnel (-7.1%) showed the largest percent decline.

Top Municipalities (> 5,000 people) in terms of growth from 2001 to 2006

Municipality 2006 Population   % Change
View Royal 8,768 20.6%
Langford 22,459 19.2%
Port Moody 27,512 15.5%
Courtenay 21,940 14.5%
Surrey 394,976 13.6%
Sooke 9,704 11.1%
Kelowna 106,707 10.8%
Ladysmith 7,538 10.7%
Chilliwack 69,217 10.6%
Mission 34,505 10.3%

Urban and Rural Population

Continuing the trend of many decades, between 2001 and 2006 the population has become more urbanised, with 85.4% of the provincial population now living in urban areas, up from 85% in 2001, 82% in 1996 and 80% in 1991.

Characteristics of Population Growth

Examining current population estimates provide some insight into some aspects of the province's growth. Given B.C.'s very low fertility rate (a total fertility rate of 1.4) and increasingly older population, about three quarters of the population growth between 2001 and 2006 was due to migration, with natural increase (births minus deaths) accounting for the rest. This growth was primarily due to migration from international sources (71% of the growth), with only about 5% due to net interprovincial migration. In the previous 1996-2001 period, B.C.'s population growth was due to net international migration and natural increase, as there was a net outflow to other provinces. Approximately three quarters (76%) of the immigrants to B.C. over the 2001-2006 period were from Asian countries, followed by European sources (11%) and North America (5.2%). Mainland China accounted for 28% and India for 13% of immigrants to B.C.

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