Globe and Mail Update
Tuesday, March 12 Online Edition, Posted at 9:36 AM EST
While Canada experienced one of the smallest five-year population growth rates in the country's history, the country's largest province bucked the trend and continued to grow.
Ontario's population grew by 6.1 per cent, more than 656,000 people, from the 1996 census, according to the 2001 census released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday.
The 2001 census counted 11,410,046 people in Ontario.
Almost half of Canada's total population growth took place in southern Ontario's Golden Horseshoe near Toronto. The area counted a population of 6.7-million — an increase of 9.2 per cent from 1996. The region — which includes Toronto, St. Catharines and Niagara, Oshawa and Barrie accounted for 59 per cent of Ontario's total population and 22 per cent of Canada's population in 2001.
Canada's population increased by 4 per cent or 1.1-million people to 30,007,094 from the 1996 census.
Ontario was one of only three provinces and one territory that experienced growth rates above the national average. Ontario gained 6.1 per cent, second only to Alberta, which soared 10.3 per cent.
Statistics Canada cites immigration as the main reason for Ontario's growth. More than half of immigrants who came to Canada in the last five years settled in Ontario, and more than 445,000 settled in Toronto between 1996 and 2001.
The 2001 census data also found that the country's urbanization continues.
In 2001, just over 64 per cent of Canadians, about 19.2-million people, lived in 27 metropolitan areas, up slightly from 63 per cent in 1996.
Six of the country's 25 fastest growing municipalities were in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe. Their populations increases by 20 per cent or more. These municipalities included Richmond Hill, Barrie and Brampton.
But within the Golden Horseshoe, the St. Catharines-Niagara area saw a population increase of only 1.2 per cent.