Exploration of the 2021 Population Census Data

Par Zachary Deziel, le 02 mars 2022

The first Statistics Canada release of the 2021 census data was just a few weeks ago. Though a little hard to navigate, the census is a unique view of our country. The census is also a data scientist’s dream come true, especially considering the time period it covers.

The article presents some of our findings and data visualizations experiments. If you want to access the d3.js code used for the visualizations, you can reach out to zachary@anagraph.io.

You can also access Geometric Data Viewer to explore the census data cartographically: 

An Overview of Canada’s and its Provinces Population

Our main tool to look at Canada and its provinces’ population is a graph inspired by Hannah Farifield’s “Driving Shifts Into Reverse”. The series of graphs helped us discover some obvious trends:

  • Canada’s growth rate dropped to a historic low of 0.6%.  
  • Quebec’s growth rate has reached its lowest point since 2014.
  • Canada surpasses the 38 million inhabitants mark.
Canada Population Graph. Growth Rate (y-axis) and the number of inhabitants (x-axis).

Quebec Population Graph. Growth Rate (y-axis) and the number of inhabitants (x-axis).

We have not yet discovered the reasons behind the trend beyond stating the apparent cause of covid-19. Investigating to what degree covid-19 impacted new births, deaths, and immigration will be interesting. 

The population graph of all provinces. Growth rate (y-axis) and the number of inhabitants (x-axis). Each province has its own population growth signature.

Non-Homogenous Population Growth

We published Statistic Canada data on the day of its release on Geometric Data Viewer. You can read more on how we integrate third-party data sources here. Through our own exploration and user feedback, we can see that specific areas experienced far more growth than the national average. For example, in Montreal, most of the growth rate is happening in le Centre-Sud. Two of the aggregated dissemination areas, administrative units used by Statistics Canada, have growth rates of 51%, 44.1%, and 77.5%.

GIF of the Geometric Data Viewer on the Montreal Centre-Sud neighborhood. Most of the growth is accounted for in these three dissemination areas.

The growth rates distribution visualization helped us identify the importance of some of the outliers.

Growth rate distribution of the dissemination areas of Greater Montreal.

The significant outlier at a growth rate of 500% is the dissemination area of Île Dorval where the population grew from 5 inhabitants to 30:

Filtering the entities with less than 1000 inhabitants, we get a clearer picture of Montreal’s population growth.

The population of dissemination areas of Montreal with more than 1000 inhabitants.

Comparing Economic Regions

Cartographic views are excellent to discover trends that are not distributed homogeneously on a territory. However, a map is not the best tool to compare features together.

We used the economic regions defined by Statistic Canada to compare the growth rates of regions across Canada. Secondary cities seem to be experiencing the most important growth rates. Could Canadians be leaving the built-up areas of cities to enjoy the outdoors? Squamish (BC), Whitehorse (YK), Kelowna (BC), Canmore (AB), Saint-Agathe-des-Monts (QC) are all renowned for their proximity to natural landscapes. These results differ strongly from StatCan published shared regarding the fastest-growing municipalities.

The visualization is extremely long to keep the names of the economic regions visible. Specific province distributions follow below.

Population growth distribution of Canada’s economic regions.
Population growth distribution of Alberta’s economic regions.

Population growth distribution of British Columbia’s economic regions.

Population growth distribution of Manitoba’s economic regions.

Population growth distribution of Nova Scotia’s economic regions.

Population growth distribution of New Brunswick’s economic regions.
Population growth distribution of Ontario’s economic regions.
Population growth distribution of Quebec’s economic regions.
Population growth distribution of Saskatchewan’s economic regions.
Population growth distribution of Newfoundland’s economic regions.

Waiting for LocalPop 2021

Many geospatial analyses require finer population datasets than the boundaries used by Statistic Canada. We released our 2016 LocalPop model specifically for this use case. You can read the release notes here.

LocalPop in Geometric Data Viewer.

Our beta program for LocalPop 2021 is still open. If you are interested in having early access, please reach out to nicolas@anagraph.io or zachary@anagraph.io.