Canada is a country with a vast land area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the east, along the Arctic Ocean to the north, and to the Pacific Ocean in the western coast. The country encompasses a colossal 9.9 million kilometers squared or 3.8 million square miles of land, which is only slightly larger than the continent of Europe, but with 19 times less population. Canada has around 38 million people while Europe has over 750 million. Despite its vast land area, most Canadians live in the southern regions near the border with the United States. In this article, we delve into the reasons why Canada is sparsely populated and why the majority of its people reside in the southern regions.
The Cold Climate in Canada
Undoubtedly, the cold climate in Canada is a major factor that has contributed to the sparse settlement of the country. Throughout the winter, temperatures usually range between 0 and minus 15 degrees Celsius, and it rarely gets below minus 20, especially in the northernmost provinces. However, the cold climate cannot be the only reason for the sparse settlement, as evidenced by the Russian settlements in the same latitude that have a much larger population.
The Canadian Shield
Half of Canada is covered by a layer of exposed rock with soil not suitable for farming, known as the Canadian Shield. This geological arrangement has made it unsustainable for large settlements to thrive in this region, as without the ability to produce food, populations couldn’t flourish. This is why the majority of the Canadian population lives near the border with the United States, where the land is not part of the Canadian Shield and large-scale farming is possible.
Access to Shipping Routes
Another factor that has contributed to the settlement of the southern regions of Canada is the ease of access for ships via the Saint Lawrence River. For centuries, this was the easiest way to sail and explore the American interior, and it explains why the major Canadian cities of Montreal and Toronto are found in this region. As a result, 60% of the population lives in the states of Ontario and Quebec, and 50% of all Canadians live just south of this line.
The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes – Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior – also play a role in why the population near the coastline and southern border has exploded in just a century. These huge lakes help to warm the coastline during the cooler months and cool the air during the increasingly hot summers, making it more attractive to settlements than, for example, Eureka, the northernmost and coldest city in Canada.
In conclusion, the size of a country can be deceiving, and not all land is suitable for settlements. Canada, despite its vast land area, is sparsely populated due to several factors, including its cold climate, the Canadian Shield, access to shipping routes, and the Great Lakes. Nevertheless, Canada has punched way above its population weight by providing a very high standard of living for its people and being among the best countries in the world to live in.