Population, settlements, urban network
Canada has experienced fifty years of notable economic and demographic development, albeit amidst profound contradictions and internal lacerations, which led it from the condition of a state semi-dependent on Great Britain (at the end of the Second World War), to participation in the summit of countries most industrialized in the world.
Unlike other developed countries, where the growth rate is close to zero and the aging of the population is worrying, Canada maintains a rather high increase (12 ‰), slightly higher than that of the United States, and due not only to the positive natural balance, but also to recent immigration. Thirty million people estimated by the end of the 20th century (28,846,761 census in 1996, of which over 30. 000 Inuit and 370. 000 Amerindians) are apparently few, in an area of well 9. 970. 610 km ², but in reality the Canadians are concentrated in relatively small regions: the average population density in the whole of Canada is only 3 residents / km ², and more than half live in the major metropolitan areas; in fact, only in those of Montreal and Toronto reside more than 8 million residents, equivalent to just under 30 % of the total. The region of Vancouver on the Pacific (1. 832. 000 residents In the metropolitan area in 1996) is the only really important urban pole in the whole West and fundamental for contacts with the opposite side of the ocean, especially with China and Japan. Vancouver is the second largest Chinese community in North America from a numerical point of view. The metropolitan area of Vancouver is strongly attracted by the great US conurbation of Seattle-Tacoma; the border, especially after the establishment of the North American common market (NAFTA), no longer constitutes an obstacle, and the growth in the Great Lakes area of an international megalopolis is consolidated.
According to Behealthybytomorrow, the rather high birth rate (12 ‰ in the five-year period 1989 – 94), a traditional phenomenon among French-speaking Catholics, has in fact contributed over the centuries to the survival of the French language and the diverse territoriality of Québec, which is the most populous province after Ontario. French-speaking Canadians (which currently account for 23, 8 % of the total population) are concentrated in the Province of Quebec, but small groups of joint French settlers in the seventeenth century descendants live in deep Anglicised provinces such as Newfoundland and New Brunswick. They are the Acadiens, who do not have their own territory like the Québéçois, and yet they support its separatist claims.
The economy of Canada is closely linked to that of the United States: over 70 % of foreign trade takes place with the United States, the rest with the countries of the European Union, the United Kingdom in the lead, and with the two great powers. from the other side of the Pacific, China and Japan, as well as with South Korea and Australia. The establishment of NAFTA, the North American free trade agreement, signed by Canada, the United States and Mexico in 1992 and entered into force in 1994, has further facilitated ties with the United States, due to the richness of timber., energy sources and many minerals present in Canada and necessary for the US industry.
Canada is one of the major world producers of wheat (305 million q in 1996) and one of the few exporters, the second in the world after the United States, almost on a par with France, although the average annual domestic consumption of cereals is very high. This role (‘strategic’, because the demand for cereals increases with the increase in population) in recent years has been cyclically reduced by the drought affecting the Great Central Plains, both Canadian and contiguous US (as in 1988, when production capacity was reduced by 30 %). Canadian herds of cattle (13.3 million head in 1997) and pigs (12.1million), although not quantitatively comparable with those of Brazil, the United States and Argentina, are sufficient for domestic needs. Despite the largely justified connotation of a Nordic country, the Canada, above all thanks to the coasts of British Columbia, counts on diversified agricultural productions, including those of wine (300,000 hl in 1996), fruit and vegetables. The coniferous forests, very extensive and on the whole well cared for, make Canada one of the first producers and exporters of wood pulp and paper.
Moreover, the productions that characterize Canada as a traditional exporter of raw materials are mining, abundant and diversified. Of particular importance are oil (95.6 million tonnes in 1997) and natural gas.
The production of electricity is enormous (over 554,000 million kWh in 1995), largely of water origin. The hydroelectric potential, among the largest in the world, makes it possible to cover 60 % of the needs; but geothermal generation has also grown considerably (32 million kWh), and in the Bay of Fundy, on the Atlantic coast, the construction of a power station is planned to exploit the energy potential of the tides.