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2001 Census Highlights


On March 12, 2002 the first results from the 2001 Census - population and dwelling counts - were released by Statistics Canada. Information on other characteristics of the B.C. population such as age, ethnicity, education, income, etc. will be released over the next two years.

The Province

British Columbia was the third fastest growing province in Canada, increasing 4.9% between 1996 and 2001. On May 15, 2001, the population of B.C. was counted as 3,907,738, compared with 3,724,500 in May 1996. B.C.'s population growth was slightly stronger than the national rate of 4.0%. In the previous five year period, B.C.'s population had increased 13.5%, more than double the 5.7% increase in the Canadian population. Between 1996 and 2001, Alberta (10.3%) and Ontario (6.1%) had the strongest population growth among the provinces. Nunavut's population grew by 8.1%.

Regional Districts

Fewer than half (12 out of 28) of the regional districts in the province experienced population growth between 1996 and 2001. The regions that grew were concentrated in the southwest mainland, eastern Vancouver Island and Okanagan areas. Squamish-Lillooet (12.3%), Greater Vancouver (8.5%), Central Okanagan (8.2%) and Fraser Valley (6.8%) regional districts registered the strongest growth. On Vancouver Island, most of the growth occurred in the Nanaimo (4.3%) and Capital (2.4%) regional districts. The northern and Kootenay regions registered population declines over the 5-year period, with the largest decreases in Skeena-Queen Charlotte (-12.5%) and Mount Waddington (-10.2%).


Among large municipalities (those with populations of more than 100,000), the strongest growth in the 1996-2001 period was posted in Surrey (14%), followed by Coquitlam (11%) and Richmond (10%). Among smaller municipalities (those with populations of more than 5,000), Whistler had the strongest growth (24%), although the small neighbouring community of Pemberton had even stronger growth (91%).

Top Municipalities (> 5,000 people) in terms of growth from 1996 to 2000

Municipality 2001 Population   % Change
Whistler 8,896 24.0%
Surrey 347,825 14.2%
Port Moody 23,816 14.2%
View Royal 7,271 12.9%
Maple Ridge 63,169 12.5%
Coquitlam 112,890 10.9%
New Westminster 54,656 10.8%
Richmond 164,345 10.4%
Port Coquitlam 51,257 9.8%
Abbotsford 115,463 9.6%

Urban and Rural Population

Between 1996 and 2001, the population has become more urbanised with 85% of the provincial population now living in urban areas, up from 82% in 1996 and 80% in 1991.

Characteristics of Population Growth

Although information on the characteristics of the population growth between 1996 and 2001 is not yet available from the 2001 Census, current population estimates provide insight into some aspects of the growth. About two thirds of the population growth between 1996 and 2001 was due to migration with natural increase (births minus deaths) accounting for the rest. The growth due to migration was entirely from international sources, as a large number of people left B.C. for Alberta and only small numbers arrived from other parts of Canada. Between 1991 and 1996, a similar number of people had arrived from international sources but there had also been almost as large a net inflow from other parts of the country. More than three quarters (77%) of the immigrants to B.C. over the 1996-2001 period were from Asian countries, followed by European sources (12%) and North and Central America (4%).