Research funded by
Welcome to the Canadian Suburbs!

This website aims to present the results of a research project, led by Dr. David L.A Gordon, about the proportion of the population living in the canadian suburbs.

In this website, you will be able to find:



Is Canada a still suburban nation?
Growth in Canadian Suburbs 2006-2016


We routinely hear that Canada is one of the most urbanized nations, but that does not mean that most Canadians live in apartments and travel by public transit. The existing urban / rural classification has genuine utility, since many demographic, environmental housing and economic policies need to be different for rural areas. But if "urban" simply means non-rural, then it is too broad a category for community planning, since suburban planning problems and techniques are significantly different from inner-city ones.

This research project estimated the size and growth rate of our suburban population and considers the policy implications associated with these trends. Preliminary calculations indicate that over two-thirds the Canadian population lives in neighbourhoods that most observers would consider suburban. Of course, the size of the suburban population will depend upon the definition of a suburb, and there is currently no standard definition. Suburbia is a loosely defined concept, but no more difficult than "urban" or "inner-city", and geographers and planners now have generally accepted definitions of these other concepts for policy analysis.

Canadian Cities Growth Chart - Click to Enlarge
Image credit: Chris Willms, Queen's University

The method for the study involved analysis of census information for 2016 and selected previous years to 1991. The coverage for 1996, 2006 and 2016 included all Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) and a sample of Census Agglomerations (CAs). A Geographical Information System was used to produce maps at the census tract level for the CMAs. Multiple definitions of suburbia were tested, guided by different suburban policy interests (i.e. housing, transportation, density). Definitions and preliminary results were peer-reviewed by a seminar of leading geographers / planners with interest in suburban research.

Preliminary research results were tested at Canadian and international scholarly conferences and were documented in a refereed journal article. This filled a surprising gap in the literature, since there was no current estimate of the proportion of Canadians who live in suburbs.

Outreach to the general public and professions include this World Wide Web site presenting digital maps of the suburbs of Canadian cities, combined with analytic commentary. The research results were also disseminated in an op-ed article to a national newspaper, presentations to Canadian professional conferences and articles in professional magazines.