Canada has a population of just over 38 million people, the vast majority of whom live within 100 miles of the U.S. border. Only 10% of Canadians live farther north, with all of the country’s most populous cities — namely Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, and Edmonton — nestled relatively close to their American neighbors. The reason for this population density is largely pragmatic: Being significantly colder and more rugged, the rest of Canada simply isn’t as conducive to agricultural production or significant settlement. The Canadian economy is also so tied to the U.S. that sticking close to the border makes sense, since it’s easier to get people and goods where they need to go.
In addition to its 10 provinces, Canada also has three territories — Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut — which are geographically vast but home to a combined population of just 128,000 people. Together the territories make up Northern Canada, which geographers generally don’t consider part of the country’s ecumene — a term for land that’s been permanently settled. The most populous city in the territories is Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon, which is home to 24,000 people and in 2013 was named the city with the least air pollution in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records. By contrast, Toronto — Canada’s most populous city overall — is home to 2.9 million people.
There’s cold, and then there’s the North Pole. Just 508 miles from that famed landmark is a military installation on Ellesmere Island named Alert, Nunavut, which is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world. With average temperatures ranging from -26 degrees Fahrenheit in January to a comparatively balmy 38.1 degrees in July, it has a permanent population just under 200 — one of whom is tasked with keeping polar bears away.