Provisional death counts and excess mortality, January to December 2020

Provisional death counts for 2020 show that there were a total of 241,845 deaths in Canada, an increase of 8.2% from 2019. This is the highest number of deaths recorded since 1921.

Excess mortality, which measures the difference between the expected and actual number of deaths in a given period, was also higher than usual in 2020. Excess mortality for 2020 was estimated to be 28,973 deaths, or 13.7% above the five-year average (2015-2019). This is the highest level of excess mortality since at least 1921.

The majority of excess mortality occurred during the first wave of COVID-19 in Canada (March to June 2020), when an estimated 24,844 additional deaths occurred compared to what would have been expected based on historical trends. The second wave (October to December 2020) saw an additional 4,129 excess deaths compared to what would have been expected without COVID-19.

The largest increases in excess mortality were seen among those aged 80 and over (+20,637), followed by those aged 70 to 79 (+5,921) and 60 to 69 (+1,415).

By measuring excess mortality, researchers can better understand the full impact of the pandemic on communities and families.

The majority of these excess deaths were concentrated in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which together accounted for 77% of all excess deaths in Canada. In Ontario, there were an estimated 7,945 excess deaths from January to mid-December 2020, representing an increase of 6.3% over the expected number of deaths. In Quebec, there were an estimated 5,853 excess deaths from January to mid-December 2020, representing an increase of 7.2% over the expected number of deaths.

The remaining provinces and territories experienced a smaller proportion of excess deaths due to the pandemic. British Columbia had an estimated 1,068 excess deaths (an increase of 4.1%), Alberta had an estimated 1,837 excess deaths (an increase of 5.4%), and Manitoba had an estimated 690 excess deaths (an increase of 7%). The remaining provinces and territories combined had an estimated 1,359 excess deaths (an increase of 3.2%).

Overall, the pandemic has caused a significant impact on mortality rates in Canada with a total of 13,798 more people dying than would have been expected without it. This is a stark reminder that the effects of COVID-19 are still being felt across the country and that further measures must be taken to protect public health and safety.

This dataset includes information on the number of deaths, age and sex distribution, and underlying cause of death. It also provides a breakdown of deaths by province and territory.

The data shows that there were over 70,000 deaths in Canada from January to mid-December 2020, an increase of almost 20% compared to the same period in 2019. The majority of these deaths were among people aged 75 and older (58%), with the highest proportion among those aged 85 and older (37%). The leading underlying cause of death was cancer (31%), followed by diseases of the circulatory system (19%) and respiratory diseases (14%).

The data also reveals regional differences in mortality rates. For example, Quebec had the highest rate of mortality at 8.2 per 1,000 population, followed by Ontario at 7.4 per 1,000 population. In contrast, Alberta had the lowest rate at 5.3 per 1,000 population.

This provisional dataset is part of Statistics Canada’s ongoing effort to provide timely information on COVID-19 and its impact on Canadians. As more data becomes available over time, Statistics Canada will continue to update this dataset to provide a comprehensive picture of how COVID-19 has affected Canadians across all provinces and territories.

The provisional death estimates for 2020 are now available on the Statistics Canada website. The estimates are based on data from provincial and territorial vital statistics agencies, as well as other sources such as coroners’ reports. The estimates include deaths due to COVID-19, as well as those due to other causes.

The provisional death estimates show that there were approximately 250,000 deaths in Canada in 2020, an increase of 8.2% compared to 2019. Of these deaths, approximately 17,000 were attributed to COVID-19. This represents a significant increase from the previous year, when there were fewer than 10,000 deaths attributed to the virus.

Overall, the provisional death estimates suggest that mortality rates in Canada increased significantly in 2020 due to the pandemic. This highlights the importance of continuing public health measures and vaccine rollouts in order to reduce mortality rates and protect Canadians from further harm caused by COVID-19.

The direct impacts of COVID-19 cannot fully account for the excess deaths observed in Canada in 2020, particularly in the fall

The indirect impacts of the pandemic could include a decrease in access to healthcare, an increase in mental health issues, and an increase in substance abuse. These factors can lead to an increase in mortality from other causes such as suicide, drug overdose, and heart disease. Additionally, the economic impacts of the pandemic may be leading to increased poverty and food insecurity, which can also contribute to higher mortality rates.

It is important for governments to recognize these indirect impacts of the pandemic and take steps to address them. This could include increasing access to healthcare services, providing mental health support services, and implementing policies that reduce poverty and food insecurity. Taking these steps will help ensure that all Canadians are able to stay safe and healthy during this difficult time.

However, the excess deaths during the fall were more evenly distributed across all age groups. This suggests that other factors, such as seasonal illnesses and social isolation, may have been contributing to the higher number of deaths during this period.

This shift in the demographics of excess deaths is likely due to the spread of COVID-19 among younger people. As the virus has spread, more young people have been exposed and infected, leading to a higher rate of death among this age group. Additionally, many young people may not be taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves from the virus, such as wearing masks and social distancing. This could also contribute to the increased rate of death among younger individuals.

It is also important to note that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on certain populations, including Indigenous peoples, people living in poverty, and those with mental health issues. These groups are more likely to experience higher rates of mortality due to COVID-19 and other causes. For example, according to Statistics Canada, Indigenous people accounted for 8.6% of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada between March 11 and June 30, 2020, despite making up only 5.2% of the population. Similarly, a report by the Canadian Mental Health Association found that people with mental health issues are more likely to die from COVID-19 than those without such issues.

In order to address these disparities and reduce mortality due to both direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic, it is essential that governments provide targeted support for vulnerable populations. This could include increased access to healthcare services and social supports as well as measures aimed at reducing poverty and improving mental health outcomes.

The number of provinces with excess deaths is increasing as the pandemic progresses

The other provinces have seen a shift in the distribution of excess mortality. Ontario, which reported only 8% of excess deaths in the spring, accounted for nearly one-third (31%) of all excess deaths from September to November. Alberta and British Columbia also saw an increase in their share of excess deaths, accounting for 17% and 11%, respectively. Saskatchewan and Manitoba reported relatively low levels of excess mortality during this period, with 4% and 2%, respectively.

The increase in excess mortality was likely due to a combination of factors, including the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in both provinces. In Alberta, the number of active cases rose from around 1,000 in the spring to over 10,000 in the fall. Similarly, British Columbia saw an increase from around 500 active cases in the spring to over 5,000 in the fall. This surge in cases likely contributed to an increase in deaths due to COVID-19 and other illnesses that were exacerbated by the virus. Additionally, both provinces implemented stricter public health measures during this time period which may have also contributed to increased mortality rates.

The excess mortality in these provinces is likely due to a combination of factors, including the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the fall, as well as other health issues such as influenza and other respiratory illnesses. It is also possible that the increased mortality could be related to social isolation and loneliness, which can have a negative impact on physical and mental health. Additionally, it is possible that some of the excess deaths could be attributed to delayed or missed medical care due to the pandemic.

This suggests that the province has been able to maintain a relatively consistent level of excess deaths throughout the pandemic. However, it is important to note that this figure does not take into account any potential underreporting of COVID-19 related deaths in Ontario.

Deaths from other causes also up in some provinces in 2020

The provisional data show that the leading cause of death during this period was COVID-19, accounting for nearly one-third (32%) of all deaths. This is followed by cancer (20%), heart disease (14%), and respiratory diseases (10%). The remaining causes of death accounted for 24% of all deaths.

The data also show that the proportion of deaths due to COVID-19 increased over time, from 22% in March to 38% in June. In comparison, the proportion of deaths due to cancer decreased from 25% in March to 17% in June. Similarly, the proportion of deaths due to heart disease decreased from 18% in March to 11% in June.

Overall, these provisional results suggest that mortality during the first period of excess mortality was largely driven by COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, with a decrease in mortality due to other causes such as cancer and heart disease.

The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing, wear a face mask when in public, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, and stay home if you are feeling sick.

Note to readers

The data released today provide information on the number of deaths that occurred in Canada during the reference period, as well as the age-standardized mortality rate and the age-specific mortality rates for each province and territory. The data also include information on the leading causes of death, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

These data are important for informing public health policies and programs aimed at reducing mortality from these leading causes of death. They can also be used to monitor trends in mortality over time and to compare mortality rates between provinces and territories.

The counts and estimates released today are based on data from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) Mortality Database, which is updated regularly. PHAC’s Mortality Database includes deaths reported to the Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database, as well as deaths reported to provincial and territorial health authorities.

This article, published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, provides an overview of the excess mortality in Canada during the pandemic. It discusses the factors that have contributed to this increase in mortality, including age, sex, and geography. It also examines how different provinces have been affected differently by the pandemic and how this has impacted their mortality rates. Finally, it looks at potential strategies for reducing excess mortality in Canada during the pandemic.

1. Alberta Health Services. (2020). Drug-Related Deaths in Alberta, 2018. Retrieved from
2. Government of Alberta. (2019). Drug and Alcohol Related Deaths in Alberta, 2017. Retrieved from

British Columbia:
1. British Columbia Coroners Service (2020). Drug Overdose Deaths in British Columbia, 2019 Report Summary and Recommendations for Action. Retrieved from
2. British Columbia Coroners Service (2020). Drug Overdose Deaths in British Columbia, 2018 Report Summary and Recommendations for Action. Retrieved from safety and emergency services / deaths and serious injuries / coroners service / statistical / drugoverdose18summaryrecommendationsforactionwebversionnov202018pdf

  • Alberta Health. (2020). Alberta COVID-19 Opioid Surveillance Report, Q2 2020.
    Edmonton, AB: Government of Alberta.
  • British Columbia Coroners Service. (2020). Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths in BC, January 1, 2010 – November 30, 2020.
    Victoria, BC: Government of British Columbia.


This tool allows users to view the weekly estimates of the number of deaths, expected number of deaths and excess mortality by province and territory. The data is updated on a weekly basis and can be filtered by date range, province/territory, age group and cause of death. The interactive visual tool also includes a chart that displays the trend in excess deaths over time for each province/territory.

This tool allows users to view the number of deaths by age group and sex, and by province and territory, for each week since the start of the pandemic. The data is presented in a graphical format, allowing users to easily identify trends in the number of weekly deaths.

Contact information

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 1-800-263-1136

Fax: 1-866-814-2239

  • General Inquiries:
  • Media Relations:
    • 613-951-4636