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Thomas StorringDirector – Economics and Statistics
Tel: 902-424-2410Email:

October 28, 2020

The first death attributed to COVID-19 in Canada was reported in British Columbia occurring on March 8, 2020. COVID-19 has caused the death of more than 10,000 people in Canada.

Statistics Canada has provided provisional information on deaths in Canada during the first 36 weeks of 2020 (up to September 2). The data does not include all deaths that occurred during the reference period.  Of note, Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan information is not fully complete for the latest weeks.  This includes deaths attributable to all causes; fluctuations from one week to the next may be attributable to many different causes of death. 

A comparison of deaths in 2020 with the number of deaths reported in similar weeks in previous years allows comparison with deaths in 2020 with deaths that are usually reported by week.  The number of deaths reported in each week is represented below as a ratio of deaths per 1 million residents (population as of January 1 of the year).

Across Canada, there was a period of excess mortality in April and early May.  This was concentrated in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.  There were also elevated deaths in Nova Scotia in the week ending April 25; Statistics Canada notes that deaths due to COVID-19 were reported in that week, but the total was affected by lives lost in the mass shooting on April 18-19.  From May to July, the levels of deaths in all provinces has fallen.  As of September, deaths per million residents are above recent years for British Columbia and Alberta and consistent with recent years in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Deaths per 1 million residents are below recent years for Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswickand Quebec.  Deaths per million residents were also lower than recent averages for Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, but the most recent data are not yet available for these provinces. 

Based on observed historical trends, Statistics Canada has also estimated the expected  number of deaths for each week in 2020 and compared this with observed deaths (adjusted where possible reflecting provisional data).  Estimates of expected deaths are presented with a 95 per cent confidence interval.  Data for New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are not available in the most recent weeks.

This analysis shows that Quebec experienced greater excess mortality than other provinces, well above the upper bound of confidence intervals for expected deaths in April and May.  Deaths were also elevated above expected values in Alberta and British Columbia, but not outside of confidence intervals for extended periods.  There were individual weeks with excess mortality at or above the upper bound of the confidence interval for expected deaths in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. 

In the most recent data, deaths are consistent with the upper and lower bounds of a 95% confidence interval in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Saskatchewan (missing last week of data).  Ontario deaths are also within expected ranges, but there has been no update since August 1.  Excess mortality is above the upper bound in New Brunswick (this data is from early July), Alberta and British Columbia.  Manitoba deaths are below expected ranges (data for the last two weeks of August are missing).


Source: Statistics Canada.  Table  13-10-0768-01   Weekly death counts, by age group and sexTable 13-10-0784-01 Adjusted number of deaths, expected number of deaths and estimates of excess mortality, by week



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