That's up significantly from December's rate of 1.2 per cent.
Economists had expected the inflation rate to edge up slightly to 1.3 per cent.
Statistics Canada said seven of the eight major components of the consumer price index were up from a year ago. Higher electricity and insurance costs pushed up shelter costs. Rising gasoline prices increased transportation costs.
Gas prices jumped 4.6 per cent in January and rose another 4.7 per cent in December.
Core inflation, which excludes the most volatile items in the consumer price index, increased slightly to 1.4 per cent last month. The core rate had been 1.3 per cent in December.
The Canadian dollar was down 0.41 cents to 89.69 cents US.
In a statement accompanying its last interest rate decision in January, the Bank of Canada said it expected inflation to remain lower than previously anticipated for the next little while.