The Red Roses began the contest in fine form, striking first blood through Marlie Packer in the ninth minute.
When Abby Dow found her way across the line just four minutes later, it looked like the world number one side were on track for a landslide victory.
However, amateurs Canada refused to roll over, breathing life into their game through a try from Karen Paquin in the 22nd minute.
Both teams traded points throughout the rest of the first half, with England keeping a narrow 15-12 advantage at half-time.
England pushed their lead out to six through an Emily Scarratt penalty in the early stages of the second half, and maintained the ascendancy with Dow’s second five-pointer in the 50th minute.
The match then settled into an arm wrestle until Tyson Beukeboom scored in the 68th minute to keep Canada’s hopes alive.
Penalty conversions for each side kept the scoreboard rolling over until England were ultimately able to repel a late offensive from Canada and secure the thrilling victory.