With Test nations England and New Zealand lying in wait, this fixture appeared to represent both the Africans' and the North Americans' best chance of a victory.
In the end Kenya, the shock semi-finalists of four years ago, won decisively. Chasing 200 to win, they finished on 203 for for three with 40 balls to spare.
Experienced skipper Tikolo was 72 not out after opener Maurice Ouma had made 58. Tanmay Mishra was unbeaten on 35.
Tikolo had already had a good day in the field.
After winning the toss, he was one of three Kenyan spinners who between them took five wickets for 78 runs in 29 overs as Canada's innings slowed to a crawl after a solid start.
"All in all it was a good game," Tikolo said.
"Up front we gave away too many runs but the spinners pulled it back in the middle to restrict them. Then when we batted, Maurice Ouma batted brilliantly. Then myself and Mishra just finished off the game."
Canada captain John Davison, who said aspects of his side's play were "embarrassing" and labelled the running between the wickets that led to three late run-outs "village", was understandably downbeat.
"There weren't too many positives for us. Once Geoff Barnett (41) was out, I don't think we competed for the rest of the game. That pretty much sums it up. It didn't click."
Canada bowled 18 wides and two no-balls and Davison added: "I don't think we've bowled that many extras in a game for a long time. Maybe the pressure of the occasion got to us."
Ouma started positively, pulling 40-year-old former West Indies fast bowler Anderson Cummins for four.
Kenya's key partnership was a third-wicket stand of 67 between Ouma and Tikolo which took Kenya into three figures from 52 for two.
Ouma completed a 71-ball fifty with one six and six fours. But his stand with Tikolo ended when he chipped former Guyana left-arm spinner Sunil Dhaniram to Ashif Mulla at mid-on.
However, Tikolo, in his fourth World Cup, was untroubled as he made a typically stylish fifty off 56 balls with one six and five fours - his 19th one-day international half-century.
Tight slow bowling from Kenya - featuring Tikolo's two for 34 off nine overs - had earlier restricted Canada to 199 all out.
Off-spinner Jimmy Kamande was the pick of the attack, taking a superb two for 25 from his full 10 overs.
Left-armer Hiren Varaiya was also impressive with one for 19 from 10 on his World Cup debut.
Canada were looking good while opener Barnett was at the crease but their innings became bogged down when he was out.
However, Dhaniram added impetus late on with an unbeaten 34 off 35 balls, including a six and three fours, to give Canada's bowlers hope.
Left-hander Barnett, who played first-class cricket during the 2006-07 season for New Zealand's Central Districts, had stroked five fours off the 14th over, bowled by first change Nehemiah Odhiambo, with the pick a straight drive down the ground.
Barnett was in sight of a fifty when he holed out.
Going for a big pick-up off paceman Peter Ongondo, Barnett was well caught on the long leg boundary by Mishra.
Barnett faced 50 balls with nine fours.
Davison, who scored the fastest World Cup hundred of all-time, off 67 balls, against the West Indies at Centurion during the 2003 tournament, was bowled for eight by Kamande's off-breaks.
Canada are in action again on Sunday when they play England with Kenya's next match on Tuesday against New Zealand.
Fall of wickets: 1-40 (Samad), 2-73 (Barnett), 3-102 (Bagai), 4-115 (Davison), 5-127 (Ali), 6-146 (Billcliff), 7-175 (Mulla), 8-185 (Bhatti), 9-187 (Cummins), 10-199 (Osinde)
Did not bat: C Obuya, T Odoyo, J Kamande, N Odhiambo, P Ongondo, H Varaiya
Fall of wickets: 1-28 (DO Obuya), 2-52 (Shah), 3-119 (Ouma)
Result: Kenya won by seven wickets
Points Kenya 2, Canada 0
Umpires: Asad Rauf (PAK) and Peter Parker (AUS)
TV umpire: Billy Doctrove (WIS)
Match referee: Mike Procter (RSA)
Reserve umpire: Rudi Koertzen (RSA)