Sociology 211

October 27-29, 2004


Migration and ethnic relations.


A.  Introduction

B.  International migration – Isajiw, chapter 3

C.  Immigration to Canada – Isajiw, chapter 4

D.  Ethnic relations – Isajiw, chapter 2

E.  Incorporation of ethnic groups – Isajiw, chapter 5

·        Ethnic composition of Canadian population, Isajiw, ch. 2.

·        Immigrant adjustment and incorporation, Isajiw, pp. 94-107 and ch. 5.


After completing these parts, we will examine prejudice and racism, ch. 6 of Isajiw and chapters 4-7 of Fleras and Kunz.


D.  Ethnic composition and ethnic relations – Isajiw, chapter 2


The first part of chapter 2 of Isajiw, “Contemporary ethnic relations” deals with some of the more general issues considered near the start of the semester – economic history, labour markets, consumer society, globalization, increased labour force participation of women, mobility, education, and democracy (pp. 37-43).  Each of these is important in any discussion of issues in contemporary Canada, but we will not examine further at this point.  Further, issues in the short discussion of “Salient historical features” (pp. 43-47) have been discussed earlier.  You should be familiar with these, but we will only touch on the following issues again:


·        Canada as British colony with an elite strongly oriented toward Britain; a French elite that was relatively subordinate to the British until recently; a different history of development in United States frontier and that of Canada; and the dominance of elites in Canada. 


·        Canadian pluralism.  Isajiw provides a short history of British dominance, French-English dualism, and the forms that pluralism took in Canada.


Ethnic composition


The ethnic composition of a population is a product of establishment of territorial boundaries, population movements, and natural increase in each population group.  The boundaries of Canada have been relatively clearly defined since the nineteenth century, and natural increase has tended to become fairly similar for most of the different population groups, so the main factor that has affected the composition of the non-aboriginal population of Canada has been immigration.  For the aboriginal population, the history is that of decimation of the population, a slow recovery, and a recent, more rapid expansion of the population.  The immigration history of Canada and more recent immigration patterns provide one way to consider how the ethnic composition of Canada’s population has emerged and developed. 


Recent trends in immigration – Isajiw, pp. 92-93


Prior to 1967, immigration to Canada was primarily that of Europeans or, if they came through a third country such as the United States, people of European descent.  After the change in Canada’s immigration regulations in 1967, a change in the most common countries of origin began to occur, but it was slow to occur.   It was not really until the 1980s and 1990s that patterns began to change dramatically.  See Li, Destination Canada, Table 2.3. 


Table 1.  Ethnic origin of immigrants to Canada, 1946-1966



Per cent

Arab/west Asian




East Indian






























Other European




Note: Total number of immigrants was 2,698,763

Source:  Citizenship and Immigration, Facts and Figures, 1966. 

Table 14.  Origin of Post War Immigrant, 1946-1966


The table on immigration from 1946 to 1966 (Table 1) demonstrates that British immigrants (including Irish) dominated immigration, with large percentages of German, Italian, and Dutch immigrants.  In all, European origins appear to account for 90% plus of immigrants during this period.  The data from Table 2.3 of Li is constructed differently than Table 1, which shows the ethnic origin of immigrants, 1946-1966; Table 1 reports ethnicity of immigrant while Li’s table is country from which the immigrant came.


Li’s data shows that from 1968 to 1978, European immigrants still accounted for approximately one-half of all immigrants.  It has been the period since the late 1970s where immigration from other regions has expanded – the expansion has primarily been immigration of individuals and families from Asia, so Asia now accounts for over one-half of all immigrants to Canada. 


For the immigration year 2002, seven of the top ten source countries of immigrants are Asian countries, and immigration from Asia accounts for 51% of all immigrants.  See Table 5 of AR2003.  While Britain still makes the top ten source countries, but it just barely makes the list.  Immigrants in the various categories (skilled worker, business, family) tend to have the same distribution of origins, except for refugee class.   In the refugee class, there are more immigrants from Africa and South and Central America, and less from Europe and the United States, than in other classes of immigrants.  Specific countries that have experienced turmoil, such as Sudan, Somalia, and Yugoslavia are represented more highly in refugee than other immigrant flows. 


In terms of the immigrant population itself, as measured by the 2001 Census of Canada, there were 5.4 million people born outside of Canada, about 18 per cent, the highest level since 1931.  The largest number of immigrants originated in the United Kingdom, over 600,000.  Following this are China (330,000), Italy and India (315,000 each), the U.S. (240,000), Hong Kong (240,000), and the Philippines (230,000).  Poland, Germany, Portugal, Vietnam, Jamaica, and the Netherlands each have over 100,000.   But many of these immigrants are older immigrants, who immigrated many years ago.  Among more recent immigrants (last ten years), it is China, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Iran, and Taiwan, with over 30,000 each. 


In Saskatchewan, there were just under 50,000 immigrants in 2001, about five per cent of the population, with the UK and US being the origin of about one-third of these.  Other countries with over 2,000 were China, Germany, Poland, Philippines.  In terms of recent immigrants, it is China, US, UK, and the Philippines with the largest numbers. 


Ethnic composition – Isajiw, pp. 47-56


If there is a focus only on recent immigration, the impact of immigration can give a misleading picture of the ethnic composition of the Canadian population.  The bulk of the Canadian population is of European origin.  With 29.6 million people counted in the 2001 Census of Canada, the visible minority population was 4.0 million (13%) and the aboriginal population was 976 thousand (3.3%), so over 80% of the population of Canada was likely primarily European ancestry. 


For Saskatchewan, with 963 thousand people in 2001, 27 thousand (2.9%) were of visible minority origin, and 130 thousand (13.5%) were of aboriginal origin.  So again, over 80% of the population of this province was likely primarily European ancestry.


Measuring the ethnic composition of the population for the born in Canada population is a difficult and confusing matter.  Part of the problem is the “Canadian” response in the Census.  In the Census, respondents were asked to state their ethnic origin – To which ethnic or cultural group(s) did this person’s ancestors belong – but one possible response is to list yourself as simply Canadian.  This makes sense if that is how you think of yourself, but it makes it difficult to analyze ethnic origins.  In addition, to respond Canadian is really more an identity issue, than one of ancestry.  In the survey I conducted among undergraduate students at the University of Regina, I found that most students identified themselves as Canadian, but they were generally able to list their ethnic origins or ancestries. 


Following are the questions asked in each of these two sources.


2001 Census of Canada question 17.   To which ethnic or cultural group(s) did this person’s ancestors belong?  For example, Canadian, French, English, Chinese, Italian, German, Scottish, Irish, Cree, Micmac, Metis, Inuti (Eskimo), East Indian, Ukrainian, Dutch, Portuguese, Filipino, Jewish, Greek, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Chilean, Somali, etc.  



Survey of Student Attitudes and Experiences Fall 1998, University of Regina

42.   To what ethnic or cultural group(s) do your ancestors belong (e.g. German, Cree, Scottish, Chinese, Metis)?

          Ethnic or cultural group(s)  __________________________________________

43.   People describe themselves in a number of ways.  If you had to select only one of the following which would it be?

          Your ethnic origin (e.g. Irish, Chinese, etc.)          1

          An ethnic origin-Canadian (e.g. Irish-Canadian, Vietnamese-Canadian, etc.)          2

          Canadian          3

          Other (please specify)          ________________



The results from the student survey are given in the following two tables.  Table 1 shows that the greatest bulk of respondents indicated more than two ancestries, with many listing three or more.


Table 1. Distribution of respondents by number of ethnic or cultural groups mentioned (SSAE98)


Number of ethnic or cultural groups

Number of respondents

Per cent of respondents
























Table 2.  Distribution of respondents by ethnic identity (SSAE98)


Ethnic identity

Number of respondents

Per cent of respondents

Own ethnic group
















Table 2 gives the distribution of identities suggested by students.  Those who responded “own ethnic group” were often members of visible minorities or aboriginal students.  Respondents who gave “ethnic-Canadian” responses (e.g. Chinese-Canadian, German-Canadian) were primarily students whose ancestry indicates they were members of a visible minority.  Those who said “Canadian” were generally students with European ancestry – over 80 per cent of those who said Canadian were of European ancestry.  Those who said “Other” were primarily students with aboriginal ancestry.


A further issue is determining ethnicity is that some individuals may know or undertand the details concerning their ethnic origin.  One possibility is that it is very mixed, with no single ethnic origin.  In the past, the study of ethnicity tended to assume most people had a single ethnic ancestry, but this is less and less the case, especially in a country like Canada, and especially on the Prairies.  The student survey showed that many people had multiple ancestries, in fact more than had single ancestries.  Statistics Canada reports that 38% of the population reported multiple ancestries in the 2001 Census.


Table 3 of Isajiw may present the clearest picture of the overall ethnic composition, although it is now a bit out of date.  As Isajiw notes, no single group is a majority in terms of numbers, with those of British ancestry being the largest – about one-third of the total.  Those of French ancestry are next, about one-quarter of the total. In terms of shifts in ethnic origin, Isajiw points out the decline in the British proportion and the stability of the French.  Other Europeans have shown a gradual increase and those of other origins have increased (p. 56).  Other Europeans constitute another one-quarter, and the others, 15-20 per cent, are Asian, Caribbean, Latin American, Black, or African.  Those in these latter groups would constitute a larger percentage in 2001 than in 1991.  Among those of non-European origin, Chinese are the largest, at about 1.1 million.  Tables 2 and 4 present more details about specific countries of ethnic origin.


More up to date data come from Table 7.1-7.3 of Li.  Table 7.1 presents an overview of the 1921 to 1971 period, with European ethnicities accounting for 96 per cent of the population until 1971.  After 1971, the situation changes, so that non-British non-French become an increasing percentage of the total, but the main feature within this group is the declining importance of those of European origin.  By 1991, Europeans accounted for only about one-half of this group.  By 1996, this trend had continued, although the introduction of the “Canadian” origin, makes it difficult to sort out which groups are more heavily represented.


For Saskatchewan in 2001, if both single and multiple origins are considered, Germans constitute the largest group, with Canadian, English, Scottish, Irish, Ukrainian, French, and North American Indian being the largest groups.  From Table 6, the Prairies account for large percentages of those of Western, Northern, and Eastern European ancestry, as well as those of aboriginal ancestry.  Southern Europeans are more concentrated in Ontario.  Asians are more heavily represented in British Columbia and those from the Americas more heavily concentrated in Ontario. 


Canada’s ethnocultural portrait: the changing mosaic, a Statistics Canada analysis of the results from the 2001 census, also highlights Regina and Saskatoon as having the highest proportion of those of German ancestry, about one-third in each case.  Approximately five per cent of the Winnipeg population is Filipino in origin, and Winnipeg has ten per cent of all Filipinos in Canada.  Unlike many other cities, the percentage of immigrants in Winnipeg and Regina declined between 1991 and 2001, likely reflective of the smaller number of immigrants coming to these cities and the aging of the older immigrant population. 


Regional issues – Isajiw, pp. 56-57


As Isajiw notes, it is the expansion of jobs that is often associated with when and where people move.  Since many of the migrants are likely to be immigrants, the ethnic composition of a region is connected to the history of economic and labour force development of the region.  The age of the ethnic group may also be connected to this.  Isajiw notes how the Prairies attracted many immigrants in the early 1900s, as agricultural settlement and economic development occurred.  But later on it was the industrial expansion of Quebec and Ontario that attracted immigrants.  More recently, it has been the three largest cities and parts of Alberta that have had most immigration. 


Toronto has the largest percentage of foreign-born population of any major urban centre in the world, with 44% of Toronto’s 2001 population born outside Canada.  Most of these foreign born (eight in ten) were members of visible minorities.  As a result, one-quarter of the Toronto population is Asian, and one-half of Canada’s blacks live in Toronto, about 7% of the population.  While Winnipeg had the largest proportion of Filipinos, because of the much larger size of Toronto’s population, Toronto actually has more Filipino immigrants.  Of the urban areas in Canada, Vancouver has the largest percentage of visible minorities – 37% of Vancouver’s population is visible minority, with Chinese, East Indian/Pakistani, Filipino, Korean, or Japanese being the largest groups.   As a result, 40% of the population of Vancouver was born outside Canda.


Age, ethnicity, and generations.  Future outlook  Isajiw, p. 90


The age of an ethnic group is a combination of (i) the current age structure of the immigrant population, (ii) when new immigrants from that group enter Canada, and (iii) birth and death rates of the group.  It may sometimes be difficult to sort through these different factors, but a young ethnic group is likely to expand for some time while an older ethnic group is more likely to decline.  The reasons for this include continued immigration of the younger ethnic groups as well as the younger ages for the members of this group.  It is those at the younger ages who are have children and may be part of continued flows of immigrants, from family reunification and other networks. 


For the population of aboriginal origin, it is the relatively high fertility rate, along with a relatively low mortality rate, that has produced the young population.  Table 7 of Isajiw shows that over one-half of the aboriginal population is under age 25.  In contrast, for those of single origin, Northern European ancestry, only 15% is under age 25 – this is an old population with low fertility. 


Social and political implications – pp. 57-59


Younger groups – more likely to be self-assertive and less willing to have minority or inferior status in a society.  These groups also have the potential to expand more, through high fertility or continued immigration. 


Older groups may be more conservative and less likely to push for change.




1st generation – immigrants themselves

2nd generation – children of immigrants

3rd generation – children of children of immigrants / their grandparents were immigrants

This is not a strict division, since some of the second generation may have been born outside Canada but came as small children.  The difference in generations is important in considering the different problems associated with integration into Canadian society.  Each generation has a different set of experiences and problems to face.  Possibility of various intergenerational forms of conflict can also emerge.


Religious diversity – see Isajiw, pp. 59-61.  This is not the topic of the course, but religion is often closely connected with immigration.  Immigrants often have been raised within a particular religious tradition and have practiced this religion prior to their arrival in Canada.  For many of these immigrants, religion is very important in their personal and family lives, for friends and community, and as a means of expressing themselves.  European immigrants came to Canada with a variety of religions – in Canada they established religious institutions such as churches and synagogues and continued to practice their religion.  More recent immigrants bring with them some religions and religious practices that differ from those of earlier immigrants.  As a result, there has been an increase in the diversity of religions in Canada. 


Isajiw provides a summary description of religious diversity in Canada, through 1991, in Table 8, p. 60.  An overall summary from that table is that Catholic is the largest religion in Canada, with 46% of the population classifying themselves as Catholics.  The various Protestant denominations, with 36% of the population, constitute the next largest group. 

The other groups, such as Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and Orthodox, each account for less than 1.5% of the population.   In 1991, 12.5% of the population said they had no religious affiliation. 


The updated figures from the 2001 Census of Canada are as follows.  See the Census Analysis Series publication 2001 Census: analysis series.  Religion in Canada. 


            Roman Catholic            43.2%

            Protestant                    29.2%

            Muslim             2.0%

            Jewish                           1.1%

            Buddhist                       1.0%

            Hindu                           1.0%

            Sikh                             0.9%

            No religion                       16.2%

Other                             5.4%


In Saskatchewan, Protestants dominate, with 46.6% of the population;  Roman Catholic is the religion of 29.8%; other Christian constitutes 4.3%; Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Sikh account for less than one-half of one per cent each, for a total of only 1%; 15.4% of the population said they had no religion.


In terms of generation and age, Protestants and Jewish are the oldest religions, Catholics, Hindu, and Buddhist somewhat younger, and Sikh and Muslim the youngest religions.  Given this, and current immigration patterns, it seems likely that the future direction of religious diversity will be for Catholics to maintain a large presence in the country, while Protestants will become a declining percentage.  Hindus, Buddhists, Sikh, and Muslim will likely expand in percentages.  Finally, there appears to be a continuing shift to those stating they have no religion – this will likely continue to be an increasing percentage of the population, perhaps reducing the numbers of those expressing all the other religious affiliations.




Adachi, Ken.  1976.  The Enemy that Never Was: A History of the Japanese Canadians, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart.  FC3850 J3 A33


Li, Peter S.  2003.  Destination Canada: Immigration Debates and Issues, Don Mills, Ontario, Oxford University Press.



Last edited October 31, 2004.