Intermarriage: Dream Becomes Reality for a Visible Minority?

Article excerpt


The Japanese-Canadian community has witnessed a very high incidence of intermarriage among the members of the post-war generations for some rime. This research note first documents the incidence of intermarriage of members of this ethnic community across Canada using one measure of ethnicity: single ancestry rates. The result of the analysis indicates that intermarriage has indeed been occurring quite rapidly, more so than among many other ethnic groups in the country. The research also verifies that the single ancestry rate is related to the size of the group and of the salience of group membership. Thus, the smaller the relative size of the Japanese group, the higher the rate of out-group marriage for the group. If the rate continues to rise at the current rate, then what comes next? Is it possible to maintain Japanese Canadians' distinctive ethnic identity somehow?

La communaute japonaise canadienne est temoin de l'incidence tres elevee de l'intermariage parmi les membres des generations d'apres-guerre, depuis un certain temps. Cette note de recherches nous informe de l'incidence de rintermariage des membres des communautes ethniques a travers le Canada, urilisant une mesure d'appartenance ethnique: les taux simples d'ascendance. Le resultat de cette analyse indique que l'intermariage s'est en effet produit bien rapidement dans la communaute, plus que parmi beaucoup d'autres groupes dans le pays. Cette etude verifie egalement que le taux simple d'ascendance est lie a la taille du groupe et de l'importance de l'adhesion au groupe. Ainsi, plus la taille relative du groupe japonais est petite, plus le taux de mariage de hors-groupe pour le groupe est eleve. Qu'est-ce qui arrivera donc, si le taux continue a monter par rapport au taux actuel? Est-ce que l'identite ethnique distinctive parmi les Canadiens japonais disparaitra dans peu de temps?


As recently as 2001, members of the Japanese-Canadian community numbered approximately 85,000, according to official figures released by Statistics Canada. The figure was nearly 20,000 higher than the 1991 figure of 66,000. Japanese Canadians still comprise one of the smallest ethnic communities in Canada.

The definition of ethnicity in the 2001 Census was derived from the same question that respondents were asked in 1991: "To which ethnic or cultural group(s) did this person's ancestors belong?" The question is meant to assess the respondents' origins. When respondents name only one origin, the response is considered a single definition. For example, 53,175 gave Japanese as their only ethnic origin in 2001. Multiple identification occurrs when respondents provide more than one origin. Some 32,050 Canadians included Japanese and one or more other ethnic or cultural origins, representing almost two out of rive (37 percent) of the total number of Japanese Canadians (see Table 1).

Of all ethnically-defined Japanese Canadians, over half (55 percent) resided in two major population centres in the country--Metropolitan Toronto and Greater Vancouver. The remainder were widely scattered throughout numerous other Census Metropolitan Areas (hereafter CMAs) and cities across Canada. A largely fragmented community because of its small number and its physical dispersion, the demographic distribution pattern remained largely unchanged throughout the decades since the Second World War. This distribution pattern is, to a large extent, the result of a series of events that occurred over half a century ago--the forced internment and resettlement of members of this ethnic group during and after the war. The federal government's wartime policy discouraged Japanese Canadians from living together in the same geographic area, forcing them to disperse as widely as possible across Canada. It was an effective and successful policy; the Japanese-Canadian population was dispersed on as large a scale as it is today, forming an entirely different picture from that of the pre-World War II community. …