Measuring Ethnocultural Diversity Using the Canadian Census

By Bourhis, Richard Y. | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview
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Measuring Ethnocultural Diversity Using the Canadian Census


Bourhis, Richard Y., Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


ABSTRACT/RESUME

The first part of this paper provides an overview of the circumstances which help account for the development of "ethnic origin" and "visible minority" questions in the Canadian Census. The second part reviews aspects of the debate which occurred in Canada and France on the advantages and disadvantages of using ethnic origin and visible minority items in census questionnaires. Finally, selective features of ethnocultural diversity in Quebec are provided, based on responses to ethnic diversity and visible minority questions used in the Canadian census. This overview shows that census questions dealing with linguistic, cultural, and visible minority background complement each other and can help government decision makers, ethnocultural communities, NGOs, and scholars address key diversity issues within Canadian society.

La premiere partie de cet article off re un apercu des circonstances historiques et politiques qui ont contribue al elaboration des questions portant surl' <> et les <> dans le recensement du Canada. La deuxieme partie passe en revue divers aspects du debat souleve en France et au Canada concernant les avantages et desavantages de l'inclusion de questions surl 'origine ethnique et les minorites visibles dans les questionnaires de recensement. L'article se termine par une breve analyse des donnees du recensement de 2001 portant sur la diversite ethnoculturelle au Quebec. Ce bref tour d'horizon demontre que les questions du recensement canadien portent sur la langue, l'origine ethnique et les minorites visibles sont complementaires et permettent aux decideurs gouveroementaux, aux membres des communautes culturelles, aux ONG et aux universitaires de mieux gerer les defis lies a la diversite culturelle au Canada.

INTRODUCTION

   Data available in Canada on ethnicity are rich, pertain to a long
   period of time, and are of high quality--of very high quality when
   compared internationally. Krotki and Reid, 1994, p. 17

The first part of this paper provides an overview of the circumstances which help account for the development of "ethnic origin" and "visible minority" questions in the Canadian census. The second reviews aspects of the debate which occurred in Canada and France on the advantages and disadvantages of using ethnic origin and visible minority items in census questionnaires. Selective features of ethnic diversity in Quebec, based on responses to ethnic origin and visible minority questions included in the Canadian census, are then outlined.

THE CONTEXT OF "ETHNIC ORIGIN" AND "VISIBLE MINORITY" QUESTIONS IN THE CANADIAN CENSUS

There are a number of historical and sociological circumstances which help account for the development of ethnic origin and visible minority questions in the Canadian census. Some key circumstances are discussed below in the order of their historical emergence as the linguistic, ethnic, and religious composition of Canada changed during the last century.

Canada has a long tradition of tracking the demolinguistic fate of its "two founding people": those of French descent and those of British descent. The European colonisation of what is now Canada began with immigrants from France who established settlements and trading posts in "La Nouvelle France" beginning in the sixteenth century. Following the military defeat of the French and the signing of the treaty of Paris in 1763, the colony changed hands and became part of the British Empire. The establishment of the Dominion of Canada rested on the fragile coexistence of British and French immigrants. The French, concentrated in the Province of Quebec, were granted their own Parliament and tax-levying powers. They also obtained the right to maintain the French language and Catholic religion through the control of their own institutions (Quebec Act 1774). The stability of this French-English political co-existence in the Dominion of Canada proved to be particularly important for the British Crown during the American War of Independence in the 1770s.

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