Ethnic Groups and Marital Choices: Ethnic History and Marital Assimilation in Canada, 1871 and 1971

Ethnic Groups and Marital Choices: Ethnic History and Marital Assimilation in Canada, 1871 and 1971

Ethnic Groups and Marital Choices: Ethnic History and Marital Assimilation in Canada, 1871 and 1971

Ethnic Groups and Marital Choices: Ethnic History and Marital Assimilation in Canada, 1871 and 1971

Synopsis

Since the late nineteenth century, the rate of intermarriage between members of different European ethnic and cultural groups in Canada has increased and resulted in a gradual blending of these communities. This book, the first detailed comparative study of ethno-religious intermarriage, provides the background for understanding the dynamics of intermarriage in a culturally pluralistic society like Canada. Using, for the first time, data from the 1871 Census of Canada in conjunction with data from the 1971 Census, Madeline Richard delineates the general patterns of ethnic intermarriage in 1871 and 1971 and specifically considers the trends for the English, Irish, Scotch, French, and Germans. Choosing a number of characteristics, such as level of literacy, nativity, age, and place of residence, for the husbands, the author determines the odds for their marrying outside their communities. She also examines the socio-demographic characteristics, such as group size, sex ratio, per cent urban, and level of literacy of each group to determine the marriage patterns of the husbands. Richard's findings confirm that marital assimilation was occurring to some extent as early as 1871 and that the rate of intermarriage has doubled since then. Of particular interest are the major shifts exhibited by Irish, Scottish, and German husbands, who in 1871 overwhelmingly married within their community, while in 1971 they typically found their mates outside. This book is not only about marital patterns; it is also about the ethnic groups themselves. It gives detailed descriptions of the English, Irish, Scottish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Scandinavian, Ukrainian, and other groups -- their immigration history, settlement patterns, and socio-demographic characteristics as these all have some bearing on patterns of mate selection.

Excerpt

Assimilation has been a major concern of politicians, as well as sociologists and other social scientists, since the early 1900s. Woodsworth, for example, stated that 'we in Canada, have certain more or less clearly defined ideals of national well-being' and that 'these ideals must never be lost sight of. Non-ideal elements there must be, but they should be capable of assimilation' (1909:278). During the 1960s and 1970s, however, there seemed to be a greater awareness of, and a concern for, ethnic survival throughout the world. Americans referred to it as an 'ethnic revival,' but in Canada it was seen I primarily as a cultural movement' (Reitz 1980:44). The government's policy of multiculturalism, 'which is regarded as an expression of a desire to respect and preserve ethnic heritage for its own sake' (ibid.), is a case in point. However, the programs announced had as much to do with removing barriers to full participation in Canadian society and with inter-cultural activity, and therefore with assimilation, as it did with the preservation of ethnic heritages. There is, it seems, a basic contradiction between the name given to the policy, that is, multiculturalism, and what in fact happens. As Burnet (1987) points out, the maintenance of the many cultures in Canada is not possible. Moreover, no ethnic or cultural group can maintain all that it brings to a new land, but 'it is ethnic identity that can and does persist, and selected cultural patterns as symbolic expression of that identity' (ibid.: 70).

This renewed interest in ethnicity has brought the inevitability and necessity for assimilation into question, especially by ethnic groups themselves, but the dominant fact of life remains one of social mobility and socio-economic assimilation into the large institutional structures of Canadian society. It is true that immigrants . . .

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