Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Vertical Mosaic among the Elites: The New Imagery Revisited

Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Vertical Mosaic among the Elites: The New Imagery Revisited

Article excerpt

THE OVER-REPRESENTATION of British and the under-representation of French and "other" ethnic groups amongst Canadian elites has been a part of the Canadian academic consciousness since the publication of Porter's Vertical Mosaic (1965), Clement's Canadian Corporate Elite (1975) and Olsen's State Elite (1980). Recently, in a series of articles and commentary, Ogmundson (1990; 1992; 1993) and Ogmundson and McLaughlin (1992; 1994) have raised doubts about the "verisimilitude" of the earlier data, suggesting that Canadian students and scholars should "revise" and "abandon" conventional wisdom regarding British dominance in Canadian elites. Moreover, they have provided new data intended to substantiate these suggestions.

This paper demonstrates that Ogmundson and McLaughlin's (1992) conclusions are misleading because they ignore changes in the ethnic composition of the Canadian population. This is an important omission, given the Canadian population dynamic in which the British share of the total population has continually declined and that of the "third" ethnic group has increased. The shift in the ethnic composition of the Canadian population has been particularly drastic since the Immigration Acts of 1967 and 1976.

I intend to utilize the ethnic elite representation data provided by Ogmundson and McLaughlin (1992), to standardize them by taking into account the change in the ethnic population of Canada (consistent with Porter's, Clement's and Olsen's tradition) and to show that there has been little, if any, decline in British dominance among the Canadian (particularly economic) elites. I will also show that French and "other" ethnic representation among elites, relative to their populations, has increased but is consistent with traditional imagery: they are still under-represented relative to their population base.

The Traditional Imagery

Porter's study of 760 persons in the economic elites revealed that 701 were of British origin, 51 were French, six were Jews and two were of "other" ethnic groups. He concluded that "economic power belongs almost exclusively to those of British origin, even though this ethnic group made up less than half of the population in 1951" (1965: 286). Similarly, for 1972, Clement (1975a) showed that there was little "ethnic" representation among the economic elites. French Canadians, although constituting approximately one-third of the Canadian population, made up only 8.4% of the 775 persons in the economic elites. Other ethnic groups, about a quarter of the Canadian population, constituted 5.4% of the elites. The British, who constituted about 45% of the population, represented more than 86% of the economic elites (see also Presthus, 1973: 56). Thus, by dividing the ethnic proportion of the elite by the corresponding proportion of the Canadian population, Clement was able to show that the British index of representation in the economic elite remained virtually the same from 1951 to 1972, at 1.93 (1975a: 234; 1975b: 46).

Porter also substantiated a similar pattern of British dominance among the political elites. He identified 157 persons in the political elites between 1940-1960, of which 21.7% were French, and only 3.2% were from other ethnic groups. "Thus in the political system the British, with about 75 per cent of the elite, have kept their charter group status more or less intact" (1965: 389). Olsen replicated Porter's methodology for 1961-1973, and identified 159 members of the political elite, of which 67.9% were British, 24.5% were French and 7.6% were members of other ethnic groups. He concluded that although the British proportion was down 7% from the Porter study, "this group with 45 per cent of the Canadian population, is strongly over-represented and still holds the dominant position" (Olsen, 1980: 22).

Porter (1965: 441) similarly pointed out British dominance among the federal bureaucratic elites in 1953. Of a total of 202 persons in this category, 84% were British and 13. …

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