Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Bridging and Bonding: Ethnic Background and Voluntary Association Activity in Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Bridging and Bonding: Ethnic Background and Voluntary Association Activity in Canada

Article excerpt


This paper is the first Canadian analysis to consider voluntary association activity among a large array of ethnic groups, using national sample survey data and applying multivariate controls. Findings from the Economy, Security, and Community Survey of 2000 indicate that most of Canada's major ethnic or racial minority groups differ little in their average number of voluntary association involvements. The main exceptions are relatively low levels of association membership for Latin/Central/South Americans and East Asians, especially before controls, and quite high levels for the Jewish minority. Further analyses reveal that minorities are more likely than other groups to join associations related to their own particular ethnic group and that this partly accounts for the relatively small differences in overall voluntary activity between ethnic minorities, on the one hand, and non-minorities, such as North/West European and British respondents, on the other hand. The implications of these results for understanding the "bridging" and "bonding" roles of voluntary associations in Canadian society are briefly discussed.


Cet article presente la premiere analyse canadienne sur les activites d'associations de benevolat au sein d'un grand nombre de groupes ethniques, a partir d'une enquete de 2000 sur l'economie, la securite et les communautes, portant sur un echantillon national et y appliquant des controles multivariables. Selon les resultats obtenus, au Canada l'engagement dans ces associations n'est en moyenne guere different pour la plupart des groupes, qu'ils appartiennent a des majorites ethniques ou a des minorites raciales. Les principales exceptions sont soit des niveaux relativement bas de membres, quand ils viennent d'Amerique latine / centrale / du Sud et d'Asie de l'Est, en particulier avant les controles, soit des niveaux nettement plus eleves dans la minorite juive. Des analyses plus poussees revelent que dans les minorites, on se joindra plus qu'ailleurs a des associations reliees a son propre groupe ethnique, d'ou en partie les differences, somme toute mineures, dans les activites de benevolat en general entre les deux : minorites ethniques d'une part, et non- minorites d'autre part, telles qu'Europeens du Nord et de l'Ouest, ainsi que britanniques. Nous examinons brievement ce qu'impliquent ces resultats qui permettent de comprendre les roles de "relais" et de "liaison" que jouent les associations benevoles dans la societe canadienne.


Over the years, social scientists have been keenly interested in understanding patterns of ethnic relations in Canada. Of particular concern in many previous studies has been the problem of how different ethnic groups can sustain or protect their distinct identities, while also achieving relatively full acceptance and integration into the wider society (see Breton 2005; Breton et al. 1990, 2004; Helmes-Hayes and Curtis 1998).

One question that has significant implications for this problem, but which to date has received only limited attention, is whether and how ethnic groups differ in their levels of involvement in voluntary associations. Breton's (1964) classic work on "institutional completeness" suggests that there is a strong impetus for ethnic minorities to develop their own distinct community organizations and related institutions, as one key means for protecting their cultural heritage, and for fulfilling their particular needs and interests (see also Breton 1990; 2005, 188-89; Reitz 1980, 215-25). Other scholars have suggested that membership in ethnically based voluntary organizations can provide "bonding" forms of social support within individual ethnic communities, while, at the same time, membership in more general types of voluntary association can foster "bridging" networks, which reduce the barriers separating ethnic enclaves from one another and from the wider society as a whole (e. …

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