Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Ethnoracial Minorities in the Canadian House of Commons: The Case of the 36th Parliament

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Ethnoracial Minorities in the Canadian House of Commons: The Case of the 36th Parliament

Article excerpt


This essay represents another installment in a continuing analysis of how Parliament has been evolving to reflect the minority ethnoracial diversity that characterizes Canadian society. It classifies the backgrounds of MPs elected in 1997 to the 36th Parliament using a multiple methods approach that was originally devised to categorize the origins of MPs elected in 1993. The investigation reveals that there has been only a modest increase in the number of minorities elected in 1997 compared to 1993, and that this is mainly due to more visible minorities winning seats. At the same time, taking their share of the population into account, it is quite clear that visible minorities remain numerically underrepresented in Parliament. There is also evidence of modest shifts in the kinds of minority MPs elected, particularly with regard to gender balance and party affiliation.

Cet essai constitue une autre partie d'une analyse soutenue sur comment le Parlement est en train d'evoluer pour reflecter la diversite des minorites [much less than]ethnoraciales[much greater than] qui caracterise la societe canadienne. L'etude classifie les origines des deputes elus en 1997 au [36.sup.eme] Parlement en utilisant une approche composee par plusieurs methodes, concue pour classer par categories les origines des deputes elus en 1993. L'enquete revele que, comparee 1993, il y a eu uniquement une augmentation moderee du nombre des minorites elues en 1997, et ceci surtout grace la proportion plus elevee de minorites visibles ayant gagne un siege. En meme temps, si l'on considere leur pourcentage dans la population en general, il est evident que les minorities visibles restent encore numeriquement sous-representees au Parlement. Il semble aussi prouve qu'il y a des changements mineurs dans la typologie des deputes elus provenant des minorities, surtout en ce qui a trait a l'equilibre dans la representative des sexes et a l'affil iation au parti politique.


The 35th Parliament that was organized following the 1993 election surely figures prominently as a major reference point in discussion and commentary about how the House of Commons, traditionally dominated by those of British and French ancestry, has increasingly come to reflect the ethnoracial diversity in the population at large. Not only did a record-setting seventy-one individuals with a minority background become MPs (as did another twenty-seven with mixed majority-minority ancestry), but their rate of entry into Parliament was also unprecedented. (1) Whereas over the 1965-1988 period, minorities had only modestly enhanced their presence in Parliament from one election to the next (typically doing so in increments of about a percentage point or so, such as from 15.6 percent to 16.3 percent between 1984 and 1988), (2) they came to hold 24.1 percent of the seats in 1993 (33.2 percent if those of mixed background are included).

The 1993 election was also notable for the attainment of record highs among both the traditional ethnic groups of European descent and visible minorities. In fact, the increase for the former was sufficient to bring about proportionality between their share of seats and their population incidence (though variations in representation remained at the group-specific level). By contrast, visible minorities still remained numerically underrepresented in Parliament. Even though they had nearly tripled their numbers from 1988 to 1993 -- specifically, from five to thirteen MPs -- this amounted to only 4.4 percent of the House's membership compared to an estimated population share of 9.4 percent. (3)

This article adds a new "datum point" to the time line in the study of how minorities have fared in entering the national legislature. Its contribution comes firstly from a determination of the ethnoracial composition of the 36th Parliament constituted following the 1997 general election, and from comparing the distribution with that of the 35th Parliament. …

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