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Ethnic Groups, Ethnic Composition

Chinese Canadians, Canadian immigration policy, Prairie provinces, Asian immigration, French Canadians

The ethnic composition of the Canadian people is diverse. The two largest groups, those of British and French origin, comprised respectively about 35 and 25 percent of the population at the 1996 census. The majority of French Canadians live in Quebec, where they make up about 80 percent of the population. Significant numbers also live in Ontario and New Brunswick. The remaining French Canadians are thinly scattered through the rest of Canada, but there are a few concentrations, such as the Saint Boniface district of Winnipeg, which is home to some 45,000 French speakers.

While French Canadians form a cultural group, based on their language, history, and religion, British Canadians do not. The four nationalities of the British Isles—English, Scots, Welsh, and Irish—all had different histories, belonged to various religions, and developed different attitudes. While an economic elite of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, mostly of English and Scots background, has dominated the business and industry of every province, even Quebec, they are a minority of British Canadians.

About 20 percent of Canadians trace their ancestry to other European countries; the most prominent of these are Germany, Italy, Ukraine, and the Netherlands. Another 8 to 10 percent are of Asian origin, particularly from Hong Kong, India, China, and Taiwan. The remainder of the population is of various ethnic origins, such as American, Latin American, and African.

Many of these groups have settled in uneven geographic patterns. For example, Canadian immigration policy focused on Europeans during the early 20th century, a time of vigorous western settlement; as a result, the proportion of European Canadians in the Prairie provinces is especially high. More recently, Asian immigration has coincided with the growth of the largest metropolitan centers—Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver—and thus Chinese Canadians and Indo-Canadians are most visible there.

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