English Canadian - Ethnic Composition

Ethnic Composition

The 2001 Census of Canada provides information about the ethnic composition of English-speaking Canadians. This "refers to the ethnic or cultural group(s) to which the respondent's ancestors belong". However, interpretation of data is complicated by two factors.

  • Respondents were instructed to specify as many ethnic origins as applicable. Thus, if one has seven great-grandparents of English descent and one of Welsh descent, one will answer "English" and "Welsh" to this question, and in this example the representation of Welsh ancestry is exaggerated. This method is likely to lead to overrepresentation of smaller groups compared to the method in use until 1976, in which only paternal ancestry was reported.If on the other hand one restricts attention to single responses, groups which have arrived in Canada more recently will be overrepresented compared to groups which have been present longer.
  • Non-Aboriginal respondents are not discouraged from providing responses denoting origins in North America. The most frequent of these is "Canadian". The response "Canadian" is in fact provided as an example in the census instructions, based on its frequency in past surveys.

See the definition of "ethnic origin" from the 2001 Census dictionary for further information.

The data in the following tables pertain to the population of Canada reporting English as its sole mother tongue, a total of 17,352,315 inhabitants out of 29,639,035. A figure for single ethnic origin responses is provide, as well as a total figure for ethnic origins appearing in single or multiple responses (for groups exceeding 2% of the total English-speaking population). The sum of the percentages for single responses is less than 100%, while the corresponding total for single or multiple responses is greater than 100%. The data are taken from the 2001 Census of Canada.

Ethnic group Total
Total 17,352,315 100.0%
Canadian 6,244,055 36.0% 3,104,955 17.9%
English 5,809,805 33.5% 1,464,430 8.4%
Scottish 4,046,325 23.3% 592,825 3.4%
Irish 3,580,320 20.6% 457,985 2.6%
German 2,265,505 13.1% 385,760 2.2%
French 1,993,100 11.5% 158,400 0.9%
Ukrainian 877,690 5.1% 188,830 1.1%
Dutch 749,945 4.3% 184,415 1.1%
North American Indian 713,925 4.1% 280,795 1.6%
Italian 670,300 3.9% 234,610 1.4%
Polish 555,740 3.2% 72,110 0.4%
Norwegian 350,085 2.0% 38,980 0.2%

The remaining ethnic groups (single or multiple responses) forming at least 1% of the English-speaking population are Welsh (2.0%), Swedish (1.5%), Hungarian (1.5%), East Indian (1.4%), Métis (1.4%), Jewish (1.4%), Russian (1.4%), American (1.3%), Jamaican (1.2%) and Chinese (1.1%). The remaining ethnic groups (single response) forming at least 0.5% of the English-speaking population are East Indian (1.0%), Jamaican (0.8%) and Chinese (0.6%).

Depending on the principal period of immigration to Canada and other factors, ethnic groups (other than British Isles, French, and Aboriginal ones) vary in their percentage of native speakers of English. For example, while a roughly equal number of Canadians have at least partial Ukrainian and Chinese ancestry, 82% of Ukrainian Canadians speak English as their sole mother tongue, and only 17% of Chinese Canadians do (though this rises to 34% in the 0 to 14 age group). As the number of second and third-generation Chinese Canadians increases, their weight within the English-speaking population can also be expected to increase. It should also be borne in mind that some percentage of any minority ethnic group will adopt French, particularly in Quebec.

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