Are you calling me a Canadian? based on where I was born, or what I look like?
Canadian…. Hyphenated-Canadian… Pioneer descendant Canadian… Multi-generational Canadian… New Canadian…. Old Canadian…
How did we describe ourselves in the last Canadian census according to our ethnicitiy.
Octogenarian Gim Wong rode his motorcycle across Canada in 2005 to draw
attention to Chinese Head Tax Campaign. He put a sign on his motobike that said “Am I CANADIAN?”
Wong was born in Canada, but
couldn't vote until 1947, after many Canadians of Chinese ancestry had
fought for Canaada in WW2, and Canada repealed the Chinese Exclusion
Act, and gave voting franchise rights to Canadians born in Canada…
who just happened to have Chinese ancestry.
pictures: 1) Gim Wong's motorcyle in Ottawa, summer 2005; 2) Gim Wong with head tax certificate t-shirt; 3) Victor Wong, Gim Wong and Sid Tan with (seated) Charlie Quan and the first Chinese head tax ex-gratia payment cheques on Oct 21, 2006.
Okay Victor Wong didn't say “I am Chinese-Molson-Canadian”
… and probably Gim Wong wouldn't either.
But here's what Victor Wong did say about his ethnicity:
'Canadian' ethnicity popular option, particularly among 3rd generation: census
By Tobi Cohen, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – He doesn't fit the pasty white profile of “Joe” from the
famous Molson Canadian ad that promoted a cool new brand of patriotism,
but Victor Wong has a similar message – with a twist to match the new,
more colourful face of Canada.
“In terms of my nationality, I'm Canadian, but in terms of my
ethnicity, based on where I personally situate myself, I'm Chinese ”
said the second-generation immigrant and executive director of the
Chinese Canadian National Council.
“That is my mother tongue. It's the cultural group I identify with.
In terms of my typical features, others would identify me as a person
of Chinese descent.”
According to the latest census data released Wednesday, the number
of people who declared themselves Canadian, either alone or in
combination with another ancestry as did Wong, actually dropped
slightly since the last census.
But declaring oneself “Canadian” still remains a popular option.
In 2006, 32 per cent of respondents described themselves as all or
in part Canadian, slightly less than the 39 per cent who did the same
While 18.4 per cent declared themselves full-blooded Canadian, nearly 14 per cent opted for the hyphen.
Regions where people were most likely to declare themselves Canadian
tended to be those that were settled the earliest, or have had
relatively little recent immigration. More than 60 per cent of
Quebecers said they were at least partially Canadian, along with 46 per
cent of those in Atlantic Canada.
Statistics Canada analysts say the always fluid concept of ethnicity
has become even more complex in a country now made up of 223 different
“Respondents' understanding or views about their ethnicity,
awareness of their family background, number of generations in Canada,
the length of time since immigration and the social context at the time
of the census can all affect the reporting of ethnicity,” analysts said
in the census report.
The data shows third-generation Canadians – 90 per cent of them –
are most likely to identify themselves as at least partially Canuck,
putting Wong well ahead of the curve.
More than half of the second-generation immigrants reported a
European origin. First-generation immigrants were most likely to
identify themselves as Chinese, East Indian, Filipino or Vietnamese.
Whether born in Canada or elsewhere, visible minorities often have a
tough time shaking off the perception that they are an outsider, says
Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Winnipeg-based Islamic Social
A Pakistani native who has lived in Canada for the last 33 years,
Siddiqui said the “where are you from” question can be frustrating.
“I reach a point where I say I'm from Charleswood, which is a suburb of Winnipeg,” she jokes.
“It's important to people still to know where you're from because you look different.”
Siddiqui is also a Muslim and while she said her Canadian-born son
doesn't identify with Pakistan, he would use the hyphen to call himself
“One is faith, one is geographic identity,” she said.
Statistics Canada analyst Tina Chui said the census has been
collecting information on the ancestral origins of the population for
more than 100 years to try to capture the composition of Canada's
“We try to measure people's ethnic origins, not whether they are Canadian or not,” she said.
Some demographic experts have said answering Canadian to the
ancestry question on the census is more of a statement of patriotism
than a person's true ethnic origin.
Statistics Canada didn't list Canadian as an example until 1996 –
after a public campaign by some media organizations led to a large
number of write-in Canadian replies.
In fact, according to a 2005 Statistics Canada analysis, respondents
were for years “discouraged from describing their origins as Canadian.”
In 1996, when Canadian was offered as an example of ethnic origin
for the first time, some 31 per cent of respondents noted it as their
ethnic origin, a massive jump over 1991 when less than four per cent of
respondents described their roots that way.
Statistics Canada says it collects data on ethnic origins to meet a
widespread demand for it. The Department of Canadian Heritage uses it
to administer programs under the Multiculturaism Act. Governments,
community groups, ethnic and cultural organizations, school boards,
hospitals and researchers all use ethnicity data to assess how people
of different backgrounds have integrated into life in Canada.
“Ethnic origin data paints a picture of Canada's multicultural
communities and provides some of the most widely requested data from
the census,” said Chui.
University of Western Ontario sociology professor Rod Beaujot said
“Canadian” is meaningless and shouldn't be an option on the census.
“Canadian doesn't really help us with regard to understanding
ethnicity,” he said, recalling the census when the Sun tabloid
newspaper chain launched a campaign aimed at getting people to drop the
hyphen – an effort that totally skewed the data.
Canadian also has a different meaning in French, he said.
Whether it's meaningless or not, Australia and the United States –
two more countries built on immigration – also show an increasing
number of people reporting a national ethnicity.
According to the 2006 Australian census, 37 per cent of the
population reported Australian as their ethnic ancestry. Nearly 20
million people, about seven per cent of the population, reported
American as their ethnic ancestry in the 2006 American Community