Identity Shifts


Language and immigration help to shape ethnic identities in Canada. It has been argued that “Canadian” has yet to become its own ethnic origin (Kalbach, 4).

Time Magazine Cover

The Time Magazine cover from February 13, 1978 depicts Prime Minister Trudeau and Quebec Premier Levesque . Source: Time Magazine

From British to Canadian

As the dominance of the British empire further waned after World War II, English speaking leaders in Canada sought to build a distinct Canadian identity. This realization coincided with the “Quiet Revolution” in Quebec in the 1960s.  During that time, the province experienced economic prosperity which led to some urgings for secession (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity). As a result of these tense moments, coupled with a new wave of non-European immigration, the Multiculturalism Act was born (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity).




Immigration  to Canada by Region

Immigration to Canada by Region

By 1967 strict limitations on immigration were repealed, allowing for an influx of Asian and other non-European peoples into Canada. By now, many sources claim that these immigrant identities outnumber British and French descended Canadians (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity).

Language and Multiculturalism

Language spoken at home in Canada affects ethnic identity, according to Kalbach, who finds that French and English speakers are more likely to identify as Canadian on census forms (Kalbach, 14). Furthermore, the Multiculturalism Act encourages citizens to “maintain and share” their cultural and linguistic heritage, in a sense permitting that some Canadians may speak a language other than English or French at home (Kalbach, 15). However, it could be interpreted that as generations grow farther removed from original immigrant status, they will speak more French or English and adopt a Canadian identity. As it stands, it appears as though the policy of multiculturalism preserves ethnic identities while the official languages may move people toward identifying as Canadian.

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