Published by authority of the Minister responsible for Statistics Canada
© Minister of Industry, 2008
This report examines the ethnic origins of Canada’s population using data from the 2006 Census. It also provides information on the nation’s visible minority population.
Each wave of immigration to Canada has increased the ethnocultural diversity of the nation’s population. In fact, the 2006 Census enumerated more than 200 different ethnic origins. Ethnic origin refers to the ethnic or cultural origins of the respondent’s ancestors. An ancestor is someone from whom a person is descended and is usually more distant than a grandparent.
In contrast, the 1901 Census recorded about 25 different ethnic groups in Canada. People who reported Aboriginal ancestries, and British and French origins, comprised the lion’s share of the
population at that time.
The list of ethnic origins in 2006 includes cultural groups associated with Canada’s Aboriginal people (North American Indian, Métis and Inuit) and the European groups that first settled in
Canada, such as the English, French Scottish and Irish. It includes origins of immigrants who came to Canada over the past century, such as German, Italian, Chinese, Ukrainian, Dutch,
Polish, East Indian and so on.
Among newer groups reported in 2006 were Montserratan from the Caribbean and Chadian, Gabonese, Gambian and Zambian from Africa.
One way of looking at Canada’s ethnocultural portrait is to examine the most frequently reported ethnic origins, whether reported alone or in combination with other ethnic origins.
By 2006, 11 ethnic origins had passed the 1-million mark. The largest group enumerated by the census consisted of just over 10 million people who reported Canadian as their ethnic ancestry,
either alone (5.7 million) or with other origins (4.3 million).
The other most frequently cited origins were English (6.6 million), French (4.9 million), Scottish (4.7 million), Irish (4.4 million), German (3.2 million), Italian (1.4 million), Chinese (1.3 million), North American Indian (1.3 million), Ukrainian (1.2 million) and Dutch (1.0 million).
The list of the top ethnic origins reported in 2006 was virtually unchanged from the 2001 Census, except that North American Indian surpassed Ukrainian to take ninth place and Ukrainian became the tenth most frequently reported ancestry in 2006.
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