How is Canada

The Canadian population


The first peoples

Almost half of Canadians are not French or British. And the French and British also came to the country as immigrants around 500 years ago.

Multiculturalism is a political program in Canada, it is both an opportunity and a challenge. The goal is not a melting pot, not a melting pot as the American ideal, but a colorful patchwork of cultural diversity.

They were the first: the indigenous people of Canada came into the country from Siberia via the Bering Strait. When exactly that was - 50,000 or just 10,000 years ago - there are different theories about this.

One thing is certain: They came in several bursts over the course of thousands of years. Some of them were sedentary, others were nomads.

For the first French and British settlers, the natives were initially trading partners. The European immigrants needed the help of the Indians, as they called them, for the fur trade.

However, diseases brought in from Europe raged among the tribes and many indigenous people died from it. Some tribes were also ruthlessly fought by the Europeans, the Beothuk on Newfoundland were even destroyed.

From 1830, the Canadian government began to resettle the Indians on reservations - and a few decades later began an attempt to forcibly integrate them, for example through so-called Indian boarding schools. It was not until the 1960s that resistance increased.

In the 1970s, Canada decided to use the more politically correct term "First Nations". In 1982, a common representation of the Indian peoples of Canada, the Assembly of the First Nations, was formed to participate in a new Canadian constitution.

About 700,000 First Nations people live in Canada. They belong to more than 600 different groups who speak ten different languages ​​and another 50 different dialects.

Even if some have managed to manage themselves and land claims have been sued, the First Nations in particular suffer from severe social problems ranging from poverty to alcohol and drug addiction.

The second group of the indigenous population is called Métis. They are the descendants of the first settlers and fur traders who came into contact with Indian women. Today almost 400,000 Métis live in Canada.

The people in the ice

The third group of indigenous peoples are the Inuit. Their name means "people" in their language, the Inuktitut. The Indians called them "Eskimo", "raw meat eaters".

Their traditional habitat is the Arctic - bounded to the west by the US state of Alaska and to the east by the coast of Labrador.

The Inuit arrived in Canada much later than the Indians, probably around 3000 BC. Originally they lived as nomads, mainly from hunting.

First the whalers and fur traders came to the Inuit areas, then the missionaries followed. The Inuit was unimpressed. It was not until the Second World War that the Canadian government came to their area to build airfields and radar systems.

The Inuit moved into permanent houses, received medical care, schools - and often became dependent on state welfare, because they could no longer survive on the hunt alone.

Inuit art became a major source of income. In 1999 the Inuit achieved a great success in striving for independence: the establishment of their own territory "Nunavut".

A country divided in two

The foundation stone for the conflict between the French and Anglo-Canadian populations was laid with the European settlement in the 16th and 17th centuries. At that time, the English and French asserted themselves as the most important colonial powers in North America.

In 1663, the French crown took control of the colony of New France - the French settlement areas in North America. That was the beginning of the exploration and settlement of the hinterland from the St. Lawrence River.

The way into the hinterland was cut off for the British in New England, making the fur trade more difficult. Violent fighting ensued. The British emerged victorious from the decisive battle on the Plains of Abraham in 1759. In the Peace of Paris of 1763, France ceded its territories in North America to Great Britain.

After the American War of Independence, around 50,000 "loyalists" - loyalists to the British Crown - moved to what is now Canada. In the constitution of 1791, a French and a British province with their own self-government were set up, 50 years later they were united to the province of Canada, official language: English.

The state was founded in 1867. After World War I, Canada became a sovereign state headed by the British King or Queen.

From bi to multi

The French province of Québec has always played a special role in Canada. Since the defeat by the British, the French Canadians have tried to preserve their culture. Economically, however, the Anglo-Canadians dominated Québec.

The population rebelled against economic dependence and tutelage in the 1960s with the "silent revolution". The goal: more self-determination. Many French Canadians are still calling for an independent state of Québec to this day.

The driving force was and is the "Parti Québécois" (PQ), which has tried several times with popular votes to enforce independence for the province.

The state reacted with numerous concessions: in 1965, for example, the maple leaf replaced the Union Jack on the national flag, and in 1969 French became the second official language alongside English.

The European minorities in the country joined in the debate about the coexistence of the two founder cultures. So from the bi-culturalism the multi-culturalism emerged, so to speak as an unintended by-product of the French-Canadian efforts to separate. In 1985 it was enshrined in the constitution as a fundamental right.

Mosaic of cultures

Canada is a classic immigration country. Since colonization, groups of immigrants have entered the country in several phases of immigration.

It all started in the 17th and 18th centuries with the French immigrants. The British settlement areas of the "loyalists" attracted numerous British immigrants in the 19th century. At that time, however, immigrants from other European countries came, mainly Germans - around 2.8 million Canadians have German roots.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Canada experienced explosive immigration. As early as the end of the 19th century, workers were brought into the country, mainly from China.

However, these have been subject to racist attacks. With slogans like "We don't want Chinamen in Canada", the ghost of a "yellow danger" was painted on the wall.

That changed only after the Second World War, because the immigrants had also paid their blood toll during the war and because new workers were needed in a time of economic boom.

Until the 1970s, mainly Italians, Portuguese and Greeks came, then the influx from the Caribbean and Latin America and also from the Pacific region increased.

Today it is difficult to precisely calculate the proportions of the individual groups. Increasingly, people define themselves as "Canadians". In the 1996 census, 29 percent of those questioned stated that their ethnic origin was "Canadian", and another 34 percent described themselves as "partially Canadian".