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Ethnic self-identification

How do you self-identify in terms of ethnicity?

I was having a discussion last night with a few friends about ethnic self-identification. In a multicultural city like Toronto where more than half of the population was born elsewhere, it’s an interesting topic.

For new immigrants, I can understand that there often remains a strong connection to the home country and culture. 

However, for subsequent generations, the attachment seems to manifest itself and wane (which I think is a natural tendency) in a variety of different ways. I am sure it partially depends on how determined the parents are to preserve the lineage vs. fully assimilate. In any event, it’s a somewhat subjective phenomenon.

The best data I could find on this is from the 2006 Canadian census (I couldn’t find anything similar from the 2011 census). However, the question on the census was not about ethnic self-identification, per se, but rather how each respondent would classify the ancestry of their parents.

There were a total of 31,241,030 responses. Some people gave a single response and some people selected multiple ethnic origins, which was allowed.

In total, 10,066,290 people selected “Canadian.” Roughly 1/3 of the country. However, only 5,748,725 selected it as a single response. So only about 18.4% of respondents identified their parents as being only Canadian. The remaining group of people who selected Canadian also selected some other ethnic origin.

The reason I pick out this stat is because – to answer my own question at the beginning of this post – I would self-identify as being only Canadian. I feel no emotional attachment to any other country.

I would never support any other country at the Olympics and I would never fight for any other country.

In terms of my background, my father wasn’t born here and so I am 1st/2nd generation on that side, depending on how you define 1st generation. However, on my mother’s side, I would be 3rd/4th generation Canadian.

How do you self-identify? There’s no right or wrong answer here.

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