"I Am Canadian": The Rise of Canadian Identity in Canada's Censuses, 1981-2006

Gillian Stevens, University of Alberta

Between 1981 and 2001, the percentage of people identifying their origins as “Canadian” in Canada’s censuses rose from 1% to 40%. I argue that this phenomenal rise in nationalistic responses to the question on ethnic and racial origins is the product of three sets of processes. The first set consists of demographic processes such as immigration, intermarriage, and generational aging. A second set consists of methodological issues tied to changes in questionnaire design. A third set rests on the complexity of the concepts–nationality, race, ethnicity–that underlay ancestral origins and which may allow commercial phenomena to push people towards one response. In particular, the “I am Canadian” advertising campaign for Molson's Canadian beer, became a widely popular phenomenon overnight in Canada and may have pushed the response of “Canadian” to the forefront for individuals when they confronted the need to describe their origins on the federal census form.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Poster Session 9