Ethnic origin

Part A - Short definition:

Not applicable

Part B - Detailed definition:

Ethnic origin refers to the ethnic or cultural origins of the respondent's ancestors.

Reported in:


Reported for:

Population in private households

Question number(s):

Direct variable: Question 17


Respondents were asked to specify as many origins as applicable in Question 17: Ethnic origin. Four lines were provided for write-in responses and up to six ethnic origins were retained. Refer to Appendix 1.2 for the 2011 National Household Survey classification for ethnic origin.


The 2011 NHS Ethnic origin question asked: 'What were the ethnic or cultural origins of this person's ancestors?'

A note provided above the question stated that 'This question collects information on the ancestral origins of the population and provides information about the composition of Canada's diverse population.'

Below the question, a second note indicated that 'An ancestor is usually more distant than a grandparent' and examples of ethnic origins were listed as follows: Canadian, English, French, Chinese, East Indian, Italian, German, Scottish, Irish, Cree, Mi'kmaq, Salish, Métis, Inuit, Filipino, Dutch, Ukrainian, Polish, Portuguese, Greek, Korean, Vietnamese, Jamaican, Jewish, Lebanese, Salvadorean, Somali, Colombian, etc.

As well, additional instructions were provided to respondents in the 2011 NHS Guide:

This question refers to the ethnic or cultural origin or origins of a person's ancestors. Other than Aboriginal persons, most people can trace their origins to their ancestors who first came to this continent. Ancestry should not be confused with citizenship or nationality.

For all persons, report the specific ethnic or cultural group or groups to which their ancestors belonged, not the language they spoke. For example, report 'Haitian' rather than 'French,' or 'Austrian' rather than 'German.'

For persons of East Indian or South Asian origins, report a specific origin or origins. Do not report 'Indian.' For example, report 'East Indian from India,' 'East Indian from Guyana,' or indicate the specific group, such as 'Punjabi' or 'Tamil.'

For persons with Aboriginal ancestors, report a specific origin or origins. For example, report 'Cree,' 'Mi'kmaq,' 'Ojibway,' 'Métis,' or 'North American Indian.' Do not report 'Indian.'

Comparability of ethnic origin data across data sources (such as the 2011 NHS and 2006 Census) is affected by differences in survey collection methodology; question wording, format, examples and instructions; changes in data processing; and the social environment at the time of data collection.

For additional information on the collection and dissemination of ethnic origin data, refer to the Ethnic Origin Reference Guide, National Household Survey, 2011.

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