Ethnic origin

Ethnic origin data provide information about ethnic and cultural diversity in Canada. The ethnic origin question is also necessary to identify the ethnic and cultural background of individuals born in Canada as well as individuals with Aboriginal ancestry, a key element in the definition of Aboriginal population.

Examples of reported data usesFootnote1


Ethnic origin is one of the Census Program questions that measures the diversity of the Canadian population. The responses to this question are often considered in relation to other questions, such as those on language, immigration and Aboriginal peoples. These data are used to carry out activities such as policy development in relation to Canadian Multiculturalism Act and the Public Service Employment Act. It was mentioned that information about diversity is required under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These data are also used to fulfil reporting requirements as part of United Nations human rights treaties.

Examples of legislative uses at the provincial level for which this Census Program topic was cited include Ontario's Health Protection and Promotion Act and Quebec's Loi sur le ministère de l'Immigration et des Communautés culturelles (L.R.Q., chapitre M-16.1). During consultation, it was reported by the Region of Durham that these data, among others, are required to comply with provincial legislation related to public health standards.

Resource allocation and service delivery

At the local level, these data support resource allocation for community outreach programs and the City of Toronto Diversity Positive Workplace Strategy. They are consulted in the provision of health services and inform the delivery of community services to target groups.

Planning, development, monitoring, evaluation and performance reports

Several departments turn to these data for evaluation and/or performance reporting. Canadian Heritage cited the Corporate Performance Measurement Framework/Management Accountability Framework and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service relies on them for human resources planning and demographic studies. This Census Program topic informs policy/research on Canadian identity, pluralism and related policy initiatives, the evaluation of Parks Canada's visitor experience operations as well as activities related to recruitment.

Ethnic origin data together with other Census Program data such as basic demographics, Aboriginal peoples, place of birth, citizenship and immigration, among others, are used by the Public Health Agency for the development of their Public Health Framework on Migration, policy work tied to the World Health Organization's Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health which stipulates a need for monitoring systems to evaluate inequities in health outcomes, for the upcoming Pan-Canadian Public Health Network's Indicators of Health Inequalities report (planned 2015) and for health promotion in community-based programs.

Among the uses submitted by provincial and territorial governments, ethnic origin data are required to monitor employment equity policy, to support public service diversity, for workplace discrimination and harassment prevention, cancer screening programs, workforce planning, immigrant attraction and retention, the Ontario Hate Crime and Extremism Investigative Team Program, as well as for policy and programs related to arts development, wellness, culture and sport in New Brunswick.

Data from this Census Program topic are required by the City of Calgary's Welcoming Community Policy which seeks to create inclusive communities through opportunities for successful integration by providing services needed by immigrants. Ethnic origin results are used to understand community demographics in order to identify potential labour market and income disparities, for policy and program development, implementation and monitoring, culturally specific programming as well as for corporate strategic and human services planning.

Research and other uses

These data serve as inputs in population estimates and projections, and are used for health risk modelling. In light of the increasing diversity of the population, they are used to analyse health outcomes and the incidence of discrimination, to study social stratification among various population groups, to understand how factors related to ethnic background contribute to low income, and to measure the extent of multiculturalism and social cohesion in Canada.

Various levels of government use these Census Program data in the production of sociodemographic and neighbourhood profiles. Examples provided by non-government organizations include informing communications and research, developing policies and mechanisms to ensure cultural and economic integration, responding to questions from community sector organizations and report writing. Business refers to ethnic origin results for research related to settlement patterns, Geographic Information System (GIS) applications, to correlate consumer behaviour and develop consumer lifestyle clusters.

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