Decline of the Anglo-Saxon Canadian

Says this authority: Unless current trends change, Canadians of Anglo-Saxon descent will number less than 40 per cent of the Dominions total population within the next 35 years

W. B. HURD September 1 1937

Decline of the Anglo-Saxon Canadian

Says this authority: Unless current trends change, Canadians of Anglo-Saxon descent will number less than 40 per cent of the Dominions total population within the next 35 years

W. B. HURD September 1 1937

Decline of the Anglo-Saxon Canadian

Says this authority: Unless current trends change, Canadians of Anglo-Saxon descent will number less than 40 per cent of the Dominions total population within the next 35 years


TO THE average mail'statistics are either dull or relatively meaningless but current population statistics reveal a series of trends whose implications are so startling as to warrant the attention of all Canadians.

Unless current population trends change in a manner not indicated by existing data, it can now be said that:

By the end of 1937, Canadians of Anglo-Saxon stock will number less than fifty per cent of the total Canadian population.

Within the next thirty-five years, the Anglo-Saxon population of the Dominion will become virtually stationary.

By 1971, French-Canadians will constitute approximately forty per cent of the Canadian population.

By the end of the century, Canadians of Anglo-Saxon derivation will be outnumbered two to one by those of nonAnglo-Saxon descent.

Within the next forty years, the indicated population of Great Britain promises to decrease by 12,000,000; hence the resumption of heavy emigration from the British Isles to Canada is a remote possibility.

Let us examine the bases for these statements.

The Rise and Decline of the Anglo-Saxon

IN 1763, European residents in the territory now included in the Dominion of Canada were almost entirely French. In less than a century Anglo-Saxon immigration, first from the south and later from the British Isles, changed the whole picture. By 1850 English-speaking persons outnumbered French, and by 1871 they constituted an all-time high of 60.5 per cent of the population of the Dominion. This change was hastened by heavy emigration of FrenchCanadians to the United States, particularly after 1840. The latter movement grew in volume till the end of the century and combined with heavy British immigration to conceal the inevitable effects of declining Anglo-Saxon birth rates on the racial structure of the Canadian people. In 1881, Anglo-Saxons still constituted 59 per cent of the Canadian population and in 1901, something over 57 per cent, but the tide had definitely turned.

The first decade of the present century witnessed a tremendous expansion in high fertility Continental European immigration. The post-war decade was characterized by both a continued decline, in the proportion that the British Isles contributed to net immigrant gains, and a recurrence of native emigration to the United States, in volume comparable to that between 1881 and 1891, but in racial composition preponderatingly Anglo-Saxon. The net result of these major changes was a decline in the proix>rtion of persons of British extraction in the Canadian population to 52 per cent by June, 1931. By the close of the current calendar year, the numerical superiority of the AngloSaxons, which had been achieved by immigration, will have been lost through low fertility, foreign immigration and emigration of native Canadians across the Southern border.

It follows from the current trends that, unless some radical and unforeseen change in population trends supervenes, by the end of the present century Canadians of Anglo-Saxon derivation will be outnumbered two to one. The basis for this conclusion may be explained briefly.

The last Canadian census tabulates the principal racial origins by sex and five-year age groups. The Vital Statistics Branch publishes births by racial origin and age of mother, and the Dominion Bureau of Statistics has prepared official Canadian Life Tables for all Canada and the individual provinces. With these data and several hours work on a computing machine, it is possible to calculate with a fair degree of accuracy the probable numerical strength of any given stock in Canada, ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years hence. Such calculations were made for the Anglo-Saxons, the French and“Other”origins. They assume a continuation of the rates of natural increase obtaining during the last few years and the absence of immigration and emigration.

The resulting figures indicate a total population for the Dominion of 16,642.000 by the year 1971. with a racial composition approximately as follows: French, 39.6 per cent; Anglo-Saxon, 38.9 per cent; Other origins, 21.5 per cent. The rates of natural increase for the last decade of the period (1961-1971) were fractionally over 0.1 per cent for the British races, 2.1 per cent for the French, and 1.2 per cent for other non-Anglo-Saxon. non-French origins as a group. Thus if no further decline from current rates of natural increase occurs, the Anglo-Saxon population in Canada, unless supplemented from abroad, will become virtually stationary in less than four decades, the French will still be expanding at approximately 2 per cent per annum and other origins at 1.2 per cent. Under such conditions the subsequent decline in the importance of British blood in Canada will be even more rapid than during the decades immediately ahead.

Migration a Factor

TNEPARTURES from the above proportions may be brought about in three principal ways: (1) through the resumption of immigration in large volume, (2) through the resumption of emigration, particularly to the United States, and (3) through differential or unequal declines (or increases) in birth and death rates.

If future immigration from Continental Europe is in excess of that from the British Isles, or even as great, the decline in the proportion of Anglo-Saxons in the Canadian population will be accentuated. When one is reminded that both present and prospective population surpluses of any considerable magnitude are available only in Eastern, Central and Southern Europe, there is no room for doubt as tothe probable effect of non-discriminating relaxation in immigration regulations on this side of the Atlantic. The decline of the Anglo-Saxons could be further hastened if the United States were to drop the barriers to the emigration of native Canadians, for, as in the recent past, a disproportionate drain of persons of British extraction would almost certainly ensue.

Offsetting these possible influences is the chance of a disproportionate drop in the French and the non-AngloSaxon birth rates. In recent years the French rates have been falling somewhat more rapidly than those of the English-speaking races in Canada and a continuation of this differential decline is well within the bounds of possibility.

One cannot, of course, take for granted, that Canada

will relax immigration restrictions against non-AngloSaxon immigration nor that the United States will remove the impediments to the emigration of native Canadians to that country. Nor can one be certain that the spread between Anglo-Saxon and non-Anglo-Saxon birth rates will be materially reduced. The prospective departures from the ethnic distribution worked out on the basis of current birth and mortality figures are nevertheless considerably reduced by the circumstance that the disturbing effects of probable future migrations and changes in birth rates will tend to neutralize each other.

The question naturally arises as to whether sufficient immigration from the British Isles could be induced and absorbed radically to alter the picture, assuming Canada were to refuse any further immigration from foreign countries. An intelligent answer to this question must take several facts into account. First, the birth rate in England and Wales has dropped from 35 per 1.000 in the decade 1870-1880 to 14 per 1,000 at the present time, and if the decline continues at the existing rate, the population of Great Britain will decrease by 12,000,000 within the next forty years without sending any emigrants overseas. Even at the prevailing rate of natural increase the population of the British Isles is falling considerably short of reproducing itself. Under these conditions, the ]X)ssibility of heavy Anglo-Saxon immigration to Canada seems rather remote.

On the other hand, now that the great safety valve of emigration across our Southern border is closed, it is questionable whether Canada will be able to absorb any large volume of immigration from Great Britain or elsewhere in the near future. The best basis in fact the only rational basis -for judging of our probable population absorptive capacity in the future is the experience of the past, and the only acceptable measure of population absorptive capacity in the past is the number of additional people we have been able to retain.

How large were these numbers? During the decade 19011911, the mean rate of population increase was 183.000 per year; in the decade 1911-1921 it dropped to 158,100, and in the last decade it rose slightly to 158.600.

What proportion of these net annual additions to our population might have been provided by natural increase and the repatriation of native Canadians? Let us examine the figures on natural increase for the last ten years for which data appear in the Canada Year Book. The period run”' from 1925-1934 and includes five years of comparative pruoijerity and five years of depression. The average annual excess of births over deaths amounted to 128,946; the average number of Canadians returning from abroad was 29,662. These two figures combined to make a total of 158,608, a number exactly equal to the average annual population increase of the Dominion for the decade 19211931, and slightly in excess of the preceding one. In other words the annual supply of native Canadians through natural increase and repatriation in the last ten years for which data are available was equivalent to the average annual absorptive capacity of the country for the last two decades.

To be perfectly fair, one must point out that during the latter part of the depression our natural increase has fallen appreciably below the ten-year average, and the Continued on page 45

Decline of the Araglo-Saxon Canadian

Continued from page 13

stream of returning Canadians has been greatly reduced. Yet with the return of prosperity it would seem reasonable to expect a significant rebound in the birth rate since about half the current decline is attributable to delayed marriages. It is also reasonable to expect at least a temporary revival in the re-entry of native Canadians from abroad since there is no reason to doubt that there are still large numbers, in the United States particularly, who are anxious to return to Canada as soon as economic conditions warrant. If in addition one considers the fact that there are still in the neighborhood of 400,000 unemployed persons in the Dominion, it must be obvious that Canada will be more than able to supply her own population requirements for several years to come, even if the rate of economic expansion obtaining during the last intercensal decades is restored. And if by good luck or good management the boom conditions of 19011911 were somehow brought back, she would probably not need to draw more than 25,000 to 30,000 permanent settlers yearly from abroad to meet her enlarged absorptive capacity.

If this number of Anglo-Saxon settlers were received annually—and remember there is no certainty that Canada will be able either to get or to absorb that number —the relative decline of the Anglo-Saxon stock in Canada would be retarded, but it would not be stopped. Already children of Anglo-Saxon parents constitute only 40 per cent of the total births in Canada and children of non-Anglo-Saxon extraction almost 60 per cent. For the AngloSaxon racial origin to maintain its present numerical position in the population in the face of existing high fertility rates among the non-Anglo-Saxons of the Dominion, there would be required either an increase of about 46 per cent in the Anglo-Saxon birth rate or net additions from abroad commencing at about 45,000 per year and increasing at compound interest by between one and two per cent annually. One leaves it to the reader to judge the likelihood of either of these conditions being realized.

Relatively Little Intermarriage

NOW IT may be thought that in three or four decades, the racial elements in our population will be so completely fused by intermarriage that a new and distinctive Canadian race will have emerged from the melting pot and the fertility differentials along racial lines will be a thing of the past. The improbability of such an occurrence may be illustrated by the experience of the two numerically most important groups in our population, the Anglo-Saxons and the French. These two races have been living side by side in Canada for a century and three quarters. Yet by 1931 only 4.1 per cent of the married males of French extraction had married Anglo-Saxon wives and only 5.0 per cent of the married males of Anglo-Saxon derivation had married into the French race. There are perfectly good reasons for these very small figures—geographical segregation, recency of arrival of a large proportion of the Anglo-Saxons,

religious differences, and so on. Something further will be said later about the relative importance of the different barric,: to intermarriage. The point being emphasized at the moment is that our basic population is still composed of two distinct racial elements which have not fused and are not likely to do so with any great rapidity.

Moreover while intermarriage with the Britisli has proceeded far in the case of certain minority groups from Northern Europe like the Dutch and Scandinavians and Germans, it has scarcely begun in the case of the South, Eastern and Central Europeans. In 1931 approximately 25 per cent of married persons of Northwestern European origin had cross-married with Anglo-Saxons, but only 4y¿ per cent of the South, Eastern and Central Europeans had done so.

The reasons for these differences have been the subject of careful investigation by the writer. While length of Canadian residence, the size of the ethnic group and inequalities of sex distribution are factors of some importance, the greatest single barrier to intermarriage is found to be religion. This barrier is of a relativelyenduring sort. Comparatively few crossmarriages are contracted between stocks which are predominantly of one or other of the two major branches of the Christian faith. When cross-marriages do occur, high fertility stocks marry high fertility stocks and low fertility stocks marry low fertility stocks. Differences in fertility and religion thus tend to perpetuate themselves.

This does not mean that intermarriage will not increase or that the fertility differentials will not be reduced with the passage of time. The point is that the process promises to be a long and slow one, and in the interval radical changes will have occurred in the racial composition of our population unless the improbable happens and Canada receives extraordinarily heavy immigration from the British Isles.

Racial changes will be paralleled by changes in religious distribution. At the present time approximately 47 per cent of

the native population of the Dominion are adherents of the Roman Catholic faith; the various Protestant bodies account for all but a small fraction of the remaining 53 per cent. Thirty-five years from now if Canada remains on a self-contained population basis, the proportion promises to be nearer 60 per cent Roman Catholic and 40 per cent Protestant, and the change will be even more marked if there is heavy immigration from South, Eastern and Central Europe.

Such, in brief, is the population outlook for the Dominion and if we are to avoid unloosing undue tension on the ties of Confederation during the coming decades, it is important that their nature and significance be clearly understood.

Were the Canadian people of one race and one religion, the majority might risk a fiscal policy that permanently favored certain sections of the country at the expense of others. Foreign commitments involving the possibility of war might be considered, for the feelings and opinions of substantial minorities could safely be disregarded. Party or sectional interests might even play at holding up necessary constitutional changes without creating national disaster.

But the Canadian people are not of one race and one religion. Ethnic and religious cleavages permanently divide us and varying fertility keeps our population structure in a state of flux. If our young nation is to be welded into a unified whole, occasions for division must be avoided and attention focused on that which unifies. P-obably the greatest unifying force in our national life is loyalty to the ideals of freedom, tolerance, and fair play, and to the democratic institutions and forms of government to which these ideals gave rise. Such being the case the measure of our national solidarity in the years to come will be determined, in very large degree, by our success in applying those ideals toward ^sing those institutions in solving the internal problems and making the inevitable readjustments with which we will be faced.