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Ethnocultural diversity

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Students will use various editions of the Canada Year Book to track the growth of particular ethnocultural communities from 1867 to 1967. Students will work with a partner to develop a timeline and brief history of their chosen group. They will present their research in the form of a scrapbook, brochure, electronic slide presentation or video. Each presentation will include a focus on the ways that industrialization has affected their particular ethnocultural group's history in Canada.


  • To demonstrate computer research skills in locating, analysing, classifying and interpreting statistical data from selected editions of the Canada Year Book.
  • To read a variety of graphs, charts, tables and text for specific purposes.
  • To locate a variety of appropriate resources and select appropriate information from these resources, particularly from websites such as Library and Archives Canada,, Statistics Canada and others.
  • To make inferences and draw conclusions.
  • To present research findings in a variety of forms.
  • To communicate effectively in a variety of forms, including visual and written, using appropriate software to create electronic forms.
  • To demonstrate understanding of the terms 'ethnocultural' and 'ethnic group,' and show ability to relate information about the history of a particular ethnocultural group in Canada during the period from 1867 to 1967.
  • To work co-operatively and creatively with a partner to produce a report in scrapbook, electronic slide show, video or brochure format.
  • To manage time effectively to meet all deadlines.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

History, Sociology, Politics


20 to 30 minutes for the introduction (steps 1 to 6)
3 to 5 periods of 50 minutes to complete assignment (steps 7 to 18)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Culture – values, norms and artefacts. Values include beliefs about important things in life and form the basis for the rest of the culture. Norms are expectations about how people will behave in various situations. Artefacts are the things that people in a culture use.
Ethnic group – a group of people with a shared sense of identity based on a common language, religion and customs.
Ethnocultural group
– a group of people with a shared sense of identity based on their common heritage, history, language, religious beliefs and values. This is different from some other kinds of cultural groups, such as people who identify themselves as belonging to a religious culture, a sport culture or a teen culture.
Mother tongue – first language learned by a child.
Religious affiliation – connection to a particular religion, e.g., Hinduism; or to a particular religious group, e.g., Roman Catholic Christian or Sunni Muslim.
Visible minority – a population group whose members are recognizably distinct from those of the population group that is in the majority.


Resources (suggested)

Please see complete list of resources after the Enrichment section.

Classroom instructions

  1. Present the following outline to the class:
    1. Work with a partner to track the growth of particular ethnocultural communities from 1867 to 1967 and develop a timeline and brief history of your chosen groups.
    2. Search the Canada Year Book database.
    3. Record findings about various ethnocultural groups.
    4. Select points along the timeline from 1867 to 1967 to focus your presentations about the history in Canada of a chosen ethnocultural group you have researched.
    5. Create presentations about a selected ethnocultural group in a brochure, scrapbook, electronic slide show or video.
    6. Share findings with the class and others in the school or community.
  2. Present the class with some interesting statistics about Canada's people from the 2001 Census, such as the following:
    1. In 2001, visible minorities made up 42% of the population of the city of Toronto, accounting for 1,051,125 people out of a total of 2,456,805.
    2. In the city of Vancouver in 2001, about 49% of the population were members of visible minority communities, or 264,495 people out of a population of 539,630.
    Note to teacher: Find out more about today's visible minority and ethnocultural groups in the 2001 Census report on Canada's Ethnocultural Portrait.
  3. Ask the class to consider the following questions:
    1. What about our own community?
    2. What do you think the latest census might tell us about visible minorities living here?
    3. What might it tell us about people of different ethnocultural groups who would not be considered 'visible,' such as people from various European groups?
    4. Look around this classroom. What ethnocultural groups do you think are represented right here?
  4. Show some class photos or other group pictures to introduce the class to the lesson. Even those photos in which students are all black or all white or all South Asian will in fact show diversity, and that can introduce the notion that cultural diversity is not related to skin colour alone. Explain that the ethnocultural make-up of any community is more diverse than it may at first appear. You can find information in the 2001 Census report mentioned above.
  5. Have students select a partner to work with on the project.
  6. Have students consider the following questions:
    1. How will we select the ethnocultural groups to investigate?
    2. Which ethnocultural groups do you and your classmates belong to?
    3. What group's history in Canada are you interested in learning about?
    4. Who has an ancestor who arrived here that might become the basis for our investigation?
  7. Instruct each pair of students to think about selecting a particular ethnocultural group to investigate. Steer them away from Canadian, English and French as the histories of these groups should have already formed the basis for most of the Canadian history or social studies students have already learned. This project provides an opportunity for the study of something that will probably be new to many or all of them.
  8. Provide project specifications and evaluation rubrics to clarify the tasks.
    1. Show students examples or models of the kinds of products you want them to complete; if you have a data projector, there is student work on the website to use as models for this task.
    2. Clarify the student worksheets so that students understand the expectations for the projects.
    3. Encourage students to make use of the online resources available about their particular ethnocultural group, starting with the historical editions of the Canada Year Book and then exploring other websites, such as Library and Archives Canada's Portrait Gallery, Statistics Canada, and the Canadian Encyclopedia. There are websites and monographs about particular ethnocultural groups that include banks of photographs that can be used without copyright permission. You will find these by doing a basic Internet search for the particular ethnocultural group in Canada of interest to you.
    4. Have students start with the 1867 to 1967 editions of the Canada Year Book. Students should locate information about their chosen ethnocultural group at four or five different points along the timeline from 1867 to 1967 and focus their historical presentations on these points. Anything more may be too time-consuming for them to complete appropriately.
  9. Create a list with definitions and encourage students to use it. Some terms they will need to include that are used by Statistics Canada are 'ethnic,' 'ethnocultural,' 'mother tongue,' and 'religious affiliation.' Ask them to think about how they personally would fit into current and historical census categories (e.g., what would they put for mother tongue?).
  10. Have students complete Student worksheet 2 for their particular ethnocultural group. Students will be looking at the following historic indicators of the population's ethnocultural diversity:
    1. mother tongue
    2. distribution by mother tongue and by province and territory
    3. ethnic group
    4. religious denominations and affiliations
    5. country of birth
    6. for Indian bands, province and territory
    7. for immigrants, arrivals by country of last permanent residence
    8. for immigrants, arrivals by country of citizenship
    9. for immigrants, intended occupation.
  11. Use the Canada Year Book page references listed under Resources to get students started. After their initial look at these pages, they may need to use the historical indicators above.
  12. Convene the class to share their initial findings about the raw numbers and percentage of the total population of their selected ethnocultural groups, as well as some ranking of those groups nationally and provincially. They will have found information about ethnocultural diversity in each province and should have been able to locate their particular chosen group in several editions of the Canada Year Book.
  13. Create a master organizer and remind students to use this as part of their project. The spaces left in the "Significant event" column in their timeline organizers will typically require students to conduct further research outside the Canada Year Book.
  14. Have students plan their research, record their findings and use a video, brochure, slide presentation or scrapbook to show what they have learned about their chosen ethnocultural group.
  15. Students must use and cite a variety of sources and resources to locate information about the history of their ethnocultural group in Canada.
  16. Students must include illustrations, text, stories or information from interviews in their description of the history of their ethnocultural group in Canada. They can focus on the group or simply on contributions of individuals from a group. Examples are on the Library and Archives website (Kids' Site of Canadian Settlement). Consult the Multicultural Toolkit on the Library and Archives Canada website, as well as their Canadian Genealogy Centre, for links to appropriate multicultural resources.
  17. Have students conduct their research and create their products. The activity presupposes computer skills in researching and using various programs for producing the brochures or slide shows.
  18. Have students reflect on their learning in Student worksheet 3. Discuss how they might share their information with other classes in the school, family members or the public.


Students may want to include current information about the particular ethnocultural group they are studying or they may choose to investigate selected current issues around cultural diversity in Canada.

Complete list of recommended Canada Year Book resources

1907 (PDF)

1916/1917 (PDF)

1927/1928 (PDF)

1937 (PDF)

1947 (PDF)

1957/1958 (PDF)

1967 (PDF)