In 2010, about 34 million people lived in Canada. As a nation, Canada has three founding peoples: Aboriginal, French and British. However, throughout the nation’s history, immigration has also played an important role in building Canadian society.
“Aboriginal peoples” are people whose ancestors lived in Canada before the arrival of European explorers, pioneers and settlers. The term refers to three distinct groups: First Nations (sometimes called “Indians”), Inuit and Métis. Aboriginal peoples live across Canada in their own communities as well as in cities. They have interesting cultures and make important contributions to Canadian society.
“French Canadians” include Acadians, Quebecers and smaller French-speaking communities across Canada. The Acadians are descendants of French colonists who settled 400 years ago in what is now the Atlantic Region.
Quebecers (“Québécois” in French) are the inhabitants of Quebec. Most are French-speaking descendants of French settlers from the 1600s and 1700s who brought with them the great traditions of French civilization. Quebecers maintain a unique identity, culture and language. In 2006, the Canadian Parliament recognized that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada. One million English-speaking Anglo-Quebecers form an important part of Quebec society.
Most “English Canadians” are descended from the hundreds of thousands of English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish settlers, soldiers and migrants who came to Canada from the 17th to the 20th century. Generations of these pioneers helped to bring British political institutions and traditions to Canada, such as our Westminster parliamentary system, our constitutional monarchy and the common law.
Carrying on the tradition
Most Canadians today were born in Canada and are the descendants of the original founding peoples. However, over the past 200 years, many newcomers have helped to build and defend this country’s way of life. Today, various ethnic and religious groups live and work in peace as proud Canadians. Until the 1970s, most immigrants came from European countries. Since then, the majority have come from Asian countries. Today, approximately 20 percent of Canadians were born outside Canada. In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, this number is over 45 percent. Immigrants like you are a valued part of Canada’s multicultural society.
For more information on the Canadian people, read CIC’s Discover Canada publication available at www.discovercanada.gc.ca.