British Columbia Cultural Groups

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British Columbia Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Record Types
British Columbia Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources


See also British Columbia First Nations.
See also Canada Inuit.
See also Métis.

Cultural Origins[edit | edit source]

British Columbia is the most diverse province in Canada; as of 2016, the province had the highest proportion of visible minorities in the country. The five largest pan-ethnic groups in the province are Europeans (64%), East Asians (15%), South Asians (8%), Aboriginals (6%) and Southeast Asians (4%).[1]

Top ethnic origins in BC (2016 Census)[2]
# Ethnic origin Population Percent
1 English 1,203,540 26.39%
2 Canadian 866,530 19%
3 Scottish 860,775 18.88%
4 Irish 675,135 14.80%
5 German 603,265 13.23%
6 Chinese 540,155 11.84%
7 French 388,815 8.53%
8 East Indian 309,315 6.78%
9 Ukrainian 229,205 5.03%
10 Indigenous Canadian 220,245 4.83%

Note: Statistics represent both single (for example, "German") and multiple (for example, "Chinese-English") responses to the 2016 Census, and thus do not add up to 100%. All items are self-identified.

Black Canadians[edit | edit source]

Chinese-Canadian[edit | edit source]

Doukhobor[edit | edit source]

East Indian[edit | edit source]

Immigration from the Indian subcontinent to Canada began during the late 1800s. The majority was Sikhs from the Punjab region and most settled in British Columbia. They were often erroneously referred to by government authorities as Hindus. Some were discharged British soldiers; others were labourers who found work in the lumber, railway and mining industries. In 1891,booking agents began encouraging immigration from India to sell tickets on trans-Pacific ships sailing between Hong Kong and British Columbia. Between 1904 and 1908, over 5,000 Indian men arrived in B.C., with approximately 3,000 of them continuing to the United States. East Indian immigration to Canada decreased dramatically until the 1940s. Only after the First World War did Canada change its position on East Indian immigration and allowed the admission of women and children.[3]

First Nations[edit | edit source]

Research Guides[edit | edit source]

Japanese-Canadian Genealogy and History in British Columbia
[edit | edit source]

Jewish Communities[edit | edit source]


A community of about 100 Jews settled in Victoria, British Columbia to open shops to supply prospectors during the Cariboo Gold Rush (and later the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon). This led to the opening of a synagogue in Victoria, British Columbia in 1862. In 1875, B'nai B'rith Canada was formed as a Jewish fraternal organization. When British Columbia sent their delegation to Ottawa to agree on the colony's entry into Confederation, a Jew, Henry Nathan, Jr., was among them. Nathan eventually became the first Canadian Jewish Member of Parliament. According to the 2001 census, 17,270 Jews lived in Vancouver.[4]

Métis[edit | edit source]


Glenbow Archive, Library, and Museum[edit | edit source]

The Glenbow Archives and Library, has an excellent collection of resources for the study of Métis genealogy. Their sources cover predominantly Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and some parts of the Northwest Territories, Ontario, and British Columbia.

Most of our sources pertain to people who were living in the Prairie Provinces in 1900 or earlier.

One unique collection is the Gail Morin database. The collection consists of a database of 65,434 records of persons who were Metis ancestors. For each individual, dates and places of birth, baptism, marriage, death, and burial, and notes on sources are given if known. Using Ancestral Quest software, the data can be linked to show genealogical relationships in the form of pedigree charts and descendancy charts. The database is available only with the assistance of the Archives staff in the reading room of the Glenbow Archives. The database is fully searchable online.

Contact: Glenbow Archives
130 - 9 Avenue
SE Calgary, Alberta T2G 0P3
Reference Desk telephone: 403-268-4204
Email: archives@glenbow.org


  • The Métis are a multi ancestral indigenous group whose homeland is in Canada and parts of the United States between the Great Lakes region and the Rocky Mountains. The Métis trace their descent to both Indigenous North Americans and European settlers (primarily French). Not all people of mixed Indigenous and Settler descent are Métis, as the Métis are a distinct group of people with a distinct culture and language. Since the late 20th century, the Métis in Canada have been recognized as a distinct Indigenous people under the Constitution Act of 1982 and have a population of 587,545 as of 2016.
  • During the height of the North American fur trade in New France from 1650 onward, many French and British fur traders married First Nations and Inuit women, mainly Cree, Ojibwa, or Saulteaux located in the Great Lakes area and later into the north west.
  • The majority of these fur traders were French and Scottish; the French majority were Catholic.
  • These marriages are commonly referred to as marriage à la façon du pays or marriage according to the "custom of the country."
  • At first, the Hudson's Bay Company officially forbade these relationships. However, many Indigenous peoples actively encouraged them, because they drew fur traders into Indigenous kinship circles, creating social ties that supported the economic relationships developing between them and Europeans. When Indigenous women married European men, they introduced them to their people and their culture, taught them about the land and its resources, and worked alongside them. Indigenous women paddled and steered canoes, made moccasins out of moose skin, netted webbing for snowshoes, skinned animals and dried their meat.
  • The children of these marriages were often introduced to Catholicism, but grew up in primarily First Nations societies. As adults, the men often worked as fur-trade company interpreters, as well as fur trappers in their turn.
  • Many of the first generations of Métis lived within the First Nations societies of their wives and children, but also started to marry Métis women.
  • By the early 19th century, marriage between European fur traders and First Nations or Inuit women started to decline as European fur traders began to marry Métis women instead, because Métis women were familiar with both white and Indigenous cultures, and could interpret.[5]

References[edit | edit source]