With almost 10 million square kilometers and a population of just over 30 million people (3.1 residents per
square kilometer), Canada has one of the lowest population densities in the world. Only a few countries,
such as Iceland and Australia, have lower population densities.
Canada contains over a third of the world’s boreal forest, one fifth of the world’s temperate rainforest, and
a tenth of the total global forest cover. Canada has the second major repository of northern forests, after
Russia. Canada’s boreal forest is one of the three largest ‘frontier forests’ remaining on the planet. The
other two are in Russia and Brazil. Canada’s relatively undisturbed forest areas are sufficiently large to
maintain all of their native biodiversity.
Canadians highly value their forests and freshwaters. Forests comprise 45% and freshwaters comprise 9%
of Canada’s area. The timber productive forestland totals almost 2.5 million square kilometers, or about
one quarter of Canada’s land area. Logging is the dominant activity in Canada’s forests and a key sector in
Canada’s economy: the forest industry generated over $68 billion in sales and $11 billion in wages in 1996.
However, Canada maintains its lead as the world’s biggest timber exporter through logging of frontier
forests and through clearcutting, with both accounting for approximately 90% of all logging activity.
Canada’s forests are being rapidly opened up for extraction of timber, energy and mineral resources. The
most diverse and productive forest ecosystems have undergone widespread fragmentation by roads and
other access routes and have the bulk of their area under logging tenures. Less than 8% of Canada’s forests
are fully protected. Development activities increasingly extend into Canada’s northernmost forests, which
have fragile soils and slow growing conditions. Over 60% of tenured forestlands face severe productivity
limitations or moderate limitations. Cumulative impacts with industrial uses are escalating. For example,
most of the forests of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin have been severely fragmented by linear
disturbances, usually caused by the oil and gas industry.
Access to information about Canada’s forests has been difficult historically. Global Forest Watch, through
its affiliate Global Forest Watch Canada, works with local organizations and partners throughout Canada to
collect and distribute information on forest development. Government oversight of forest developments
have declined in Canada. For example, the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) has experienced dramatic
reductions in budget and staff in recent years. Between 1995 and 1998, the annual operating budget of the
CFS was reduced from $219 million to $93 million.
Global Forest Watch increases the public’s access to information on forests and forest development. This
work improves transparency and accountability in forest management decisions and helps ensure better
management of forest resources.
Global Forest Watch Canada published its first report in 2000: Canada’s Forests At A Crossroads - An
Assessment in the Year 2000, which provides maps and data on forests and forest developments. This
report has been published in both French and English. New projects being undertaken by Global Forest
Watch Canada include updating forest tenures, assessing Aboriginal benefits from the forests of Canada,
and auditing forest development activities on Canada’s freshwater riparian areas.
As the country with the second-largest area in the world, Canada is home to one-tenth of
the world's remaining forests and one-fifth of the world's fresh water. The variety of
forests types in Canada, including their immense diversity of plant and animal life, is
truly incredible. From the band of boreal forests that stretches across the northern reaches
of much of the country, to the eastern Acadian forests, the Great Lakes forests in central
Canada, and a mosaic of temperate forests in western Canada, the country's ecological
wealth is astounding.
Many Canadian forests are of global ecological significance. The temperate rainforest,
which stretches along the British Columbia coast, comprises one-quarter of the world's
remaining temperate rainforests. The northern boreal forests cover 35 percent of Canada's
land mass - stretching from Newfoundland to the Yukon - and represent the largest
contiguous intact forest remaining on earth.
A unique feature of Canadian forests is the amount that is publicly owned. Almost 90
percent of Canadian forests are Crown lands, which are managed by the provincial
governments. This management, or tenure, system offers opportunities for public
involvement. However, governments anxious for job creation, have essentially ceded
day-to-day management to multinational corporations that hold long-term lease
agreements to log these forests.
The most widespread logging method practiced in this industrial forestry is clear-cut
logging, which strips huge swaths of the forest bare and leaves behind an insufficient
number of trees for the forest to regenerate itself. Clearcuts as large as 10,000 hectares -
the size of the city of Vancouver - can be found in Canada's boreal forest.
Inadequate government regulation of industrial forestry operations in these publicly
owned forests means entire ecosystems are severely affected in the short- and long-term.
It is because of these threats and the global importance of these forests that our work is
currently focused on these two critical ecosystems
Rivers, which form extensive networks across the country, are natural drainage channels
for surface waters. Surface waters are received from two major sources: runoff and base
flow. Runoff is that part of precipitation that flows toward the rivers or streams on the
ground surface or within the soil (subsurface runoff or interflow). Base flow is the part of
stream flow that enters the stream channel from groundwater.
Rivers in Canada flow into five ocean-equivalent drainage basins: the Pacific, Arctic and
Atlantic oceans, Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The drainage basin areas are
separated by a drainage divide or height of land. The individual river system with the
largest drainage area is the Mackenzie River, with 1 805 200 square kilometres.
The discharge of a stream or river is derived from Canadian water level measurements at
the furthest-downstream gauging station, and is converted to streamflow discharge in
cubic feet per second or cubic metres per second. The river in Canada with the greatest
annual discharge is the St. Lawrence River at 9 850 cubic metres per second
Climate and weather in Canada
Canada's climate is not as cold all year around as some may believe. In winter,
temperatures fall below freezing point throughout most of Canada. But the south-western
coast has a relatively mild climate. Along the Arctic Circle, mean temperatures are below
freezing for seven months a year.
During the summer months the southern provinces often experience high levels of
humidity and temperatures that can surpass 30 degrees Celsius regularly.
Western and south-eastern Canada experience high rainfall, but the Prairies are dry with
250 mm to 500 mm of rain every year.
AN ADDRESS BY JAS. MACINTOSH BULL, O.B.E., PH.D., LL.D.
Thursday, 17th February, 1927
COLONEL ALEXANDER FRASER presided, and in introducing the speaker referred to
the eminence he had attained to in his profession and to the extraordinary success with
which his operations in the Ontario mining field had already been crowned.
DR. MACINTOSH BULL said : Most Canadians appreciate the vast dimensions of their
country, the immense agricultural productivity of the Prairies and the fertile lowlands of
Quebec and Ontario; the colossal value of our forests, which, despite the inroads of the
pulp industry and the more serious depredations of forest fires, still clothe large portions
of the mountainous area of British Columbia, the valley of the mighty Mackenzie, and the
Northern Highlands of Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba; and the richness of our fisheries,
not only in the oceans which wash our shores, but in the numerous inland lakes. How
many of us realize, on the other hand, that the potential mineral wealth of Canada
represents an asset, still largely untouched, probably greater in its importance than any of
Unquestionably, there is no single factor which has done more to encourage the
settlement of large areas than the discovery of important mineral deposits. It is common
knowledge that the finding of rich gold deposits in California led to the opening up of the
great American West, and that similar occurrences precipitated the settlement of the
Australian Continent. To come to our own country, the discovery of the Klondike spread
knowledge of the grain possibilities of the Prairies, while Cobalt, Kirkland Lake and
Porcupine have been largely responsible for the development of an agricultural fringe
along the railroads in the Clay Belt of Northern Ontario, and for various other activities,
supporting a vigorous population. "California today "-according to de Launay, the great
French geologist-" is noted for its farms and orchards, rather than for its ores, but the
labor of the mine paved the way for the wagon". You have all heard the expressions :
"Not all the gold in the Klondike would tempt me ". In other words, the Yukon has been
known the world over as one of the world's greatest gold fields, yet Northern Ontario, in
less than half the time, has produced a great deal more.
Canada is richly endowed with deposits of both metallic and nonmetallic minerals, and is
now one of the great mineral-producing countries of the world. The growth, while
showing inevitable minor recessions, has been generally steady and singularly rapid. In
1925, the total value of the mineral output was about $225,000,000.00, or $25.00 per
capita. Ten years earlier, it was about $137,000,000.00, or $17.00 per capita, and in 1886
was only a little over $10,000,000.00, or about $2.25 per capita. We are now the third
gold producer in the world, being exceeded only by South Africa and the United States.
In 1925, the figures were as follows
United States 47,956,991
Australia and New Zealand 13,914,610
Ontario is Canada's richest mineral province. The value of the output of the metallic
mines of the northern part of the province alone, up to the present, has reached the vast
total of one billion dollars. Final figures for the year just closed indicate that the value of
the production of these for 1926 will reach $61,000,000.00. During the same year the
gold and silver mines alone paid dividends of $12,563,745.00, an increase of
$2,240,000.00 over the year before. The International Nickel Company distributed
$3,881,524.00, and, in addition, the Mond Nickel Company and The Huronian Belt
Company paid to their shareholders in Great Britain substantial amounts derived from the
The chief mineral products of Ontario, in the order of their importance, are : Gold, nickel,
silver, copper, platinum, and cobalt. The gold production for 1926 will be approximately
$31,000,000.00; nickel, copper and platinum approximately $19,500,000.00, and silver,
cobalt, arsenic and other elements rather more than $10,000,000.00. Altogether, the
production up to the present from the silver camps amounts to the vast total of
350,000,000 ounces, and over $100,000,000.00 have been distributed in dividends.
Sudbury, as you probably all know, is much the greatest nickel camp in the world, and
incidentally, it is the largest source of platinum metals on the American continent.
Either directly or indirectly, the whole of Ontario derive material advantage from its
northern mines. They have employed many thousands of men in the different mining
camps, and have engulfed vast stores of supplies of every conceivable sort, which, in
large part, have come from the manufacturing towns of the southern part of the province,
more especially Toronto. Timmins, the most important of the mining communities, has
long since ceased to be merely a collection of rough shacks; it is a respectable-looking
town of nearly 15,000 inhabitants. Strangely enough, the towns do not cease with the
decline of the mining industry to which they owe their existence. Cobalt today, in a
mining sense, is a mere shell of its former grandeur, yet its bankers report they are
making greater profits than ever before. After strenuous efforts for years to avoid the
outlay, the town was forced to build additions to its public school a year or so ago, and
last year had to build a High School.
The mineral wealth of British Columbia is scarcely
less diversified than that of Ontario, and, in addition, it possesses the great advantage of
having abundant stores of coal. The total value of the output from its metalliferous veins
up to the end of 1925 was about $525,000000.00, or about half that of Ontario, and from
its alluvial gold deposits there came a further $77,663,045.00 up to the same date. The
largest Copper Smelter in the Empire is situated at Anyox, on the northern coast, operated
by the Granby Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company. The Sullivan Mine, at
Kimberley, belonging to the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, is now
considered to be the largest lead-zinc mine in the world.
There is not time, in this address, to dwell upon the vast coalfields and the oil and gas
resources of the prairies. Suffice it to say that they form an immense source of potential
wealth. Apart from its coal deposits, Nova Scotia possesses a variety of metalliferous
occurrences, and its gold mining, which has languished in recent years, shows some signs
of revival. The peninsula of Gaspe has, among other interesting occurrences, what appear
to be large deposits of lead-zinc minerals, now in process of vigorous development.
The mining areas of Northern Ontario, and that of North-Western Quebec, of which we
have heard so much lately, occur in what are known geologically as preCambrian rocks.
These rocks, which cover more than half of Canada, extend southwards in the United
States, and have produced the great iron and copper deposits of the Northern States
bordering the southern part of Lake Superior. In Canada they occupy a great U, with its
base in the south-central part of Ontario, and its limbs extending north-westward through
the eastern parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the shores of the Arctic near the
mouth of the Mackenzie, and northeastward to the mouth of the St. Lawrence. By far the
greater part of the country to the northward of these rough outlines is composed of
preCambrian rocks, and they form, indeed, a vast store of potential mineral wealth. Pre-
Cambrian rocks, I may mention, by the way, are the chief source from which is derived
the gold, not only of Canada, but of the Transvaal, India, and Western Australia.
The mineral wealth of the pre-Cambrian area of Canada is not inexhaustible, boundless,
limitless; no possible mineral resources of any part of the earth can correctly be so
described. These are absurd adjectives, the ineptitude of which is transparent to any
student of mines. Nevertheless, when one bears in mind that not more than fifteen or
twenty percent of the preCambrian rocks, even of Ontario, have been prospected at all,
and an infinitely smaller percentage of those of the whole Dominion, one cannot but be
struck with the vast possibilities. However, let us be realists, not visionaries; let us speak
of these possibilities in their proper perspective. The producing camps of Sudbury,
Cobalt, South Lorrain, Gowganda, Kirkland Lake, and Porcupine, lie within a circle
having a radius of only 75 miles, and within this circle also comes the Horne Mine of the
Noranda, within the Province of Quebec-the greatest recent discovery-soon to become an
important producer of gold and copper.
Within recent years a great number of trained prospectors have appeared, led by the lure
of the fascinating quest for mineral wealth. Every year sees them penetrating farther and
farther into that great wilderness of river, lake and forest of the north, and scarcely a
season passes without some real and important discovery being made. The indications of
various minerals are extraordinarily widespread, but inevitably and naturally, the
concentrations which are of economic importance are not less restricted. The search for
these gives zest to mining. No one can say how many new Cobalts, new Porcupines, new
Kirkland Lakes may be found, but we can confidently expect great developments, from
time to time, which will play an important role in the future of the country. We already
know of vast deposits of iron ore on the Belcher Islands of Hudson's Bay, of no less
important occurrences of native copper near the Copper Mine River, and of lead-zinc
near Great Slave Lake, which are now considered too remote for utilization. But I, for
one, look forward to the day when ships of great size will ply up and down the majestic
Mackenzie and across the great expanse of Hudson's Bay laden not only with the wares
of the fur trader, or with the products of the forest, but with those derived from these
great stores of future mineral wealth, which cannot be ignored.
Someone has described a mine as "a hole in the ground with a liar sitting on top". You
have no doubt heard that there are three kinds of liars; liars, damned liars, and mining
experts. Now, gentlemen, a good many "mines", so-called, are mere "holes in the ground"
or not even that, with crooked lawyers and mining thugs, unscrupulous brokers and other
such prevaricating gentry associated with their exploitation, but not all mines are of this
character. Fundamentally, mining is a clean business, its object being to take wealth from
the earth and make it available for the common good, and many earnest, reputable men of
all professions are associated with this great basal industry. There has, however, been a
tendency among the big financial interests of Canada to fail to realize what her mineral
resources mean; to be unfamiliar with these great activities which are adding so much to
our national wealth. There has been an unrespectable flavour, as far as mines are
concerned, in the palates of our reputable business men. This attitude has been highly
unfortunate, but it cannot be considered inexplicable, when one bears in mind that many
of the earlier mining ventures in Ontario and elsewhere were not attended by success, and
that inevitably a fundamentally speculative business has its satellites who know next to
nothing about mining, but who are adepts at gulling a guileless public. Happily, and, if I
may say so, very wisely, the point of view of our business men towards mining is
changing. It is recognized that a mine does not mean a hole in the ground in which much
good money disappears but none ever emerges, nor that a mining company is
irretrievably disreputable. Much of the charm of mining, in a sense, lies in its speculative
aspect, but the shares of a carefully managed mining company, more particularly one
with a diversity of interests, or one well established, need not be less certain of a sure
return, than those of the best run industrial concern. The number of people who are
gambling in and have done well out of mining stocks, is quite extraordinary, but whereas
this alluring speculative aspect cannot be entirely separate from the industry, it is not the
point of view we want to encourage; rather we require, and fortunately are getting,
powerful companies and groups with strong financial backing interested in the industry,
examining and exploring a considerable number of mineral prospects, after careful
technical consideration, any one of which may make good on such a large scale as to
amply recoup the concern for its expenditure on the others.
In spite of all the financial vicissitudes through which Great Britain has passed as a result
of her whole-hearted support of the Wortd War from its very inception, I suppose London
is still the greatest mining market in the world. Her capitalists own or control the fortunes
of mines in every corner of the globe; her engineers, even in these days of a greatly
restricted national purse, are continually on the look-out for new mineral properties; the
offices of her mining magnates are constantly besieged for assistance of all sorts of
endeavours. Yet, for various reasons, which I shall presently explore, she fills a relatively
unimportant role in the mineral development of the greatest of the British Dominions, our
When I first went to London in 1911 and was endeavoring to interest the big mining
groups of that great centre in the exploration of Canada's mineral resources by the
formation of what I believed would be a sound mining business in Canada, backed by
British capital, I confess to having come up against many snags. Everywhere I was faced
with uncomplimentary references to the Rossland fiascos, and the disappointments of the
Lake of the Woods. Let me give you an account of a somewhat perturbing interview. It
was with Sir Ernest Cassel, considered at that time to be the richest man in England, and
with a wide diversity of interest. Well introduced, I was ushered into the presence of the
great man, but not asked to sit down. "What is your business" ? he questioned. " Mining",
I replied, "I am anxious to establish an Anglo-Canadian mineral exploration company;
there are great opportunities in this direction in Canada." "All mining men are scoundrels,
I am not interested. You may go", was his response. My meeting a few days later was
more satisfactory. Similarly well introduced, I presented myself at the office in the city of
Sir Edgar Speyerin 1911, scarcely a less important personality than Sir Ernest Cassel. It
was a hot July afternoon and I was shown to a dark but extraordinarily beautiful waiting
room. It was, indeed, a waiting-room, because there I stayed for nearly an hour but no
one appeared. Thinking I had been forgotten, I rang a bell, and the Commissionaire
announced upon answering it that he would inform Sir Edgar's secretary that I had to
leave for another appointment. Scarcely had he gone when a man entered, hat in hand,
looking very young and debonair. Thinking him to be the Secretary, I said: "I am waiting
to see Sir Edgar Speyer, but fear I must leave for another appointment." "I am he", to my
great amazement, the newcomer replied. "Surely, so young a man is not the great
financier ?" I remarked, in genuine spontaneity. That was the beginning of a most
pleasant association. Sir Edgar gave me numerous letters of introduction, including some
to the Group who have stuck to me faithfully and amazingly uncomplainingly through all
the ups and downs inevitable to the mining business, ever since.
British capital was almost entirely responsible for the development of the mines of the
Rand, the goldfields of the South and North Island of New Zealand, the great mines of
Western Australia and of India. In every part of the far-flung British Dominions except
Canada. What, once more, is the reason ? The effect of early disappointments, the fact
that Canadian and American mining organizations are as well or better equipped
financially and are able to grasp the opportunities presented quickly; it is a case of "fruits
to the swift."
Highly capable British engineers were on the ground at Porcupine in the very beginning
of the excitement, but either through lack of faith in unusual conditions, or through
failure of the London capitalists to support. their decisions, London quickly lost interest.
Obviously, it is very difficult to get exact information as to what portion of our mining
holdings are held in Canada and what portion abroad. The latest statistics suggest that
about 54% of the shareholders in Canadian mines are Canadians, 30% are American,
13% are British; and 3%o belong to other countries. I think, however, there are now signs
of an increasing interest in Great Britain, and many of the more prominent British mining
concerns have either syndicates, exploration companies, or independent engineers
operating in this country. The only British companies deriving their revenue from
Canadian mines which are at the moment dividend-payers are
the Mond Nickel Company and the Huronian Belt Company. The Huronian Belt
Company-or interests connected therewith-control such Canadian companies as the
Keeley Silver Mines, the Vipond Consolidated, and the Canadian Lorrain, but these, it
must be understood, are Canadian companies, not British.
In connection with the checkered history of the Keeley mine, it is interesting to note that
it was the Associated Gold Mines of Western Australia (a London company owning a
rich West Australian mine) which provided the Huronian Belt Company with the
necessary capital, to develop that property after it had been acquired from the liquidators
of the Farmers' Bank, and time after time came to its rescue, before it finally emerged as
the rich and successful property it is today. It still possesses hundreds of shareholders in
far-off Australia. This incident suggests Imperial co-operation, indeed !
There has been a tendency-I believe an unfortunate one-on the part of the British press, to
show less sympathy to Canadian mining than has the American. British writers on mining
affairs have perhaps dwelt too much with the Davidsons and Bingos, rather than with the
Hollingers and Lake Shores. But this phase will pass, as more London-owned or
controlled successful mining concerns develop, as they will. British people are
remarkably game, and not quickly disheartened. Canada needs and welcomes their
assistance in the investigation of its mineral areas, so distant from each other and often so
difficult to explore. We should like to see more dividend cheques being cashed in the Old
Country from Canadian mines. We hope that Great Britain will realize that despite certain
inevitable fiascos, the Canadian mining industry is making giant strides, and is much
more likely to make further progress than to languish. Many British men of affairs are
now alive to these facts; some, indeed, much more alive to the importance of this basal
industry of our country than most Canadians occupying analogous positions.
The approaching visit of the Empire Mining and Metallurgical Congress next summer
should be productive of much good. It should create in the minds of the British Engineers
who will congregate from every corner of the globe, a fuller appreciation of what is being
accomplished at the widely diversified mines of Canada, an understanding of the special
problems, geological and otherwise, inevitably connected with their development; a
recognition of the opportunities presented by the great unexplored areas of this country.
Sir Alfred Mond, on a recent visit to Canada, pointed out that the world is becoming
divided into great economic units. The United States, entirely self-contained, already
forms one of these; another he considered was developing in Central Europe. In the
widespread Dominions of the British Empire, containing every conceivable sort of
natural resource, there lay, he believed, the well-developed nucleus of a group which
would dwarf all others into insignificance. It is inspiring to visualise what a significant
part Canada might play in such an Imperial scheme; what an important contribution to the
common good would be provided by her widely diversified mineral wealth.
The Speaker was heartily thanked for his masterly Address.
The importance of mineral resources to the industrial and material prosperity of the
country. The influence which mining has upon the extension and expansion of
civilization. Examples throughout history of the importance and influence of mining.
Measuring the degree of civilization of a nation by the extent to which it uses its mineral
resources. Just commencing in Canada to realize the importance of our mineral resources
and our mineral industry. Reasons why we are just beginning. Why we know so little
about our mineral resources. Our ability to say that we have in Canada one of the greatest
tracks of unprospected mineral land in the world. Comparing the known geological
conditions with those obtaining in the United States, where mining development is very
much farther advanced, and where the mineral resources are, to a certain extent, known.
Some specific comparisons made. Instances of development in the United States and in
Canada. A review of resources across Canada. The fortunate fact for Canada that our
mineral possibilities are so great; the conditions in the northern part of the country not
favourable to settlement. The importance of the mineral industry with regard to
transportation facilities. Ways of valuing our mineral resources.
DIMENSIONS OF SOCIAL INEQUALITY
Canadians tend to underestimate the amount of social inequality in our society; there is a
general belief that equality of opportunity allows individual initiative to decide who gets
ahead. Certainly compared to most other societies Canadians perceive themselves to be
well-off. In reality, however, we tend to interact with those who are close to us in the
class system, insulating us from the true dimensions of social inequality. Although money
is an important component of inequality socioeconomic status also encompasses power,
occupational prestige and schooling.
An important dimension of social inequality is income. The average family income in
2000 was $66,160, a partial recovery from the dip in 1993 (Figure 11-1, p. 260).
Essentially, family income has levelled off since about 1980, and most of the earlier
increases were a result of an increasing number of dual income families. Table 11-1 (p.
261) shows that the top 20% of families receive 43.6% of the income, while the bottom
20% receive only 5.2% of the income. This level of inequality has been maintained for 45
years. Clearly, Canada has less income disparity than the United States but, as indicated
in Figure 11-2, more than Sweden, but less than the United Kingdom. Canada Map 11-1
(p. 262) indicates, as well, that income is not distributed equally across Canada.
Wealth, which includes the total amount of money and valuable goods that a person or
family controls, is even more unequally distributed than income.
Wealth is an important source of power in our society. Do the wealthy, in part through
the social links, dominate political and economic decisions?
Occupation, as well as being a major determinant of income, wealth and power, is an
important source of social prestige. Table 11-2 (p. 263) shows the ranking of various
occupational categories in Canada in 1986 using income and education to assess socio-
economic status. These rankings are very similar to those surveys which measure
occupational prestige. We see that white collar workers tend to receive higher incomes
and are accorded more prestige than blue-collar workers. As well, women are paid less in
almost all categories than are men, especially in pink ghetto jobs which are concentrated
in the service and clerical areas.
Education is an important determinant of labour force participation, occupation and
income, and it is highly valued in Canada and other industrial societies. Although
education is generally conceived to be a right, there has not always been equal
participation by women. Lately, however, as indicated in Table 11-2 (p. 263) women
have completed more schooling than men.
ASCRIPTION AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION
Who we are at birth greatly influences what we later become.
Our point of entry into the system of social inequality is determined, in large part, by our
ancestry. Being born to privilege or poverty sets the stage for our future schooling,
occupation and income.
Women earn less income, accumulate less wealth and enjoy less occupational prestige
Race and Ethnicity
Race and ethnicity are important determinants of social position. Income levels for males
in Canada are rank ordered as demonstrated in Table 11-3 (p. 264); British, French,
Asian, black and Native, with Native incomes substantially below the others. Female
incomes are lower in every category as they experience difficulty in translating their
educational attainments into well paid occupations. Figure 11-4 (p. 264) demonstrates
that 15.8% of British-origin males have substantial incomes while only 3.3% of Native
SOCIAL CLASSES IN CANADA
Despite the difficulty in clearly defining class levels in Canadian society because of low
levels of status consistency and the fluidity provided by social mobility, it is possible to
think of four general social classes in Canada.
The Upper Class
Perhaps 3 to 5% of Canadians fall into this class. Much of their wealth is inherited, their
children go to private schools and they exercise great power in occupational positions.
Although this group has historically been primarily of British origin, it is now more
One percent belong to an upper-upper level distinguished primarily by "old money".
The remaining 2-4% fall into the lower-upper level and depend more on earnings than
The Middle Class
Roughly 40-50% of the Canadian population falls into this category. Because of its size it
has tremendous influence on patterns of North American culture. There is considerable
racial and ethnic diversity in this class and it is not characterized by exclusiveness and
familiarity. The top half of this category is termed the "upper-middle" class with family
incomes of $50,000 to $100,000 earned from upper managerial or professional fields.
The rest of the middle class (average middles) typically work in less prestigious white-
collar occupations or highly skilled blue-collar jobs. According to the Social Diversity
Box (p. 270) the middle class dominate the Calgary Stampede.
The Working Class
This class comprises about one-third of the population and has lower incomes than the
middle-class and virtually no accumulated wealth. Their jobs provide less personal
The Lower Class
The remaining 20% of our population is identified as the lower class. In 2001 roughly
15% of the Canadian population were labeled as poor. Many are supported entirely by
welfare payments while others are among the "working poor" whose incomes are
insufficient to cover necessities like food, shelter, and clothing. They typically live in less
desirable neighbourhoods — often racially or ethnically distinct — and their children are
often resigned to living the same hopeless lives of their parents. Recent government cut-
backs on welfare in some provinces may lead to even greater living constraints for this
group of people.
Class, Family, and Gender
Family life tends to reproduce the class structure in each generation. Parents define
children's expectations and the middle-class clearly has higher educational and
occupational expectations of their children than the working class. The box on Exploring
Cyber Society (p 266) posits the possibility that exposure to home computers might give
children an occupational advantage in the information society. The children of the
affluent are more likely to receive that exposure. Spousal relationships also differ with
more rigid role segregation in the working class as compared to more egalitarian
relationships in the middle class, which also contain more emotional intimacy.
Canada is characterized by a significant measure of social mobility. Social mobility can
result from personal achievement or structural change in the society itself. It can be
upward or downward and intragenerational or intergenerational. Intragenerational social
mobility refers to a change in social position occurring during a person's lifetime.
Intergenerational social mobility refers to upward or downward social mobility of
children in relation to their parents.
Myth Versus Reality
Canadians have generally expected that each new generation will do better than the last.
Recent data suggest that while there is much upward and downward activity on balance
not much shift takes place between generations. Men experience more occupational
inheritance than women and education is the key to occupational mobility in Canada.
Divorce is a good predictor of downward social mobility for women but not men.
The Global Economy and Canadian Class Structure
The rates of social mobility in Canada have been much the same as other industrial
societies; not very extensive. The restructuring of the Canadian economy with
manufacturing jobs moving elsewhere and service jobs replacing them, leads fewer
Canadians to expect that their children will experience better standards of living than they
experienced themselves. The late 1990s, however, saw a dramatic decrease in
unemployment because of an expanding economy.
POVERTY IN CANADA
Social stratification creates "haves" and "have-nots." The "have-nots" can experience
relative poverty, a deprivation in relation to those who have more, or absolute poverty, a
deprivation of resources that is life threatening. Roughly one in seven of the world's
population lives in conditions of absolute poverty while few Canadians do.
The Extent of Canadian Poverty
Approximately 4.4 million Canadians live below the "poverty line," that point below
which people spend approximately 55% of pre-tax income on food, clothing, and shelter.
A recent United Nations report has criticized Canada for making no measurable progress
in alleviating poverty. A "wealthy" society finds 2 million people regularly making use of
food banks and soup kitchens.
Who are the Poor
Children are more likely to be poor than any other age group. 15.6% of people under the
age of eighteen are officially classified as poor. Figure 11-5 (p. 273) would suggest that
the initial entrance status of immigrants to Canada is on average very low but improves
over time as they acculturate to Canadian society.
The poverty rate for the elderly has been declining but as the boomers retire, we will see
a rise in the absolute number of elderly poor.
Race and Ethnicity
While British and French-background Canadians are not at the top of the income
categories as measured by average male income (Welsh, Scottish, Jewish, and Japanese
are higher) blacks, West Indians, Latin Americans, some Asian groups and Natives are
clearly near the bottom. As the Applying Sociology Box (p. 268) makes clear, however,
Native people, although in aggregate are at the bottom, they are represented in every class
level in Canadian society.
Gender and Family Patterns
Families and the resources of households have very disparate income bases depending on
whether they are a lone parent family headed by a male or female. Women who head
households bear the brunt of poverty. They are less likely to be employed and when they
are, they earn less than men. Figure 11-6 (p. 274) compares the resources of two parent
families versus lone parent family incomes, and the implications of a female-headed
versus a male-headed lone parent family. In fact, Figure 11-7 (p. 274) demonstrates that
45% of them fall below the poverty line. This situation has bden described as the
feminization of poverty.
Sociologists generally agree that poverty is a product of social structure but two distinct
views about who is respons`ble are debated in the society.4/P>
One Vidw: Blame the Pfor
On one side are thfse who suggest that the poor ard responsible for their own poverty.
Oscar Lewir speaks of a culture of pgverty w`ere diminished expectations are the rule and
Edward Banfield identifies a "present-time" orientation which guarantees a perpetuation
Counterpoint: Blame Society
On the other side are those who suggest that society is primarily responsible for poverty.
William Ryan holds that unequal distribution of resources is the problem and that any
lack of ambition on the part of the poor is a consequence rather than a cause of their lack
There are advocates for both sides of this argument. Clearly individual initiative plays `
role in shaping a person's social position, but many people work hard but at minimum
wages and find themselves below the poverty line. As well, a comprehensive child-care
system would provide single-parent females with a better opportunity to seek training
and/or find a job.
The Working Poor
Not all poor people are jobless. Many work at jobs, sometimes several jobs, that do not
provide enough resources to move above the poverty line.
Although estimates of the level of homelessness are difficult to make, the familiar
stereotypes of men sleeping in doorways and women carrying all their possessions in a
shopping bag are no longer appropriate as whole families can no longer afford their
housing because of job loss. All homeless people have one thing in common, poverty.
While many of them are poverty stricken because of personal problems, there are an
increasing number who find
themselves homeless because of societal dislocation and government cut-backs on
Class and Welfare, Politics and Values
Our perception of the distribution of resources in Canadian society is affected by our
political values. Conservative-minded individuals focus upon personal merit, effort and
responsibility while the economically disadvantaged and those on the political left
suggest that structural constraints maintain poverty. To some extent we all share a general
North American belief in a meritocracy. Such a belief leads to the "hidden injury of
class" where poverty lowers the self-image of disadvantaged people. The Controversy
and Debate box (pp. 278-279) discusses this issue.