Ukrainians of Canada - Orientation

Identification. Ukrainian-Canadians are one of the larger and more prominent ethnic groups in Canada. These people, or more likely their ancestors, originated in Ukrainian territory in Eastern Europe. Ukrainian ethnographic territory corresponds roughly (not exactly) with the area of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the Soviet Union. The Black Sea lies to the south of this land, and its northern neighbors include Russia and Poland. The political boundaries of this territory have undergone many changes up to and during the twentieth century. Only rarely throughout these permutations were the governing bodies controlled by Ukrainians themselves. Indeed, Ukrainian immigrants to Canada carried Austrian, Polish, Russian, and other passports, and could be identified better on the basis of their language, culture, and religion than by their citizenship. Ancestry and culture continue to be the primary criteria for the identification of Ukrainian-Canadians. Language and religion have tended to decline as perceived prerequisites for inclusion in the group, replaced somewhat by participation in the organized Ukrainian community and by a personal sense of Ukrainianness. The Ukrainian-Canadian community does not have sharply defined membership. Large segments of its population live more or less closely in relation to it.

Location. The first settlements of Ukrainians in Canada were concentrated in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. In the earlier years, most were rural homesteaders. Although the prairie provinces still maintain large communities, Ukrainians have been spreading Somewhat more randomly across the country. Migration within the country reflects the search for economic advantages and the best personal quality of life. The trend to urbanization has been pronounced for a number of decades, and now 75 percent of the Ukrainian population of Canada lives in cities. In this respect, the Ukrainian community now resembles the general population of the country.

Demography. Ukrainian people have historically been quite sedentary, and only small numbers emigrated beyond Ukrainian territories prior to the end of the nineteenth Century. In the last 120 years, however, they have dispersed widely. Some two million live in North America, two million in Siberia, 250,000 in South America, 90,000 in other countries in Europe, and 35,000 in Australia. In the 1981 census, 529,615 Canadians declared Ukrainian ancestry, and another 225,000 claimed partial Ukrainian heritage. Representing some 2.7 percent of the population, Ukrainian-Canadians are the fifth largest ethnic group in the country. Only about 15 percent of these individuals are immigrants themselves; the remainder are Canadian-born. The city of Winnipeg has had a large Ukrainian population since early in this century. In 1981, the major Ukrainian-Canadian urban centers included Edmonton (63,000, 10 percent of the city's population), Winnipeg (59,000, 10 percent), and Toronto (51,000, 2 percent). Over 20,000 additional persons in each of these cities reported partial Ukrainian ancestry. Particularly in the prairies, numerous small towns and rural areas continue to record a high incidence of Ukrainian settlement, sometimes exceeding 50 percent of the local populace.

Linguistic Affiliation. Ukrainian is a Slavic language. Though many Ukrainians use the more formal literary language, others speak a Galician dialect with varying degrees of English influence. The community is increasingly English-speaking, with Ukrainians in French-speaking Canada often bilingual or trilingual. The percentage of Ukrainian-Canadians who use Ukrainian in the home has decreased in recent decades, dropping below 20 percent. Those who do speak Ukrainian regularly are often older.

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