The development of social class structure in Canada is not full of
middle class values, but rather is a society of inequality, largely because
of ethnicity. The historical origins of this, according to John Porter,
are in the hierarchy of the "two original colonizing partners... holding
special status." This exists today as with the English dominating, but
social mobility is possible. This does not mean there is not social class
within Canada, and understanding that social class is important for the
better sociological understanding of Canada.
There is evidence that social inequality within class structure
existed before colonization within the Native cultures. There were pre-
capitalists social divisions of labor, such as groups of slaves within this
hunting and trapping society with tribal and family social classes
This followed by the arrival of English and French capitalists who
encouraged the Canadian economy towards merchant capitalism. Canada
developed socially away from the feudal aspects of Europe. This became a
society of simple commodity production in which the merchant class became
dominant. Following the merchant classes were finance capitalists with
links to European banks, and with importing being important, merchants
became a powerful class. In the 19th and 20th centuries multinational
corporations emerged creating a new class, the comprador capitalists. This
has led to a great deal of wealth being concentrated in an elite few. The
classes that have suffered are the elderly, the woman, those in the
outlying provinces, and most significantly the ethnic minorities. For
example women were excluded from male-dominated labour organizations and
ethnic minorities suffer in labour jobs.
The development of social classes had led to a large poor class in
Canada and concentration of the wealth in a few hands. Furthermore, Canada
has had a history of internal problems that have led to its weaker economic
position, which has relied on extracting resources for metropolitan
markets. The end result has been that Canada is now economically reliant
on the United States which has not improved the relationships between
social classes. While unionism has flourished in Canada through a long
lasting labour movement, the working class needs to defend against new
challenges from globalization.
This has lead often to the "vilifying" of ethnic minorities, who have
faced class segregation between labour and capital that has weakened, yet
there still are attitudes against the equality of ethnic groups.
Legislation has in the past also contributed to this attitude against
Today in Canada most people participate in the economy in wage labour.
These workers are subject to great ethnic stratification as Anglo-Saxons
control the corporate world as different ethnicities are imported to work
without high rates of upward mobility. Other views suggest that inequality
exists within all groups in Canada creating a diverse range of social
classes. Regardless, it is important to note that social class has
affected all aspects of Canadian life. Canada's sociological development
of class is rooted in its origins, which were not egalitarian, and thus
Canada has developed with cleavages that are based on class, whether it be
race, gender, or age. While recent developments have improved the
conditions for the discriminated classes, it has not been smooth for
Canada. To understand Canada sociologically one must therefore look at the
roots of its problems and sociological development as a place with lots of
land, native cultures, imported labour, gender exclusion, English and
French mercantilism, and as of late, a large poor class with the great
wealth in the hands of a select few. Canada is therefore, and has not
historically been a egalitarian society and understanding this is critical
to understanding Canada's sociology.
There are two arguments to explain racism within Canada, one being
the political economic explanation and the other socio-psychological. The
class explanation suggests that cultural differences are not causes of
racism, but competition over economic resources leads to ethnic
discrimination. Cultural beliefs maintain that there is cultural conflict
inherent that causes racism. Within three ethnic groups, these
explanations can be seen.
The Indian influx into Canada began in the early 20th century as
Indians suffered low wages in their homeland and their was a demand for
labour in Canada. Thus the Indo-Canadians migrated to Canada to fill
labour needs and thus were pigeon-holed into a political and social
position that would not promote social advancement and thus promote racism.
This lends itself towards a class explanation, however the Indians
suffered immediately upon arrival with disenfranchisement and unfair taxes
with hints at a cultural explanation. However Indo-Canadians were also
excluded from economic endeavors, meaning a class explanation. Yet the
Indian immigration was curtailed despite the need for labor by extensive
taxing which indicates a racist culture attitude which is also indicated by
the classification of all Indians as Hindus.
Chinese in Canada have also faced racism, from the early days when
they were permitted to vote and taxed because of their race. Anti-Chinese
societies were established which suggest a cultural source of racism.
However labour unions were fearful of Chinese labourers 1875 which led to
further racism and action against the Chinese, which is class related. For
example there were societies trying to protect Canadian jobs and tax
Chinese working in Victoria. Even Chinese who were Canadian were
disenfranchised, meaning that perhaps the racism was based on cultural
explanations that the individual is responsible for racism. In recent
years, immigration officers have been allowed to exclude poorer immigrants
from third world countries like China which suggests that the roots of the
racism are class related.
The First-Nation people in Canada also suffered racism, although not
initially as Natives were important as English military allies, for
instance. Natives, however, were soon restricted under the Crown Lands
Protection Act, and when gold was discovered in 1850, Native people were
reduced to labourers. This shift in status suggests class relations were
the cause for racism. However, Natives were given opportunities if they
left their tribes by the Act for the Gradual Civilization of the Indian
Tribes, which leads the racism to be cultural as they were excluded based
on their tribalism, but allowed to enter Canadian society and receive land
and money. Natives were also given opportunities to become enfranchised
through marriage, meaning the cultural barrier could come down.
The racism faced by these groups cannot be explained solely by
cultural reasons, as there were clearly economic motives for the racist
treatment by the Canadian people and Canadian government. That is not to
say that cultural reasons for racism did not exist, but rather that
"opportunities are rarely denied on the basis of their ethnicity."
Economic motives played a large role in racism. However, it can be argued
that independent of political economic motives, racism did exist and these
groups did and would be excluded if they did not pose any threat to Anglo-
The ultimate explanation must certainly be a blend between the two
explanations as cultural differences cannot be the only explanation, yet
neither can class motivations. As a social class, these groups were
excluded, yet even when posing no threat as a class, they still faced
racist policies. Even Native people were given money to leave their
tribes, which is a racist act, but not one motivated solely from the class
In Canada, labour is separated by gender. Women have less opportunity
and predetermined jobs within society. They also have lower income as
women are employed in predominantly four occupational categories. Family
values have helped to enforce this economic exploitation of women, which
has not improved and possibly even worsened.
The family values have influenced the economic exploitation of women
since World War II, when women returned to the home and traditional places
of occupation when the men returned from war. In recent years, as women
have become increasingly employed, there have been attempts to sub-contract
women to work in their home which will reduce their wages and benefits.
While conditions may or may not improve, the family hinders women's
economic participation, as women earn "on average 72% of men's wages."
The rate of participation of married women in the work force has risen
historical, but in order to do so women had to overcome ideologies of
repression and patriarchy. In all aspects of life, women were considered
the weaker sex and this has contributed to the workforce. The roots of
this belief are in the family, as women are supposed to rear their children
once they are born. Patriarchy, which means male-dominate because of "the
logic of biological reproduction and the patriarchal relations within the
family" has forced women to have to break from the family notions to make
any progress in the economic job market.
This family ideology has had an effect on women in all aspects of
economic exploitation. Not only are they paid less, but they have fewer
job opportunities and work less than men. When it comes to welfare, women
need to receive services which the government has cut and women will suffer
in having to "perform traditional government work at reduced…