Journal: News & Comment

Thursday, January 23, 2003
# 3:03:00 PM:

Who we are

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Big news this week in the changing demographics of Canada and the United States. In essence, both countries' populations continue to move away from their European and largely English-speaking (and, in Canada, French-speaking) pasts -- but in wildly different directions.

In Canada, while immigrants half a century ago were largely from Europe, now they are from Asia. In the U.S., Hispanics (those of any race who identify themselves as being from a Spanish-speaking -- and largely Latin-American -- culture) are now the largest minority group, surpassing blacks in number by a thin margin. If anyone wonders how Canada and the U.S. are distinct, these shifts show it: Canada is becoming a nation influenced as much by China and India as the British Isles and anything franšais (i.e. more Asian), while America is pulled as strongly by Mexico and Central America as by the legacies of Ellis Island and the slave trade (i.e. more Latin American).

Vancouver, my home town, has seen some of the most dramatic changes -- and over the past couple of centuries, perhaps the largest population shifts of any place in the world. Two hundred years ago, there were maybe a few thousand people in this area in scattered native villages. They were overwhelmed by Europeans, their technology, and their diseases during the next hundred years. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the European influence solidified and built out roads and suburbs; since the 1970s the shift has been to Asians, and to glass skyscrapers. Today Greater Vancouver is one of the most diverse cities anywhere, with some of the youngest buildings (on average) and, in parts, highest population densities.

I live in an unremarkable (except for the view) suburb, and from my house I can easily walk to buy excellent -- and cheap -- sushi, pad Thai, burgers, bubble tea, fish and chips, falafels, or lamb karai. (There's not much good Mexican or soul food available nearby, which might not be a surprise -- but they're easy to find elsewhere in the city.) The food alone is worth my living here.

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