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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The influence of minority ethnic groups on the cultural geography of Vancouver Walhouse, Freda

Abstract

Superficially, there is little to distinguish the city of Vancouver from many other North American cities. Its predominant impression is one of very rapid and unplanned growth and of Anglo-American cultural influence. However, the population contains many minority ethnic groups. This thesis is a study of the relationship between these various groups and the appearance of the city and its spatial differentiation. The more outstanding features within each group have been assessed, together with the major influence that each group has had upon both the cityscape and upon any particular aspect of the life and functioning of the city. Their distinctive cultural, religious, linguistic and occupational tendencies, the extent of organisation and any population concentrations have been described. Much information of historic interest was obtained from the Vancouver archives. Also, the statistical tables published by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics were studied. The greater part of the research, however, consisted of personal interviews and observations. Many prominent leaders of ethnic clubs, churches and other associations were consulted, and many institutions visited. Two of the largest groups, the Scandinavians and the Slav people, have made only a slight impact upon the city. Both of these groups are highly fragmented and the most obvious ethnic and cultural expression is often to be found in the distinctive architecture of a few church buildings. The early concentrations of both of these groups are steadily dispersing as people move out to the more desirable residential areas. The Baltic groups, Hungarians, Swiss, Dutch, Belgians, Greeks and Spanish are all relatively small groups which, although having their own distinctive features, history and organisations, make little cultural impact upon the cityscape of Vancouver. Many of these people desire to assimilate as quickly as possible into the Canadian population. The small and divided Jewish population has become noted for its financial and industrial activity within the city, as well as for its benevolent work and its high degree of organisation. The German population now forms the largest ethnic group in the city, with several well marked concentrations, including that of a growing Mennonite group. However, their organisations have been - disrupted by two world wars, and hence their influence is much less pronounced than might be expected. The small French Canadian population has played a prominent part in the establishment of Catholic religious institutions, hospitals and schools. The Italian population is one of the most recent groups to arrive in the city and has formed a remarkably dense concentration. Some discrimination still exists in Vancouver, and when colour is added to culture it is a further incentive for groups to segregate. Thus, the non-white ethnic groups are some of the most outstanding. The East Indian Sikhs are now scattered throughout the city, but the Gurdwara unites the people for social and religious functions. The Japanese concentration is hardly evident and its most striking feature results from the complete disruption and dispersal during the Second World War. The most outstanding concentration in the city is that of Chinatown, which has become a considerable tourist attraction. Also, a slight concentration of Negro people is still discernable. Of all the groups, the Native Indians seem to be the least able to accommodate to the city life of Vancouver. One reserve, with its village of Musqueam, still exists within the city limits. Today, economic segregation is far more important than any other factor such as language, ethnic origin or cultural background. The most basic trends in Vancouver are towards cultural conformity, assimilation and the dispersal of ethnic concentrations.

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