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Class and Ethnicity in the Ukrainian Group in Canada

Description: CIUS Seminar Audio Part 1 and 2.

Professor Isajiw, of the Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, presented a seminar on February 9 entitled "Class and Ethnicity in the Ukrainian Group in Canada." It elaborated on a theme discussed earlier at a seminar in Edmonton.

Professor Isajiw' s presentation centered on the question of whether class or ethnicity is more important in explaining the behaviour of an ethnic group. Professor Isajiw outlined the economic-occupational history of Ukrainians in Canada, based on official censuses. Although there has been a large and rapid decrease in the number of Ukrainians occupied in farming, Ukrainians still remain comparatively underrepresented in white collar occupations and trail behind the general labor force and most other ethnic groups, including other Slavs, in level of education and average income. The social standing of Ukrainians, as viewed subjectively by others, is quite low—in the same category as Mediterranean, Central European, and other East European immigrants.

This could be attributed to the class background and occupations of the first Ukrainian immigrants. Before World War II, the peasants from western Ukraine were funnelled into farming and unskilled jobs. Their maintenance of traditional values delayed social mobility. Not until after World War II, when Ukrainians with a higher level of education arrived, did the social composition of Ukrainians become differentiated. However due to their lack of knowledge of English, the absence of an employment placement network, and because the pre-war Ukrainian immigrants were still low on the occupational scale, the latest immigrants suffered a process of declassing; their jobs rarely reflected their educational backgrounds.

The government lacked institutions which could absorb immigrant talents. Hence, the declassed immigrants entered existing ethnic organizations, imposing new cultural values on them. A class phenomenon, it was an attempt to maintain the status and prestige they had possessed in Ukraine. The emigre organizations acted as vehicles for social mobility, especially for those former peasants whose status had risen as a result of political participation. These organizations, aimed at cultural ethnic preservation and not entrance into Canadian society, articulated group rather than individual values. A result of the ethnic structure in Ukraine, where Ukrainian ethnicity has always been "under seige," they overemphasized ethnicity as a means of cultural perpetuation among Ukrainians more so than other ethnic groups. Language was crucial in distinguishing the Ukrainians from Poles or Russians.

The speaker concluded that to explain the socio-economic situation of Ukrainians in Canada one must use both the concepts of class (power, prestige, wealth) and ethnicity (ancestry, culture, value, customs, socialization).

Found in CIUS Newsletters Vol 2 Issue 3 (Winter 1978)
Author: CIUS
Publisher: CIUS
Date: February 9, 1978
Contributor: Wsevolod Isajiw
Language: English, Ukrainian
Original Format: Magnetic tape, audio cassette





CIUS, “Class and Ethnicity in the Ukrainian Group in Canada,” CIUS-Archives, accessed March 4, 2024,
Unless otherwise noted, this work is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license .