Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada
Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Lesson 7 - Ethnic origins and visible minorities

This lesson was written by The Critical Thinking Consortium with editorial input and subject matter expertise from Statistics Canada's Education Outreach Program and Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.


Learners will begin by developing hypotheses regarding ethnocultural diversity in Canada. After using statistical information to support or refute their hypotheses, learners will create a metaphor for ethnocultural diversity in Canada.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

Secondary - Grades 9 to 12
Social studies, Political science, Language arts


Learners will demonstrate:

  • understanding of the changing nature of ethnocultural diversity in Canada
  • understanding of different perspectives on demographic shifts
  • ability to effectively develop and test hypotheses using statistical information
  • ability to use metaphors to explain concepts and trends.



Learners will focus on two key areas:

  • identifying trends that influence ethnocultural diversity in Canada
  • developing a metaphor that accurately reflects ethnocultural diversity in Canada.

Classroom instructions

Activity 1: Test hypotheses

Begin the activity by reviewing two concepts that are central to this activity:

  • ethnic origin: the ethnic or cultural origins of the respondent's ancestors
  • visible minorities: persons, other than Aboriginal persons, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.

The following links can be used to locate reference material with explanations of these concepts.

Ethnic Origin Reference Guide, 2006 Census

Visible Minority Population and Population Group Reference Guide, 2006 Census

Invite learners to consider Canada's ethnocultural diversity in their own community:

  • What are some indicators of ethnocultural diversity in communities?
  • Is their community becoming more or less ethnically diverse?

Ask learners to identify observable evidence in their community that might support their initial ideas regarding ethnocultural diversity (e.g., more or fewer people from other countries, more or fewer services for people from different countries). At this point, do not worry about the accuracy of learner observations; simply invite learners to record their observations. They will later test the hypotheses using statistical data.

Provide each learner with a copy of Handout 1: Testing hypotheses. Organize learners into teams and have them develop hypotheses regarding ethnocultural diversity in their community and in Canada. Encourage learners to reflect on the observations generated in the first part of this activity. Before learners record their hypotheses, ask them to consider the following criteria for an effective hypothesis.

An effective hypothesis should be:

  • relevant, that is, related to the topic being explored. For example, if the topic is Canada's ethnocultural diversity, a hypothesis about the productivity of farm land would not be relevant
  • open to question, meaning it cannot state something that has been proven true and non-refutable. For example, it would not be valid to hypothesize that Ottawa is the capital of Canada
  • specific, that is, it must not be over generalized. For example, a statement such as 'Canada has many immigrants' is too general to be considered an effective hypothesis.

Examples of effective hypotheses might include:

  • There are more visible minorities living in the North than in past census years.
  • The number of visible minorities in Winnipeg is steadily increasing.
  • Visible minorities are less likely to have multiple ethnic backgrounds.

Guide learners in recording their hypotheses in the left-hand column of the chart and in assessing the quality of each hypothesis using the check boxes. Any hypothesis that does not meet all three criteria should be revised.

Once hypotheses have been created and assessed, instruct learners to use at least two pieces of statistical data to support or refute each hypothesis. The following links can be used to locate statistical data:

The Daily: 2006 Census: Ethnic origin, visible minorities, place of work and mode of transportation

Canada's Ethnocultural Mosaic, 2006 Census: Findings

After teams have shared their hypotheses and indicated whether or not the hypotheses were valid, invite learners to create a list of 10 validated statements that accurately describe their community's and Canada's ethnocultural diversity.

Modify this activity for learners who require additional support in the following ways:

  • Provide learners with a focus for their hypotheses. Rather than considering all parts of Canada, instruct learners to examine specific geographic areas or groups of people.
  • Provide learners with hypotheses to be tested. Rather than attempting to develop their own hypotheses, provide learners with hypotheses to test.

Learner responses may be evaluated using Evaluation rubric 1: Assessing the justifications.

Activity 2: Create a powerful metaphor

Begin by reviewing metaphors and how they can be used to describe and explain things or events. Learners may be familiar with movies that are metaphors. For example, A Bug's Life can be considered a metaphor for the concept of imperialism. Invite learners to brainstorm possible metaphors for common events. For example: a school exam (completing a puzzle with your eyes closed), the weather (thundered like a cannon), or a recent news event (a tug of war). Review the metaphors created by learners and explain that some metaphors become governing or extended metaphors when a single dominant metaphor is broadly applied to an event. For example, governing metaphors are often used to describe ethnocultural diversity in countries. The metaphor of a 'melting pot' is often used to describe ethnocultural diversity in the United States while the metaphor of a “cultural mosaic” is used to describe ethnocultural diversity in Canada.

Inform learners that the governing metaphor of a 'cultural mosaic' has been used for quite some time to describe ethnocultural diversity in Canada. The learners' challenge is to create a new and powerful metaphor that accurately reflects ethnocultural diversity in Canada. Encourage learners to reflect on the hypotheses developed in the previous activity to describe ethnocultural diversity in Canada.

Organize learners into teams and provide each learner with a copy of Handout 2: Create a powerful metaphor. Instruct teams to select one of the statements about Canada's ethnocultural diversity that they created in  the previous activity and record it at the top of Handout 2. Using this statement as a starting point, invite teams to create a metaphor that reflects this aspect of ethnocultural diversity in Canada. Guide learners in recording aspects of ethnocultural diversity in Canada in the left-hand column of the chart and aspects of the metaphor in the right-hand column of the chart. For example, if learners indicate that one aspect of ethnocultural diversity is that more than 200 different ethnic origins were reported in the 2006 Census, the metaphor should reflect this aspect in some way.

Before teams start creating metaphors, suggest that for the purposes of this activity, the learners aim to satisfy the following four criteria:

A powerful metaphor should be

  • broadly applicable: Does the metaphor have many appropriate and relevant points of comparison with ethnocultural diversity in Canada?
  • original: Is the metaphor a unique way to describe ethnocultural diversity in Canada?
  • revealing: Does the metaphor help reveal aspects of ethnocultural diversity in Canada that may not be well understood?
  • profound: Does the metaphor reveal deeper aspects of ethnocultural diversity in Canada?

Remind learners that they will use the criteria first to create and later to evaluate their metaphors.

Organize learners into teams and encourage them to examine the statements they made in the first part of the activity and to select one that could be effectively explained using a metaphor.

Distribute a copy of Handout 3: Evaluating the metaphor to each team. Guide learners in self-evaluating their metaphor using the criteria on the chart. Encourage teams to adjust any aspect of the metaphor that does not receive a favorable evaluation.

After self-evaluating their metaphors, instruct teams to develop ways to creatively communicate their metaphors. Possible examples include posters, songs, and skits.

Invite learners to share their creations with other learners. If desired, ask learners to peer assess the other teams' presentations using Handout 3: Evaluating the metaphor as a guide.

Metaphors may be evaluated using Evaluation rubric 2: Assessing powerful metaphors.