Noah D. Arney

A student affairs professional's musings on books, education, politics, and cooking.

“Old Stock Canadians”

*update at the end*

So in the debate today Stephen Harper said “Old Stock Canadians” and it’s taking twitter by storm (in that no one outside twitter cares yet, but they might tomorrow).

So I decided to find out what it means. I thought it was a minor dog whistle like “real Americans”. I wish that was it.

Recently it’s been used mostly by Conservatives with the attempted implication that they just meant not recent immigrants.

From Jason Kenny’s speech on Immigration and Multiculturalism at University of Western Ontario in 2009:

The vast majority of young Canadians cannot identify the principal battles in Canada’s military history, important touch points for understanding of our history. And so this leads to a reasonable question. Are we beginning to develop a kind of historical amnesia in Canada, not just among newcomers but among the children and grandchildren of old–stock Canadians?

I would argue that if we do so, we’re losing something that could become unrecoverable.

A Western Standard blog post on courting ethnic voters in 2009:

The vital thing about courting ethnic votes is how cheap it actually is. No Sikh Adscam. The elaborate fountains and golf courses have been kept to a minimum in Brampton. For a Tory strategist this is low hanging fruit. Rather than spending billions in the murky world of Quebec politics, a few polite words and some old fashioned constituency work and the votes start rolling in. New Canadians are not natural Liberal voters. The Grits have benefited for decades in having a lock on these voters because, frankly, the Tories failed to market themselves properly. New Canadians tend to be more entrepreneurial and socially conservative than old stock Canadians. They’re natural Conservative voters. As Mr Gill suggests, sooner or later the Liberals are going to get slaughtered. The bankrupt party of the urban, professional elite. Their current leader is the perfect, clueless representative of that trend.

But at the same time it was being used to refer specifically to “Christians or Canadians of Christian heritage”.

National Post editorial from 2009:

Through selection bias the poll reveals what “we” think, but not what “they” think. It permits “old stock” Canadians (Christians or Canadians of Christian heritage) to be held up for public shaming. But the views of specific minority groups such as Muslims, Sikhs and Tamils — who might have revealed themselves to be insufficiently celebratory of religious diversity –are spared public exposure.

Previously it was used by far right conservatives when opposing multiculturalism.

A forum post from 2008 calling for integration instead of multiculturalism:

Indeed, according to multiculturalism in what is known as English Canada, old-stock Canadians are not considered the host society or the historic founding people, they are reduced to the status of an ethnic community among many others. That completely obliterate 400 years of history. When you think about that, multiculturalism is a cultural genocide.

But where does it come from before then?

In Creating Societies: Immigrant Lives in Canada By Dirk Hoerder (2000) he says:

Newcomers, native-born, and old-stock Canadians face severe psychological strain when confronted with demands to change cultural identities immediately and unconditionally. When Native Canadians were forced to submit to the indignity of cultural surrender by the ancestors of old-stock Canadians, they faced disruption of identities and they never accepted it.

So in this it explicitly lays out old stock Canadians as those of descent from the first settlers and nation builders – we can infer that he means English and French.

Earlier than that in 1995 it comes up in Reva Joshee’s UBC Doctoral thesis “Federal Policies on Cultural Diversity and Education, 1940-1971”:

The vision of Canada that predominated was that of a white, British, Protestant Christian country. At the turn of the century, economic considerations, the need to settle the West, and a lack of immigrants from Britain and the United States willing to settle the West forced Canadian officials to go outside these preferred source countries to attract immigrants. This meant that many of the immigrants coming to the country from 1900 to 1939 did not conform to the picture of the perfect Canadian. as a result, “old stock” Canadians embarked on a project of “…turning them into us as closely, quickly and cheaply as possible.” (Troper 1979, 10).

And here we get the most concerning definition. the line “old stock Canadians” refers to those who are descendants of or promoters of the descendants of “white, British, Protestant Christians”.

Mr. Harper is a well read intelligent man. He must know the definition of his term. So yes, in a public debate he appeared to make an appeal specifically to White Protestant Christians as a preferred group.


Mr. Harper has tried to clarify his statement by rephrasing it as:

Canadians who have been the descendants of immigrants for one or more generations

And his campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke has said:

Canadians who are already here in the country

But neither of those address it’s use by Jason Kenney six years ago which explicitly frames it as being those who’s families have been in Canada for a very long time. Not to mention the problem of Mr. Harper’s statement explicitly excludes First Nations, Inuit, and Métis from the definition.

Jason Kenney is a very smart politician and knows what he’s saying. Stephen Harper has a masters degree from University of Calgary, not something you earn without being good at research. I will believe the best in people, I don’t think that any of them are racist. But I can’t accept that these intelligent and well read men don’t know that the phrase they’re using has xenophobic ties and implications that date back to wanting the “right kind of immigrants” 100 years ago.

Note: claims that other politicians have used the phrase (in French) don’t help. If you’re trying to explain that a phrase doesn’t have xenophobic implications then perhaps referring to people from the province that wanted to ban all head coverings is a bad idea.

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