Are there really 348,000 Hungarians in Canada?

Statistics Canada released numbers pertaining to ethnicity and immigration from the 2016 census this week, including revealing data on the number of Canadians who listed Hungarian as their sole ethno-cultural background, or one of several. There is one number, which can be misleading and is often used to justify the Hungarian government’s significant public spending in Hungarian-Canadian communities. This includes most recently the construction of a new Baptist church in Toronto or a $600,000 government contribution for the new Canadian Hungarian Cultural Centre, also in Toronto. Diplomats at the Embassy of Hungary in Ottawa and the State Secretary in charge of the diaspora, under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office, will–as in the past–point to 348,085 as being the number of Hungarian Canadians. But is this really an accurate depiction of the Hungarian Canadian presence?

In the 2016 Census, 83,400 Canadians listed “Hungarian” as their only ethnic origin, including the author of this piece. An additional 264,685 Canadians listed Hungarian as one of several ethnic origins (Statistics Canada refers to this as “multiple ethnic origin responses.”) While some who listed multiple origins may have a Hungarian parent and some connection to Hungarian culture, society or community, the reality is that for many (perhaps for most) this connection is at most symbolic and likely has little to no bearing on how they would identify themselves, when asked. The fact that the 2016 Census also indicated that merely 64,340 identified Hungarian as their mother tongue highlights the importance of not conflating the total of single and multiple ethnic origin responses in the census with the state of the Hungarian identity or the Hungarian presence in Canada. None of this is meant to discount in any way the attachment to the Hungarian identity of someone who may have a single grandparent that was Hungarian. In a diverse and free society, we are fortunate to be able to choose our own identities. But it is inaccurate, and leads to skewed policies on the part of the Hungarian government, if the assumption is that there are 348,000 Hungarian Canadians.

A more helpful figure is to look only at the 83,400 who listed Hungarian as a sole response, some of whom do not speak Hungarian either. First, let’s break this figure down by province and territory:

  • Ontario: 44,995
  • British Columbia: 12,375
  • Alberta: 10,540
  • Québec: 8,320
  • Saskatchewan: 4,425
  • Manitoba: 1,765
  • Nova Scotia: 405
  • New Brunswick: 265
  • Yukon: 100
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 80
  • Prince Edward Island: 70
  • Northwest Territories: 45
  • Nunavut: 10

It is no surprise, of course, that more than half of Hungarian Canadians live in Ontario. Let’s take a look at a municipal breakdown, or more accurately–one by census area:

  • Toronto: 19,725
  • Montreal: 7,495
  • Vancouver: 6,570
  • Calgary: 4,935
  • Hamilton: 4,185
  • St. Catharines – Niagara: 2,885
  • Edmonton: 2,500
  • Windsor: 1,925
  • Ottawa-Gatineau: 1,900
  • Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo: 1.895
  • London: 1,855
  • Regina: 1,520
  • Winnipeg: 1,375
  • Oshawa: 1,155
  • Brantford: 1,110
  • Victoria: 950
  • Guelph: 930
  • Kelowna: 885
  • Saskatoon: 785
  • Barrie: 620
  • Abbotsford-Mission: 530

Here it is worth pointing out that nearly all people of Hungarian origins in Québec live in greater Montreal. I would also note how Toronto-centric the Hungarian community has become, in that approximately 14,000 Hungarian-Canadians live within a two hour drive of Toronto, bolstering the already large Hungarian presence in the city itself. As such, some 40% of Hungarian Canadians live in or near Toronto.

If we look at the total of single and multiple responses (keeping in mind the caveat detailed above), we see these results, broken down by province/territory:

  • Ontario: 163,500
  • British Columbia: 56,535
  • Alberta: 56,270
  • Québec: 28,280
  • Saskatchewan: 27,880
  • Manitoba: 10,120
  • Nova Scotia: 2,700
  • New Brunswick: 1,280
  • Yukon: 490
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 415
  • Northwest Territories: 260
  • Nunavut: 45

The remains of the Békevár Hungarian settlement (Saskatchewan)

One gets the impression of a relatively large Hungarian presence in the Prairie provinces, yet we know that very few people actually list Hungarian as their mother tongue in these areas (for instance, just 1,245 in Manitoba and 1,480 in Saskatchewan). This suggests that many of those listing multiple ethnic origins in these areas would only have a grandparent or great grandparent who was from Hungary and their connection to Hungarian culture or identity may be minimal. Looking at statistics from this region is perhaps the best illustration of why one must be careful when building public policy on an inflated figure.

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