Canada DN-eh: Diversity is in Our Genes

5 January 2017
by Lesley Anderson

If I travelled the world and asked people to describe the “average Canadian,” I am sure that I would stumble across a few stereotypes here or there: The average Canadian loves hockey; he wears a “toque” all year round; she is painfully polite.

But if I asked people to describe what the average Canadian looks like or where he or she is originally from, I am bound to get a wide range of answers.

Canada has long been celebrated as one of the most diverse countries in the world. As a nation of immigrants, we come from every corner of the earth; from every religion, cultural background and linguistic group. Yet, despite our different pasts and alternative paths to this land, we have come together to create a remarkable place called Canada.

But are we really as different from each other as we think? Do we share more similarities and ties than we do differences?

To mark Canada’s 150th anniversary, Ancestry has undertaken a study of more than 70,000 Canadians within its DNA network to reveal the average genetic makeup of the country, going back up to thousands of years.

And our genes prove that Canada is truly diverse. While you may identify as Irish, French or Indian, the reality is that, like this great country, your story is probably not that simple.

The truth is that there is nothing average about the “Average Canadian.”

For example, the average Canadian is actually more continental European (46%) than British, Irish or Scottish (43%). This European DNA mix includes 16% Western European (France/Germany), 8.5% Scandinavian, and 8.5% Eastern European (Poland, Ukraine, Croatia). The average Canadian has 24 per cent Great Britain DNA and 19 per cent Ireland/Scotland/Wales.

Interestingly, there is slightly more Asian DNA in the Canadian average when compared to similar genetic data from the UK, which has long established historical ties with much of the continent of Asia, and similar proportions of Asian DNA when compared to Australia and New Zealand, countries that have closer geographic proximity to Asia.

All of this speaks to just how inclusive we are as a nation, and how that has helped us all become uniquely Canadian. In a world where our ‘differences’ are constantly being highlighted, there is some comfort in knowing that we may in fact share more in common with others than we think.

This Canada Day, I invite everyone to discover what makes them uniquely Canadian, and to raise a glass to our diversity.