Growth and Dualism: The Demographic Development of Canadian Society


249 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7715-5751-5




Reviewed by Berkeley Fleming

Berkeley Fleming, Assistant Pfofessor in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Mount Allison University, Sackville, N.B., was also Director of Canadian Parents for French, an advocacy group promoting French second-language learning opportunities.


Let’s face it, demography tends to be rather boring. However, these two sociologists from Western present important population data in an engaging way. Using French-language material inaccessible to unilingual Anglophones, they clearly discuss the causes and consequences of the growth and linguistic dualism of this society. Chapters concerning the period before Confederation, mortality and fertility trends and differentials, immigration and emigration, the implications of varying growth rates, the relationship between regional differences and population questions, and changes in the linguistic balance are followed by a few careful demographic projections and a rather inconclusive consideration of the advisability of a comprehensive Canadian population policy. A short glossary, an adequate index, and an extensive bibliography are included.

Each chapter raises issues guaranteed to generate productive discussion. For example, it is suggested that settlers in New France refrained from sexual activity during Advent and Lent, just as the Church recommended. The way that Beaujot and McQuillan reach this conclusion is more significant than the finding itself; they show that, although age patterns do not indicate a general practice of voluntary control over fertility in seventeenth century New France, one can infer from seasonal fluctuations in birth that abstinence was practiced during particular times of “penance and sacrifice.” The authors point out the remarkable accuracy and detail of the records kept by religious and civil authorities in New France compared to those maintained in early English Canada. They also recount some wildly inaccurate demographic predictions made in the 1930s and 1940s, in order to suggest the need for caution in making such projections now. Generally, then, methodological details and caveats abound, but they are presented in such a way as to maintain our interest and clarify our understanding.

Beaujot and McQuillan challenge certain commonly held beliefs, such as the view that nineteenth century Upper Canadians stayed put, the assumption that the “baby boom” ended shortly after World War II, the expectation that mortality differences between groups should uniformly decline over time, and the illusion that the percentage of bilingual Canadians has significantly increased. The authors also explicitly consider policy matters. For example, they quietly but effectively criticize past and present immigration policies and question the appropriateness of the government’s choice of encouraging “institutional” rather than “territorial” bilingualism.

Beaujot and McQuillan rely more on prose than on tables, and they go beyond description to analysis. As indicated, they openly discuss methodology, clearly question common sense views, and directly consider policy implications. In addition to the conventional topic of population growth, they emphasize linguistic dualism, and this is doubtless related to their including neglected French sources. In each of these respects their work differs significantly from other Canadian demography publications, and for these reasons this book should interest general readers, students, academics, and policy-makers.


Beaujot, Roderic, and Kevin McQuillan, “Growth and Dualism: The Demographic Development of Canadian Society,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 21, 2024,