Canada is characterized by a unique and highly diverse population. Aboriginal people are the first in the mosaic of people of diverse cultures and origins that make up the country. Aboriginal people comprise the First Nations, who represent 50 nations or cultural groups living in 617 communities across the country. They also include the Inuit, who live in small and scattered communities in the Canadian Arctic, as well as the Metis, a distinct people of mixed Aboriginal and European ancestry, the majority of whom live in the Prairie provinces.
The Canadian population is composed primarily of two groups which are called, together with the Aboriginal peoples, the founding peoples: the Francophones, who are the descendants of French colonists, the majority of which live in Quebec; and the Anglophones, who are the descendants of settlers, soldiers and migrants of mainly British, but also Irish, Scottish and Welsh origin.
To this diversity of cultures and origins dating from the early days of the country, one must also add the millions of newcomers that have granted Canada its reputation of 'land of immigrants.' Over the past 200 years, millions of newcomers from all over the world have helped to build and define Canada. Asia and the Middle East have been Canada's largest sources of immigration during recent years, but the proportion of immigration from African, Caribbean, Central and South American countries is also on the rise.
Among these newcomers, many come from countries where bridewealth is practiced. Often bridewealth continues to be practiced to some extent in these diaspora communities within Canada. It is also the case that immigrants' families who remain in their home country, expect that a newly immigrated individual will exchange bridewealth so that portions of the payment can be remitted to family back 'home.'
Some communities among the First Nations of Canada historically engaged in exchange practices at marriage that can be assimilated to bridewealth. This is the case of communities of the Plains First Nations, in the south of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and of communities of the Pacific Coast Nations, in British Columbia.
In 2017, the Bridewealth in the World Project will be organizing a workshop in Montreal to discuss this widespread marriage practice. By bringing together academics, community organization representatives and members of communities, we hope to engage in a dialogue on the relevance of bridewealth and on the challenges and difficulties it poses in Canada. Stay connected for upcoming news and informations!
Alexis Black and Fabienne Labbé