Vertical Mosaic

Vertical Mosaic, a term used by sociologist John Porter to convey the concept that Canada is a mosaic of different ethnic, language, regional and religious groupings unequal in status and power. Porter published his book, Vertical Mosaic: An Analysis of Social Class and Power in Canada, in 1965. "Mosaic" is often contrasted with the American concept of "melting pot." The Canadian John Murray Gibbon, in his book The Canadian Mosaic (1938), disapproved of the American melting-pot policy, according to which immigrants and their descendants were discouraged from maintaining close ties with their countries and cultures of origin and instead were encouraged to assimilate into the American way of life. Many Canadians pointed with pride to the alternative Canadian policy of encouraging immigrants and their descendants to maintain important aspects of their ancestral cultures. Porter's view was that in income, occupation and education, this supposedly beneficial policy worked to the advantage of some ethnic groups and to the disadvantage of others.

Porter's book revealed that some groups (eg, those of British origin) have better incomes, education and health than others (eg, those of eastern and southern European origin). Native Indian and Inuit people were the most disadvantaged. According to Porter, this vertical arrangement also applied to power and to influence in decision making. In the bureaucratic, economic and political spheres, those of British origin are overrepresented among the elites.

Since 1965 several studies have shown that the picture sketched by Porter has been modified only slightly, ie, there has been some lessening of the economic gap between ethnic groups, and people of French origin are better represented in the political and bureaucratic spheres. The economic elite, still dominated by those of British origin, has changed very little. The book earned Porter the prestigious American Sociological Assn's McIver Award.