From the mid-to-late 19th century, many Canadians, reacting to economic change, stagnation, and depression in their homeland, migrated southward to the United States. The largest number of Indiana’s Canadian-born inhabitants resided in counties bordering Michigan, although Marion County experienced a steady increase going back to the 1870 census. At that time, 346 individuals born in “British America” resided in the county (297 in Indianapolis).

By 1900, there were 589 from Canada’s English-speaking provinces. Although Canadians have never comprised a large portion of Indianapolis’ foreign-born population, their numbers grew steadily throughout the 20th century. There were 1,056 individuals of Canadian ancestry (825 Canadian-born) in 1910, 2,239 (735 Canadian-born) in 1930, and 3,038 (927 Canadian-born) in 1960. According to the 1990 census, 2,474 residents of Indianapolis reported Canadian ancestry, 1,882 (76 percent) of whom claimed French Canadian ancestry. No distinct population clusters existed among the county’s 2,706 residents of Canadian ancestry.

Canadian immigrants largely have been white, middle class, and Protestant, while those from Quebec have traditionally adopted the English language and typically adhered to Catholicism. Canadians differ from other American immigrants in one respect: many retain their Canadian citizenship. Some reside in Indianapolis for business purposes and intend to return to Canada upon reassignment or retirement. Others have chosen to leave the United States because of higher medical costs and fewer social services.

Unlike other ethnic groups in Indianapolis, social and cultural institutions are rare among the Canadian population. Still, there is a Canadian presence. The Indiana Film Society sponsored a Canadian Film Festival. The Indianapolis-Scarborough Peace Games, an amateur sports event begun in 1973, promotes goodwill and cultural understanding between Hoosiers and Canadians.

Franklin College, in adjoining Johnson County, maintains a Centre for Canadian Studies that was founded in 1984. Ralph P. Guentzel, professor of history serves as director. The College offers a minor in Canadian Studies.

Revised July 2021

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