The proportion of French speakers is declining almost everywhere in Canada, including Quebec

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2022 at 6:03 am m. WBS

Last Updated Wednesday, August 17, 2022 2:36 pm EDT

OTTAWA – The proportion of Canadians who primarily speak French at home continues to decline in nearly every province and territory, including Quebec, the latest census release shows.

statistics Canada reported Wednesday that the percentage of Canadians who speak predominantly French at home fell to 19.2% in 2021 from 20% in 2016. All provinces and territories saw a drop except Yukon, where the figure rose from 2.4 to 2.6%.

In Quebec, the percentage of people who speak French at home has decreased since 2001.

The federal agency also looks at the proportion of people whose first official language is English or French. It found that more than three in four Canadians report English as their first official language, a figure that increased over the five-year period.

Meanwhile, the proportion of people reporting French as their first official language decreased.

Eric Caron-Malenfant, deputy director of statistics Canadaof the Demographic Center, told a news conference that the latest census report shows a continuation of language trends in the country.

Jean-Pierre Corbeil, associate professor of sociology at Université Laval, said that immigration plays a key role in the trends we see with languages ​​in Canada.

“We know that the composition of the population over time has an impact on … the number of people who speak French or English or, if you prefer, a non-official language,” Corbeil said.

The sociologist said the increase in temporary immigration could have an impact on French in Quebec, given that temporary immigrants are less likely to speak the language.

A recent study by the Institut du Quebec found that while non-permanent residents made up 9 percent of international immigration to the province between 2012 and 2016, that figure had risen to 64 percent in 2019.

In Quebec, the number of Canadians who reported English as their first official language exceeded one million, while one in 10 Quebecers report speaking predominantly English at home.

As the country becomes more linguistically diverse, the percentage of Canadians who reported English or French as their first language has also decreased.

The agency defines the mother tongue as a citizen’s first language that is learned at home during childhood and is still understood by the individual.

Corbeil said that while some people put a lot of emphasis on French losing ground in Quebec, that phenomenon has already affected the English language in regions like Toronto, where nearly half of residents’ native languages ​​are not English.

Outside of Quebec, the number of people who speak predominantly French at home fell by 36,000.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced in 2019 its plan to promote French-speaking immigration to areas in Canada outside Quebec. It hopes to increase the proportion of Francophone immigrants to 4.4 percent by 2023.

In 2021, 3.6% of arrivals outside Quebec were French-speaking immigrants.

It would be more effective to direct Francophone immigrants to Quebec, given the language’s limited influence outside the province, said Charles Castonguay, a retired University of Ottawa math professor who specializes in the linguistic landscape of Quebec. Canada.

“That will do a lot more to stabilize the weight of the Frenchman in Canada to disperse these immigrants,” he said.

English-French bilingualism remained unchanged over the five-year period, with 18 per cent of Canadians reporting that they can carry on a conversation in both languages.

However, a closer look at the numbers shows that the rate of bilingualism has increased in Quebec but has decreased elsewhere. Canada.

The census release comes after Quebec introduced a new language law this year that restricts access to government services in English. In June, Quebec Premier Francois Legault came under fire for sounding the alarm about a decline in the number of people speaking French at home.

Legault declared that “no one could deny” that French is in decline, saying that fewer Quebecers spoke the language at home and at work.

Corbeil said the impact of House Bill 96 would not be reflected in the data since it passed this year.

“It’s really immigration policy and immigration measures (where) I think the focus should be put, because it’s really hard to see … what are the measures that are going to have an impact on language dynamics,” Corbeil said.

statistics Canada will release a workplace census report later this year that will shed light on the languages ​​spoken in workplaces.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 17, 2022.

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