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Proportion of French speakers declines nearly everywhere in Canada, including Quebec

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OTTAWA — The proportion of Canadians who predominantly speak French at home declined in all provinces and territories except Yukon between 2016 and 2021, according to the latest census release.

Statistics Canada says over three in four Canadians report English as their first official language, a proportion that’s increased over the five-year period.

That’s while the proportion of people who report French as their first official language declined.

Jean-Pierre Corbeil, an associate professor of sociology at Laval University, said 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 numbers of people speak French or English or, if you will, a non-official language,” Corbeil said.

The sociologist said the rise in temporary immigration might be having an impact on French in Quebec, given that temporary immigrants are less likely to speak the language.

A recent study by the Institut du Québec found that while non-permanent residents represented nine per cent of international immigration to the province from 2012 to 2016, that number had climbed to 64 per cent by 2019.

In Quebec, the number of Canadians who reported English as their first official language topped 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 mother tongue has also declined.

The agency defines mother tongue as a citizen’s first language learned at home in childhood and 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 played for the English language in regions like Toronto, where nearly half of residents’ mother tongues are not English.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced in 2019 its plan to boost francophone immigration to areas in Canada outside of Quebec. It’s hoping to increase the share of francophone immigrants to 4.4 per cent by 2023.

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

It would be more effective to direct French-speaking immigrants to Quebec, given the limited influence of the language outside of the province, said Charles Castonguay, a retired mathematics professor from the University of Ottawa who specializes in the language landscape of Canada.

“That will do much more to stabilize the weight of French in Canada than scattering these immigrants,” he said.

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

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 François Legault drew criticism for sounding the alarm over a decline in the number of people who speak French at home.

Legault declared that “nobody could deny” French is in decline, saying fewer Quebecers were speaking the language at home as well as at work.

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

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

Statistics Canada will publish a census report on workplaces later this year that will shed light on languages spoken in work environments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

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Disaster

Newfoundland fishers face livelihood questions after Fiona storm damage

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By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Rose Blanche-Harbour Le Cou

Colourful fishing stages bobbed in the water by Rose Blanche-Harbour Le Cou Tuesday as Cliff Bateman watched from his property.

Days earlier, the picturesque buildings that are used to land and process fish were upright before post-tropical storm Fiona swept them into the ocean by the southwestern Newfoundland town.

Bateman watched the storm toss them through the water.

“It’s a big loss, I tell you that,” he said from inside his kitchen. The now-retired fisherman said he stored a priceless accumulation of gear and history inside the structures that were passed down through his family, some built over 100 years ago.

“You work all your life for it, and in an hour, everything gone.”

Fiona’s path of destruction through Atlantic Canada heavily damaged the fishing industry and communities along Newfoundland’s southwestern coast have not been spared. Fishers and property owners are awaiting word about possible government assistance and are left wondering whether it will be enough to fill the gaps.

In Burnt Islands, about a 20-minute drive west from Rose Blanche, Troy Hardy stepped off his boat Tuesday to look over the scene. Fishing stages by the community harbour were badly damaged, destroying people’s workstations and spilling their equipment into the sea.

Some people, like Hardy, had less severe losses, but of the roughly nine fishers in the community, he said “it’s safe to say every one of them was affected in some way.”

“Everybody’s livelihood is greatly impacted by what happened, to the point where you’re just trying to look around and see how you’re going to make it work for the upcoming season,” Hardy said.

On top of personal gear, a building shared between fishers for their work and storage of their catches was badly damaged, Hardy said. He expects people will be scrambling to salvage and source equipment before next spring’s seasons.

“It’s a big impact for the fish harvesters, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s very worrisome.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2022.

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Alberta

Alberta plans to resist federal efforts to seize prohibited weapons: Shandro

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CALGARY — The Alberta government is taking steps to oppose federal firearms prohibition legislation and the potential seizure of thousands of assault-style weapons.

Since May 2020, Ottawa has prohibited more than 1,500 different models of assault-style firearms from being used or sold in Canada.

It has committed to establishing a buyback program to remove those firearms from communities.

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said he received a letter from the federal minister of public safety asking for police resources to begin confiscating firearms beginning this fall.

He said the federal government is “fearmongering” by labelling the guns as “assault style,” which Shandro called a move to scare Canadians unfamiliar with firearms.

Shandro said at a news conference Monday that many of the weapons do not pose unusual danger or possess any additional mechanical capability.

“This is politically motivated confiscation, pure and simple,” he said. “And so I responded to (Public Safety) Minister (Marco) Mendicino by telling him no. Alberta will not assist the federal government in this or any federal effort to strip lawfully obtained personal property from our residents.”

Shandro said Alberta will not agree to having RCMP officers act as “confiscation agents” and will protest any such move under the provincial-federal agreement that governs policing.

“Despite taking this step, the federal government may still direct the RCMP to serve as confiscation agents,” Shandro said. “To prevent this from happening, Alberta will formally dispute any attempt to do so by invoking Article 23 of that agreement.”

Alberta also plans to seek intervener status in six ongoing judicial review applications challenging the constitutionality of the legislation.

Mendicino’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shandro’s position is supported by Alberta’s chief firearms officer.

“I have previously expressed strong opposition to the federal government’s plans to prohibit and confiscate some 30,000 lawfully acquired firearms from Albertans,” said Teri Bryant.

“The planned confiscations represent a fatal approach to reducing violence in Canadian society and are unwarranted and unacceptable infringements on the property rights and personal freedoms of Albertans.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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