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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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CPNewsAlert: Coalition Avenir Québec wins majority government

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MONTREAL — The Canadian Press is projecting that François Legault’s right-of-centre Coalition Avenir Québec will form a majority government after dominating in the polls since the start of the campaign.

Legault promised Quebecers his nationalist government would cut income taxes, increase the role of the private sector in the health-care system and maintain immigration levels at 50,000 people per year.

More coming.

The Canadian Press

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Disaster

Nine days after Fiona, P.E.I. residents without power alarmed at pace of response

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Charlottetown

Residents of Prince Edward Island said Monday they’re growing exhausted, anxious and cold as thousands remained without power nine days after post-tropical storm Fiona swept through the region.

Wanda Arnold, a 70-year-old resident of Huntingdon Court seniors complex in Charlottetown, said in an interview she and other residents have been given blankets, but at night they’ve been shivering in the dark.

“People don’t have anything to do. They’re bored, they’re cold. It went down to -2 C last night. There’s people in this building that don’t have too much meat on their bones and they’re freezing,” she said.

Arnold also said the complex’s operators had dropped off food and small flashlights, but the assistance had been sporadic and insufficient.

As of Monday evening, there were still over 16,000 customers on the Island without power. On the day after the storm, private utility Maritime Electric had indicated there were 82,000 customers without power — a number that represented about 90 per cent of its customers.

Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Opposition Green Party, said he has questions about why the restoration is taking so long. “It’s been frustratingly slow. Ten days in with the temperatures we’ve seen and will continue to see, this is a public health and human safety issue.”

Kim Griffin, a spokeswoman for Maritime Electric, said Monday that most of the Island should have power back by Sunday.

Senior homes are on the “priority list,” she said, saying the main reason for the delay was trees falling on the utility’s infrastructure.

“We’re not looking for praise at all,” she said. “We just want to get the job done for you and get your power back on.”

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said his government has been attempting to obtain temporary generators for common areas in the provincial seniors complexes without power.

“I think that we’re learning a lot about ourselves in a difficulty like this and hopefully (we can) use that to be prepared in the future,” he said.

Kylee Graham, who hasn’t had power at her Charlottetown apartment since 1 a.m. on Sept. 24, said life is increasingly difficult as she and her partner cope with cooling temperatures and a lack of heat or light in their unit.

The 26-year-old doctoral student at the Atlantic Veterinary College is also a volunteer with the Charlottetown Mutual Aid, and says she is encountering seniors and homeless people whose situation is worse than her own.

“It makes me very angry that there’s not more being done … I think the government could be doing more but instead it’s up to us to help these folks and I don’t think that is OK,” she said in an interview on Monday.

Graham and Arnold say they believe that more repair crews should have been available from the utility to restore the outages.

“I can’t believe there’s been so little help here. This is seniors and this is not acceptable,” said Arnold. “They knew this storm was coming and they were ill prepared.”

Chad Stordy of Charlottetown said on Monday that the temperature at his house read 11 C in the middle of the day, as his family went another day without electricity.

He said he and his partner Kelsey Creed have two children, aged three and nine, both of whom had colds and a fever.

“I’m upset,” Stordy said from his home, as his three-year-old cuddled with Creed, and the nine-year-old watched a generator-powered television.

“I can’t bring them outside. I can’t bring them to a warming center because they’re sick and I’d risk getting other people sick,” he said. “So, we’re kind of in one of those weird spots where there’s not a lot we can do other than call Maritime Electric to be told: ‘Sorry. It’s probably still gonna be days.'”

Stordy said better estimates on restoration time would have allowed him to plan to leave the province temporarily, avoiding the days of chilly temperatures and discomfort.

Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, the power utility reported that there were still about 20,000 customers without power. The figures have steadily fallen since the original figures of 415,000 were reported on the day after the storm.

More than 1,500 people, including power line technicians, damage assessors, forestry technicians and field support are still on the ground in Nova Scotia, with the majority in the northeast and eastern parts of the province.

— By Michael Tutton in Halifax and Hina Alam in Fredericton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.

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