It’s finally here – the day we’ll be able to examine the first statistics from the 2016 Census. Our team has been studying the figures in detail since this morning so that we can prepare a brief overview of the data. Here are some of the statistics that drew my attention.
The figures don’t lie: 7.7 million people (22% of the Canadian population) reported an immigrant mother tongue. There is no denying that linguistic diversity is growing in Canada. The proportion of the population reporting a third language as their mother tongue increased from 21.3% in 2011 to 22.9% in 2016. A third language is a language other than English or French, which means that non-official languages are growing rapidly in Canada as a whole. As a logical consequence of this trend, the proportion of people who speak more than one language at home rose from 17.5% in 2011 to 19.4% in 2016.
Mother tongue still declining?
According to the data published this morning, the number of Canadians reporting either English or French as their mother tongue is down slightly from 2011. In 2016, 78.9% of the Canadian population had one or both official languages as their mother tongue, compared with 80.2% in 2011 and 82.4% in 2001. In other words, the proportion has been declining since 2001. What does this mean? Yes, linguistic diversity has increased, which could certainly account for part of the trend, but it would be really interesting to dig deeper and identify the other key factors.
A record high for English-French bilingualism!
As we have just celebrated our 150th anniversary, I’m very pleased to see that the linguistic duality is burgeoning, attaining a record 18% in 2016. It’s true that this increase comes from the province of Quebec, but we also see increases in most other provinces and territories as well. In Ontario, the proportion rose from 11% to 11.2%.
French at home
It would appear that we are tending to speak French at home less often. This is reflected in all of the figures for Canada, including Quebec. The proportion of the Canadian population using French at home was 23.3% in 2016, compared with 23.8% in 2011.
On another note, the demographic weight of Canadians outside Quebec who can carry on a conversation in French remained steady in 2016 (10.2% compared with 10.3% in 2011). It is worth noting that the actual number increased by nearly 160,000. It is interesting that these data differ when you look at the figures based on the entire country (including Quebec): the proportion was down slightly (from 30.1% to 29.8%), while the absolute number continued to climb.
What about Francophones outside Quebec?
Another important point. Even though the number of Francophones outside Quebec was up by 14,000 compared with 2011, the proportion declined slightly from 4% in 2011 to 3.8% in 2016 (1,021,310), mainly because of immigration. Naturally, these trends vary from province to province.
Nevertheless, we see that the number of people in Ontario whose first official language spoken is French was up more than 6,000 (6,795) from 2011, which is a decline from 4.3% to 4.1%. The growth in absolute terms was not accompanied by a percentage increase because of the continued growth of Ontario’s population, due in large part to immigration.
Inclusive Definition of Francophone (IDF)
The data published today do not take the IDF variables into account. As previously noted, this approach, which has been used to count Ontario’s Francophone population since June 2009, is one of the province’s most ambitious measures. This new inclusive definition of “Francophones” reflects the new diversity of Franco-Ontarians, regardless of their place of birth, ethnic background or religion.
In 2011, based on the IDF, the Francophone population was 611,500, or 4.8% of Ontario’s total population. Based on today’s numbers, it is more than likely the new figures based on the IDF from the Ministry of Francophone Affairs will probably see an increase in the number of Francophones in Ontario.
Over the next few days, we will be examining all of the other relevant statistics so that we can provide you with a clearer picture of the use of French in Ontario. Our well-known infographic will be updated to reflect the new data from the 2016 Census as soon as the IDF data become available. In the meantime, you can view the current version on our website.