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Bilingualism in Canada

September 2005

Bilingualism in Canada

Percentage of total population reporting to know both official languages

  • 1961 – 12.2% (2,231,172)
  • 1981 – 15.3% (3, 681,960)
  • 2001 – 17.7% (5,231,575)

Source: Statistics Canada, 1961, 1981 and 2001 censuses.

Percentage of Canadian population that are French-speaking and English-speaking (based on first official language spoken)

  • Percentage of population that is French-speaking – 24.1% (7,136,985)
  • Percentage of population that is English-speaking – 74.5% (22,068,568)

Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census.

Bilingualism by mother tongue and age

  • Among Francophones – 43.4% (2,909,905)
  • Among Anglophones – 9% (1,558,980)
  • Among young Canadians aged 15 to 19 – 24% (487,795)
  • Among young Francophones aged 15 to 19 – 47% (200,250)
  • Among young Anglophones aged 15 to 19 – 17% (219,985)
  • Among young people aged 15 to 19 whose mother tongue is neither English nor French – 20% (55,120)

Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census.

Population by knowledge of official languages, by province


All languages combined English only French only Both English and French Neither English or French
Canada 29,639,030 20,014,645 3,946,525 5,231,575 446,290
Newfoundland
and Labrador
508,080 486,390
(95.7%)
145
(0.03%)
20,890
(4.1%)
650
(0.1%)
Prince Edward
Island
133,385 117,240
(87.9%)
95
(0.07%)
15,990
(12%)
55
(0.03%)
Nova Scotia 897,570 805,545
(89.7%)
790
(0.08%)
90,265
(10%)
965
(0.1%)
New Brunswick 719,715 406,995
(56.5%)
66,415
(9.2%)
245,870
(34.2%)
435
(0.06%)
Quebec 7,125,575 327,045
(4.6%)
3,831,350
(53,8%)
2,907,700
(40.8%)
59,485
(0,8%)
Ontario 11,285,545 9,690,745
(85.9%)
42,305
(0.4%)
1,319,715
(11.7%)
232,780
(2.1%)
Manitoba 1,103,700 990,280
(89.7%)
1,250
(0.1%)
102,840
(9.3%)
9,325
(0.8%)
Saskatchewan 963,150 910,645
(94.5%)
360
(0.03%)
49,000
(5.1%)
3,150
(0.3%)
Alberta 2,941,150 2,704,895
(92%)
1 895
(0,06%)
202,905
(6.9%)
31,455
(1.1%)
British Columbia 3,868,870 3,493,680
(90.3%)
1.815
(0.04%)
269,365
(7%)
104,020
(2.7%)
Yukon 28,520 25,505
(89.4%)
45
(0.2%)
2,895
(10.2%)
75
(0.3%)
Northwest
Territories
37,105 33,550
(90.4%)
40
(0.1%)
3,130
(8.4%)
385
(1%)
Nunavut 26,670 22,125
(83%)
25
(0.09%)
1,010
(3.8%)
3,505
(13.1%)

Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census.

Canada is becoming increasingly multilingual

  • In addition to Canada’s indigenous languages and English and French, more than 100 mother tongues are spoken in Canada.
  • 59% of Canadians report English as their mother tongue;
    23% report French; and
    18% report a non-official language.
    Of the non-official languages, Chinese (2.9%) is the most often reported, followed by Italian (1.6%) and German (1.5%).
  • 61% of immigrants who arrived in the 1990s use a non-official language as the first language spoken at home.
    In comparison, in 1991, 56% of immigrants who had arrived in the 1980s spoke a non-official language at home.
  • The proportion of newcomers who are able to speak French is higher in Quebec than at the national level.
    31% of immigrants who arrived in the 1990s and live in Quebec report being able to converse in French and an additional 43% report being able to converse in both official languages.
  • Quebec was home to 86% of all Canadians reporting French as their mother tongue in 2001.
  • From 1996 to 2001, Canada welcomed almost 100,000 French-speaking immigrants.

Sources: Statistics Canada, “Canada e-Book: The People,” 2004, http://www43.statcan.ca/r000_e.htmGovernment site.
Statistics Canada, “Canada’s Ethnocultural Portrait,” 2004, http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census01/products/analytic/companion/etoimm/canada.cfmGovernment site.

  • In 2003, 29% of new immigrants who took up residence in Quebec had a knowledge of both official languages (compared with 16.6% in 1991 and 8.2% in 1980).
  • Overall, 45.8% of immigrants who took up residence in Quebec in 2003 had a knowledge of English only or of both official languages.

Source: Diane Vincent, Citizenship and Immigration Canada,
“Letter to the QCGN.”

  • People speaking both official languages represented 4.4% of all immigrants in 2000 and 6% in 2003.

Source : Citizenship and Immigration Canada,
Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration 2004, Ottawa, 2004.

Bilingualism – highlights from the Centre for Research and Information on Canada (CRIC)

  • 77% of Canadians recognize the importance of preserving our two official languages.
  • 90% of Canadians agree that individuals who speak more than one language are more likely to be successful in the global economy.
  • 74% of Anglophones and 93% of Francophones believe that their children should learn the other official language.
  • 70% of Canadians believe that bilingualism makes Canada more attractive to immigrants.
  • 80% of Canadians believe that all citizens should have the right to receive services from the Government of Canada in the official language of their choice.

Source: CRIC, “Bilingualism: Part of Our Past or Part of Our Future?”
The CRIC Papers (#13), March 2004.

Equitable participation in all organizations subject to the Act


Crown corporations do not have official languages management systems similar to those of departments. The only data available are on the equitable participation of both language groups.

Participation of Anglophones and Francophones in all organizations subject to the Act

1991 1994 2003 2004
Anglophones 72 % 72 % 72 % 72 %
Francophones 27 % 27 % 27 % 27 %
Unknown 1 % 1 % 1 % 1 %
Total 483,739 450,837 463,086 461,311

Source: Public Service Human Resources Management Agency,
“Annual Report on Official Languages 2003-04,” 2004, p. 58.

Federal Public Service

Representativeness

Participation of Anglophones and Francophones in the Public Service (departments and agencies for which the Treasury Board is the employer

  • Anglophones : 68 %
  • Francophones : 32 %
  • Total : 165,679 public servants

The terms “Anglophones” and “Francophones” refer to employees in terms of their first official language. The first official language is the language reported by employees as the one with which they have a primary personal identification (that is, the official language in which they are generally more proficient).

Source: Public Service Human Resources Management Agency,
“Annual Report on Official Languages 2003-04,” 2004, p. 58.

Language requirements of positions in the Public Service

1978 2004
Bilingual 25% (52,300) 39% (64,938)
English essential 60% (128,196) 50% (83,354)
French essential 8% (17,260) 5% (8,010)
English or French essential (reversible) 7% (14,129) 6% (9,009)

All positions in the Public Service of Canada are designated as bilingual or unilingual, depending on their specific requirements and according to the following categories:

  • bilingual : a position in which all, or part, of the duties must be performed in both English and French; English essential : a position in which all the duties must be performed in English;
  • French essential : a position in which all the duties must be performed in French; and
  • either English or French essential ("either/or") : a position in which all the duties can be performed in English or French.

Source: Public Service Human Resources Management Agency,
“Annual Report on Official Languages 2003-04,” 2004, p. 42.

Linguistic status of incumbents

Public Service

Linguistic status of incumbents

1978 2004
Meet 70% (36,446) 85% (55,349)
Do not meet Exempted 27% (14,462) 8% (5,393)
Must meet* 3% (1,392) 4% (2,317)
Incomplete records 0 % (0) 3% (1,879)

Source: Public Service Human Resources Management Agency,
“Annual Report on Official Languages 2003-04,” 2004, p. 44.

* Two-year exemption period under the Exclusion Approval Order

Service to the public

Linguistic status of incumbents for which there is a requirement to service the public in both official languages.

1978 2004
Meet 70% (20,888) 86% (34,998)
Do not meet Exempted 27% (8,016) 7% (3,094)
Must meet* 3% (756) 4% (1,513)
Incomplete records 0 % (0) 3% (1,198)

Source: Public Service Human Resources Management Agency,
“Annual Report on Official Languages 2003-04,” 2004, p. 46.

Internal services

Linguistic status of incumbents of bilingual positions providing personnel or central services (internal services) in both official languages.

1978 2004
Meet 65% (11,591) 84% (20,291)
Do not meet Exempted 32% (5,626) 10% (2,281)
Must meet* 3% (565) 3% (799)
Incomplete records 0 % (0) 3% (672)

Source: Public Service Human Resources Management Agency,
“Annual Report on Official Languages 2003-04,” 2004, p. 48.

Supervision

Linguistic status of incumbents of bilingual positions with supervisory responsibilities in the two official languages.

1978 2004
Meet 64% (9,639) 82% (11,917)
Do not meet Exempted 32% (4,804) 7% (952)
Must meet* 4 % (567) 8% (1,220)
Incomplete records 0 % (0) 3 % (376)

Source: Public Service Human Resources Management Agency,
“Annual Report on Official Languages 2003-04,” 2004, p. 50.

Complaints received by the Office of the Commissioner

Number of complaints filed

  • 49,140 complaints from 1970–1971 to 2003–2004.
  • An average of 1,700 complaints each year during the 1990s.
  • An average of 1,250 complaints each year since 2001.

Geographic and linguistic origin of complaints

  • 80% of complaints are filed by Francophones, especially from Ontario and Quebec, and particularly in the National Capital Region.

Type of complaints (on average)

  • in the last 35 years, about three quarters of our complaints have been about service to the public by federal institutions.
    • this year 69% of our complaints dealt with service to the public
  • the next largest category, averaging between 12% and 15%, has been about language of work issues in designated bilingual regions.
    • this year 14% of admissible complaints were on language of work
  • The rest of the complaints deal mainly with the balanced participation of Anglophones and Francophones in the Public Service and the linguistic designation of positions (sections 39 and 91 of the Act), or the government’s obligations to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities (Part VII of the Act).
    • the balanced participation of English and French speaking Canadians in the Public Service accounted for 5% of this year's complaints
    • language requirements of position accounted for 7% of this year's complaints
    • advancement of English and French accounted for 2% of this year's complaints
    • the remaining 2% of admissible complaints last year concerned issues such as notices, administration of justice, or discrimination as a result of lodging a complaint

Source: Annual reports, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, 1970–2004.