by Andrew Parkin
Originally published: August 8, 2017
Each fresh wave of results from the 2016 Census brings a new appreciation for Canada’s deepening diversity, and last week’s release is no exception. As of 2016, 23 per cent of Canadians have a language other than English or French as their “mother tongue.” That figure rises to 29 per cent in Ontario and a remarkable 47 per cent – almost one in two – in Toronto.
As Statistics Canada notes, this illustrates the country’s “increasingly diverse linguistic landscape.” That headline notwithstanding, a closer look at the census findings should really prompt to ask whether – in the context of an increasingly interconnected world – we are diverse enough.
For those who see linguistic diversity as contributing to the vibrancy of society, there are several census results that stand out as positive developments. The first is that the number of Canadians who are bilingual in terms of English and French reached a record in 2016, at 18 per cent. The other is that a number of Indigenous youth are picking up an Indigenous language as a second language, even if they did not learn it as infants in the home. This is a promising sign for the preservation of Indigenous languages in Canada.