OTTAWA – Kimberley remains overwhelmingly a unilingual community, new census data shows — evidence that as major metropolitan cities grow ever more multicultural and multilingual, the dominant mother tongue in many parts of the country remains one of Canada’s official languages.
English was identified as the mother tongue for 92.5 per cent of people in Kimberley, Statistics Canada said Wednesday as it released new information on languages from the 2011 census. French, Canada’s other official language, was cited by 1.4 per cent.
A total of 6.2 per cent of the population of Kimberley reported a mother tongue other than one of Canada’s official languages. That’s a decrease from 10.8 per cent in the 2006 census.
According to the 2011 census, the top five non-official languages spoken in Kimberley: German (2.1 per cent); Italian (0.5 per cent); Dutch (0.4 per cent); one of the Chinese languages (0.3 per cent); and Ukrainian (0.3 per cent). Five years ago, the census reported the top five other languages spoken were German, Italian, Hungarian, Polish and Japanese.
Statistics Canada defines mother tongue as the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood at the time the census was taken in May 2011. The census also documented languages spoken at home and knowledge of Canada’s official languages.
In Canada’s major metropolitan cities, the linguistic breakdown was dramatically different. About half of the population of Toronto (46.1 per cent) and Vancouver (46.7 per cent) reported a mother tongue other than English or French, while cities like Montreal (34.4 per cent) and Calgary (27.9 per cent) also reported a significant proportion of residents with mother tongues other than either of Canada’s two official languages.
Statistics Canada noted a change in the response patterns for some of the mother tongue data for the 2011 census. Previously, language questions were asked only on what was known as the long form census, which went to just 20 per cent of the population. Last year, the government did away with the long form questionnaire and put the language question on the census that went to all Canadians.
As a result of the change in methodology, Statistics Canada reported that Canadians appear to have been less inclined than in previous years to report languages other than French or English as their only mother tongue — and also more inclined to list multiple languages as their mother tongue and the language used most often at home.
Across Canada, a total of 57.8 per cent of the population spoke English, 21.7 per cent spoke French and 20.6 per cent spoke other languages. The proportion of Canadians speaking one of the country’s official languages has decreased over the years as the immigrant population has increased.
The top “non-official’’ languages spoken in Canada: one of the Chinese languages (3.3 per cent); Punjabi (1.3 per cent); Spanish (1.3 per cent); Italian (1.3 per cent) and German (1.3 per cent).
In total, the 2011 census reported 191 different languages as mother tongues among the country’s population. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that counts language in its census.