Changing immigration patterns have been given as one of the main reasons behind why the number of Canadians able to speak both national languages – French and English – has fallen to its lowest levels in 50 years.
According to a new Statistics Canada report, the number of people who speak both official languages outside of Quebec was down to just 17.5 per cent. In Quebec – Canada’s only province where French is the more common language – levels of bilingualism were much higher, with 42 per cent of the province’s population stating they were able to converse in both languages.
“Outside Quebec, the major growth of immigration and tendency to steer toward English put downward pressure on bilingualism rates,” explained Jean-Pierre Corbeil, head of the language statistics programme at Statistics Canada. “What we’re observing is that international immigration has become a challenge for those who want to make bilingualism progress in Canada outside Quebec.”
The Canadian immigration system places equal emphasis on an applicants’ English or French language abilities, with an equal amount of points offered to speakers of either language through the Federal Skills system. However, bonus points are awarded to those able to speak and read both English and French fluently.