Language in Canada

Demographics of Canada
Indigenous peoples
   Newfoundland and Labrador
   Northwest Territories
   New Brunswick
   Prince Edward Island
   Nova Scotia
   British Columbia
1666 (New France)
1871 1881 1891 1901
1911 1921 1931 1941
1951 1956 1961 1966
1971 1976 1981 1986
1991 1996 2001 2006
Ethnic groups
   First NationsDutch
   PolishOther groups

There are a multitude of languages spoken in Canada, but only English, French and certain aboriginal languages have official status. The Constitution of Canada itself recognizes two official languages, English and French, and all constitutional acts since 1982 have themselves been enacted in these two official languages. The English version of earlier Constitutional Acts is the only official version. Inuktitut notably has official status in the Northwest Territories, in Nunavut and in Nunavik, Quebec.

The first major step towards official recognition of languages other than English took place on July 7, 1969, when the federal Canadian Parliament adopted the Official Languages Act, making French commensurate to English throughout federal institutions. Since then, Inuktitut, Dene Suline, Cree, Dogrib, Gwich’in and Slavey have also gained limited official status, although only English and French are used for administrative matters by the federal, provincial and territorial administrations.

According to the 2001 census, Anglophones and Francophone represent roughly 59.3% and 22.9% of the population respectively. The rest of the population represent persons whose mother tongues are Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Italian, German, Aboriginal languages, or other.

The following article refers to language by mother tongue unless otherwise specified.


Official bilingualism

Language most spoken at home in Canada
  1996 [1]   2001 [2]
English 68.6%68.3%
French 22.9%22.3%
Other language 10.6%11.2%
Note that percentages add up to more than 100% because some people speak two or more languages at home.

English and French have equal status in federal courts, Parliament, and in all federal institutions. The public has the right, where there is sufficient demand, to receive federal government services in either English or French. While multiculturalism is an official policy of the federal government, to obtain Canadian citizenship, a candidate must normally be able to speak either English or French.

The principles of bilingualism in Canada are protected in sections 16 to 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 which establishes that:
  • French and English are equal to each other as federal official languages;
  • Debate in Parliament may take place in either official language;
  • Federal laws shall be printed in both official languages, with equal authority;
  • Anyone may deal with any court established by Parliament, in either official language;
  • Everyone has the right to receive services from the federal government in his or her choice of official language;
  • Members of a minority language group of one of the official languages if learned and still understood (i.e., French speakers in a majority English-speaking province, or vice versa) or received primary school education in that language has the right to have their children receive a public education in their language, where numbers warrant.
New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province, a status specifically guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982. Some provincial governments which are not officially bilingual, notably Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, offer services to their official language minority populations.

Until 1977, however, Quebec was the only officially bilingual province in Canada and most public institutions functioned in both languages. With the adoption of the Charter of the French Language by Quebec's National Assembly in August 1977, however, French became the sole official language of the government of Quebec. However, the French Language Charter also provides certain rights for speakers of English and aboriginal languages and most government services are available in both French and English. Regional institutions in Northern Quebec notably offer services in Inuktitut and Cree.

All three federal territories recognize both English and French as official languages, although English is the only language used for administrative purposes. Dene Suline, Cree, Dogrib, Gwich’in and Slavey also have some official status in the Northwest Territories. Inuktitut, which is the majority language in both Nunavut and Nunavik, also has official status in both territories.

Individual Bilingualism

Enlarge picture
A bilingual sign in Montreal.
More than 98% of Canadian residents speak either English or French. While the federal government remains officially bilingual, almost 99% of Canadian residents outside Quebec speak English and about 95% of Quebec residents speak French (2001 Census). Most Canadians outside Quebec are fluent only in English and many Quebecois are fluent only in French.

About 40% of Quebec residents and about 10% of the population residing outside Quebec claim to be bilingual (2001 Census). All together, 18% of Canadian residents speak both English and French, according to the answers they provided to Statistics Canada. Thus, a majority of bilingual Canadians are themselves Quebecois.

French is mostly spoken in Quebec, in New Brunswick, in Eastern and Northern Ontario, in southern Manitoba as well as in several communities in the other provinces. A distinct community also exists on Newfoundland's Port-au-Port peninsula; a remnant of French occupation of the island. Canada's francophones numbered some 6.9 million individuals in 2001. Of these, 85% resided in Quebec. In addition to francophones of French-Canadian and Acadian origin, many francophones of Haiti, France, Belgium, Morocco, Lebanon and Switzerland have emigrated to Quebec since the early 1960s. As a result of this wave of immigration and the assimilation of many earlier generations of non-francophone immigrants (Irish, English, Italian, Portuguese, etc.), Canadian-born francophones of Quebec are of diverse ethnic origin. Five francophone Premiers of Quebec have been of British ethnic origin, as defined by Statistics Canada: John Jones Ross, Edmund James Flynn, Daniel Johnson, Sr, Pierre Marc Johnson and Daniel Johnson, Jr.

The assimilation of francophones outside Quebec into the English-Canadian society signifies that most francophones outside Quebec are generally of French-Canadian or Acadian origin, with the exception of recent immigrants from the francophone world. Over one million Canadians of French ethnic origin living outside of Quebec have English as their mother tongue (1991 Census, ethnic origin and mother tongue, by province).

Other languages

Non-official languages are also important in Canada, with 5,470,820 people listing a non-official language as a first language. (The above three statistics include those who listed more than one first language.) Among the most important non-official first language groups are Chinese languages (753,745 first-language speakers), Vietnamese (631,485), Spanish (480,715), Italian (469,485), German (438,080), and Punjabi (271,220).


See also: Canadian Gaelic and Newfoundland Irish

Irish and Scottish Gaelic were spoken by many immigrants that settled in the Maritimes and Newfoundland. Newfoundland is the only place outside Europe to have its own Irish dialect, Newfoundland Irish, and the only place outside Europe to have its own distinct name in Irish, Talamh an Éisc, meaning 'land of the fish'. The Irish language is rare in Newfoundland now. Scottish Gaelic was spoken predominantly in areas of northern New Brunswick's Restigouche River valley, central and southeastern Prince Edward Island, as well as across the whole of northern Nova Scotia and particularly Cape Breton Island. While the language has mostly disappeared, there are regional pockets mostly centred on families deeply committed to their Celtic traditions; Nova Scotia, currently has 500-1000 fluent speakers, mostly in northwestern Cape Breton Island. There are also attempts in Nova Scotia to institute Gaelic immersion and there are formal post-secondary studies in the language and culture available through St. Francis Xavier University and the Gaelic College. In western Canada, Scottish Gaelic was mixed with Cree to form the Bungee language. At one point a motion was tabled in Parliament that Gaelic be made the third official language of the Dominion, but did not pass.


Main article: Canadian Ukrainian
Canada is also home to a distinct dialect of the Ukrainian language, spoken mostly in Western Canada by the descendants of first two waves of Ukrainian settlement in Canada who developed in a degree of isolation from their cousins in what was then Poland and the Soviet Union.

Indigenous languages

Some members of the 900,000 Indigenous people in Canada (3%) speak one or more of fifty different languages. The most important languages still used are Cree, Inuktitut, Ojibway, Innu, and Mi'kmaq. A 1996 census revealed that about 67.8% of Indigenous people reported to be native English speakers. Nearly half (47%) of Indigenous people in Quebec reported an Indigenous language as mother tongue, the highest proportion of any province.

Hybrid languages

Michif and Bungay

Linguistic and cultural diversity on Canada's frontier in the West and in its early past in the Atlantic promoted the development of hybrid languages, most notably Michif, a "mixed language" of Cree-Ojibwa-Assiniboine-French evolved within the Prairie Metis community, and also the less documented Bungee language (also Bungy, Bungie, Bungay, a.k.a. the Red River Dialect), which is similar to Michif but confined to the Red River area of Manitoba and which is a mix of Cree and Scots Gaelic.

Basque pidgin

In the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Cartier's day the existence of a Basque pidgin has been established, apparently a mix of local Algonkian languages and Basque.

Chinook Jargon

In British Columbia, Yukon and throughout the Pacific Northwest a pidgin language known as the Chinook Jargon emerged in the early 19th Century which was a combination of Chinookan, Nootka, Chehalis, French and English, with a smattering of words from other languages including Hawaiian and Spanish.

Demolinguistic descriptors

Mother tongue: The language spoken by the mother or the person responsible for taking care of the child is the most basic measure of a population's language. However, with the high number of mixed francophone-anglophone marriages and the reality of bilingualism and trilingualism, this description does not allow to fully determine the real linguistic portrait of Canada. It is, however, still essential, for example in order to calculate the assimilation rate.

Home language: This is the language most often spoken at home. This descriptor has the advantage of pointing out the current usage of languages. It however fails to describe the language that is most spoken at work, which may be a different language.

Knowledge of Official Languages: This measure describes which of the two official languages of Canada a person can speak informally. This relies on the person's own evaluation of his/her linguistic competence and can prove misleading. It was developed by Statistics Canada.

First Official Language Spoken: This is a composite measure of mother tongue, home language and knowledge of official language. It was developed by Statistics Canada.

Official language minority: Based on first official language learned, but placing half of the people equally proficient in both English and French into each linguistic community; it is used by the Canadian government to define English- and French-speaking communities in order to gauge demand for minority language services in a region.

Language composition by Mother Tongue

Of the 29.6 million citizens of Canada in 2001 (increasing to roughly 33 million in June 2006), 17.3 million are native English speakers, 6.7 million are native French-speakers and 5.2 million are native speakers of neither of Canada's two official languages. Another 380 thousand reported having more than one mother tongue.

Statistics Canada, 2001
  1. English 17,352,315
  2. French 6,703,325
  3. Chinese 753,745
  4. Vietnamese 631,055
  5. Spanish 480,715
  6. Italian 469,485
  7. German 438,080
  8. Punjabi 271,220
  9. English and a language other than French 219,860
  10. Portuguese 213,815
  11. Polish 208,375
  12. Arabic 199,940
  13. Tagalog 154,060
  14. Ukrainian 148,090
  15. Dutch 128,670
  16. Greek 120,365
  17. English and French 112,575
  18. Russian 94,555
  19. Persian 94,095
  20. Tamil 90,010
  21. Korean 85,070
  22. Urdu 80,895
  23. Hungarian 75,555
  24. Cree 72,800
  25. Gujarati 57,555
  26. Hindi 56,325
  27. Croatian 54,880
  28. Romanian 50,895
  29. Serbian 41,180
  30. French and a language other than English 38,630
  31. Japanese 34,815
  32. Bengali 29,505
  33. Inuktitut 29,005
  34. Armenian 27,350
  35. Serbo-Croatian 26,690
  36. Somali 26,110
  37. Czech 24,790
  38. Finnish 22,405
  39. Ojibway 21,000
  40. Yiddish 19,295
  41. Turkish 18,675
  42. Danish 18,230
  43. Slovak 17,545
  44. Macedonian 16,905
  45. Slovenian 12,800
  46. Hebrew 12,435
  47. Twi 11,070
  48. Estonian 10,848
  49. English, French and another language 10,085

Geographic distribution

The population of Canada being unequally distributed throughout a vast territory, a look at the population of each of its ten provinces and three territories is helpful. The following table details the population of each province and territory by mother tongue.

Province/Territory Total population English % French % Other languages %
 Nova Scotia897,570834,31593.0%34,1553.8%26,5103.0%
 New Brunswick719,710465,72064.7%236,77532.9%11,9351.7%
 Newfoundland and Labrador508,075500,06598.4%2,1800.4%5,4951.1%
 Newfoundland and Labrador133,385125,21593.9%5,6704.3%2,0651.5%
 Newfoundland and Labrador37,10528,98578.1%9652.6%7,06519.0%
Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 population census. (Figures combine single and multiple responses).

Protection of Minority Language Speakers

In Ontario, the French Language Services Act ensures that the province provides French speaking people with services in the French language.

In Quebec, the Charter of the French Language provides protections for Anglophone and Aboriginal minorities.

In Alberta, the Alberta School Act protects the right of French speaking people to receive school instruction in the French language in the province.

In Manitoba, the French Language Services Policy guarantees access to provincial government services in French, and various kinds of French-language education is provided. See Franco-Manitoban.

See also


External links

Population of Canada: 32,852,849 (April 2007 est.); 31,612,895 (2006 Census)

Provinces and territories

Sources: Statistics Canada [1][2]

Age structure

(2006 Census)

  Males Females

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Sikhism in Canada

Sikhs have been in Canada since 1897. One of the first Sikh soldiers arrived in Canada in 1897 following Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Sikhs were one of the few Asian immigrant communities who were loyal members of the British Empire.
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Immigration to Canada is the process by which people migrate to Canada and become nationals of the country. As Canada is a relatively new country, a formal immigration process has not been around for very long.
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Aboriginal people in Canada are Peoples recognized in the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982, sections 25 and 35, respectively as Indians, Métis, and Inuit. It also refers to self-identification of Aboriginal Peoples who live within Canada, but who have not chosen to accept the
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Demographics refers to selected population characteristics as used in government, marketing or opinion research, or the demographic profiles used in such research. (Note the distinction from demography, see below.
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Estimated population of Ontario : 12,687,000 (2006 est)

Percentage of National Population : 38.9%

Population growth rate per year: 1.0%

See: Demographics of Canada

Source: Statistics Canada[1]

Vital statistics

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The demographics of Quebec constitutes a complex and sensitive issue, especially as it relates to the National Question of Canada.

Quebec is the only province in Canada to feature a francophone (French-speaking) majority, and where anglophones (English-speakers) constitute
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Newfoundland and Labrador is a province of Canada, the tenth to join the Confederation. The province's population is 509,677 as of 2001. People from Newfoundland are called "Newfoundlanders".
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The Northwest Territories is a territory of Canada. It has an area of 1,171,918 square kilometres and a population of 41,861 as of July 1, 2006.

Population of Northwest Territories since 1871

Year Population five-year
% change ten-year
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New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces, and the only officially bilingual province (French and English) in the country. The provincial Department of Finance estimates that the province's population in 2006 was 749,168 of which the majority is English-speaking but
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Manitoba is one of Canada's 10 provinces. It is the easternmost of the three Prairie provinces.

Manitoba's capital and largest city (containing over one half the provincial population) is Winnipeg.
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Saskatchewan is the middle province of Canada's three prairie provinces. Saskatchewan has an area of 651,900 km² (251,700 mi²) and a population of 985,386 (Saskatchewanians) as of 2006. Most of its population lives in the southern half of the province.
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Demographics of the province of Prince Edward Island, Canada.


Population of Prince Edward Island since 1851
Year Population Mean annual
% change Five Year
% change Ten Year
% change Rank Among
1851 62,678 n/a n/a n/a 5
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Nunavut is a territory of Canada. It has an area of 1,932,254.97 km².<ref name="stats" /> In the 2006 census the population of Nunavut was 29,474[1]

As of the 2001 Census the population of Nunavut was 26,745,[2]
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Nova Scotia (Latin for New Scotland; Scottish Gaelic: Alba Nuadh; French: Nouvelle-Écosse) is a Canadian province located on Canada's southeastern coast.
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Estimated Population of British Columbia (2005): 4,254,500

Percentage of National Population: 13.2%

Population Growth Rate: 4.9%

See Also: Demographics of Canada

Vital Statistics

Birth rate: 9.
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Yukon (formerly The Yukon Territory) is one of Canada's three territories, in the country's extreme northwest. It has a population of 30,372 (2006 census), and its capital is Whitehorse, with a population of 20,461. People from the Yukon are known as Yukoners.
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29,257,885 2,907,380
English 17,352,315 2,379,515
French 6,703,325 58,645
Non-official languages 5,202,245 469,220
Chinese 853,745 78,205
 - Cantonese 322,315 26,255
 - Mandarin 101,790 5,580
 - Hakka 4,565 570
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Timeline: New France (to 1764) Under British Control (1764-1867) Post-Confederation (1867-1914) World Wars and Interwar Years (1914-1945) 1945-1960 1960-1981 1982-1992 1992-Present
Topics: Military history Economic history Constitutional history
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Demographics of Toronto make Toronto one of the most multicultural cities in the world; in 2004, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranked Toronto second, behind Miami, in its "List of World Cities with the Largest Percentage of Foreign-born Population".
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Demographics of the city of Montreal, Quebec.

General overview

Ethnic origin Population Percent
Canadian 1,885,085 55.76%
French 900,485 26.63%
Italian 224,460 6.63%
Irish 161,235 4.76%
English 134,115 3.96%
Scottish 94,705 2.80%
Jewish 80,390 2.
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demographics of Vancouver reveal a multi-ethnic society. There remains a small population, less than 2%, of Aboriginal peoples, who according to archeological and historical records, have inhabited this region for more than 3,000 years.
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The Census in Canada began with the country's first census in 1666. In the years leading up to 1871, Canada's first national census, a total of 98 colonial and regional censuses were conducted.
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The 1666 census of New France was the first census conducted in Canada (and indeed in North America). It was organized by Jean Talon, the first Intendant of New France, between 1665 and 1666.
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The Canada 1911 Census was a detailed enumeration of the Canadian population. The census was started on June 1 1911. All reports had been received by February 26, 1912. The total population count of Canada was 7,206,643.
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The Canada 1996 Census was a detailed enumeration of the Canadian population. Census day was May 14 1996. On that Statistics Canada attempted to count every person in Canada. The total population count of Canada was 28,846,761. This was a 5.
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The Canada 2001 Census was a detailed enumeration of the Canadian population. Census day was May 15 2001. On that day, Statistics Canada attempted to count every person in Canada. The total population count of Canada was 30,007,094.
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The Canada 2006 Census was a detailed enumeration of the Canadian population. Census day was May 16 2006. The next census following will be the 2011 Census. Canada's total population according to the 2006 census was 31,612,897.


Over 12.
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origins of the person’s ancestors.

:To which ethnic or cultural group(s) did this person’s ancestors belong?

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