A quarter of Canadians now have a first language that is neither English or French, according to newly released census data on language, which marks a record high.
These six graphics — based on Statistics Canada data from the 2021 census — provide insight into languages that Canadians know how to speak and which ones they’re using at home.
In Quebec, bilingualism has increased 1.9 percentage points since the 2016 census. It comes after Quebec adopted Bill 96 earlier this year in an attempt to strengthen French language in the province, particularly in the courts, businesses and among immigrants to the province.
Among Indigenous languages in Canada, knowledge of Inuktitut, Oji-Cree and Nehiyawewin (Plains Cree) is highest, according to the latest census data. Statistics Canada also indicated the number of Canadians who can speak an Indigenous language has slightly decreased.
But the agency has cautioned against comparing figures from previous censuses, stating that the COVID-19 pandemic limited its ability to accurately count First Nations and Indigenous communities. The agency also cited heat waves and wildfires in British Columbia and northern Ontario as challenges during the census process. Statistics Canada said accurate comparisons can’t be made until September.
Language data offers a glimpse into the diversity of Canada. Using the Language Diversity Index — which measures the probability that two random people will have the same first language — we can calculate just how linguistically diverse each province is.
Calculations by CBC News indicate Nunavut and Ontario have the highest index scores, while Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest.
The number of Canadians who speak Mandarin, Punjabi or Spanish at home saw the biggest increases since the 2016 census and those three languages remain the top non-official languages spoken in Canada.
Several other languages also increased since the last federal census. The number of Canadians who speak Haitian Creole, for example, is 17 times higher than what it was in 2016. This massive jump comes after thousands of Haitian immigrants came to Canada in recent years, many fleeing the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration in the United States.
Tagalog, spoken mostly by those from the Philippines, is the most common non-official language spoken at home in three provinces and territories — Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Yukon.
Mandarin, the official language of China, is the most common in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
The number of people who know sign languages in Canada — including American Sign Language (ASL) — has increased by about 1,000 people.
In Saskatchewan, for example, sign language interpreters were used for the first time during televised news conferences updating the public on the COVID-19 pandemic, exposing more people to the language.