A report from StatsCanada reveals that compared to English and other languages, French is becoming proportionately less significant in the lives of Canadians.
While the total amount of French speakers has risen, the number of English-speaking Canadians has grown at a much faster rate, making French speakers a proportionately smaller group when compared to English speakers.
While the use of English as the first official language of Canadians rose 74.8% to 75.5% from 2016-2021, the use of French as a first language dropped from 22.2% in 2016 to 21.4% in 2021.
Despite the federal and provincial governments pushing English-speaking Canadians to learn French, the trend of proportionately fewer Canadians knowing and primarily speaking French is happening across Canada in all provinces, including Quebec.
Canadians outside Quebec who are bilingual have declined from 9.8% in 2016 to 9.5% in 2021.
The number of Quebecers who predominately spoke French at home rose from 6.4 million in 2016 to 6.5 million in 2021, but the growth was outrivaled by Quebecers who don’t speak French in their homes, decreasing by 1.5 percentage points. As well, Quebecers whose mother tongue was French dropped from 77.% in 2016 to 74.8% in 2021.
Despite Quebec premier Francois Legault’s strict language policies meant to preserve the French language in the province, English has become a more important language in the day-to-day lives of Quebec residents.
In the Nord-du-Québec region, the percentage of residents whose first official language is French is only 31.1%, a 3.6 percentage point decline from 2016.
The Quebec National Assembly, controlled by the Coalition Avenir Québec, recently passed Bill 96, which tightens Quebec’s language laws, forcing employers to operate in French and more.
Premier Legault has openly admitted that French is on the decline in his province and that Bill 96’s passage was intended to increase the use of French.
“When we look at the statistics, the language most used in the home is in decline, the language most used at work is in decline,” said Legault to reporters this past June.
“It becomes a question of time. If this decline continues, it will take how many years before French is not used a lot?”
Other languages continue to become more important to the lives of Canadians, with a lot more citizens now speaking Punjabi, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin and more. These trends are largely driven by Canada’s immigration regime, as the population expanded by more than 5% from 2016-2021, largely as a result of new families coming to the country.