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Canadians outside of Quebec are largely indifferent about official bilingualism. 

A new Leger poll found that Canadians’ views on federal bilingualism differ greatly based on region.

While 70% of Quebecers view bilingualism positively, that number drops to only 43% for the rest of the country. 

Canada officially recognized both English and French as its official languages in 1969, when it was enshrined into law under Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

However, little French is spoken outside of Quebec and New Brunswick except for small pockets of communities throughout the country. 

New Brunswick is the only province that is officially bilingual in Canada, as French is the singular official language in Quebec, and English is everywhere else.  

The poll conducted from June 14 to 16,  found that 18% of Canadians outside of Quebec held a negative opinion of bilingualism, as well as 11% within the province. 

Only 35% of respondents outside of Quebec held a positive opinion of Canada’s official bilingualism, with even less feeling that way in the Prairies, at 23%. 

When asked whether or not it was important for Canada to remain an officially bilingual country, 84% of Quebec respondents said yes, while only 43% agreed outside of the province. 

“It’s the two solitudes expressed in a poll,” Sébastien Poitras, vice president of public affairs at Léger told the Canadian Press, who requested the poll. 

“This value put forward by the Canadian government, that we’re a country with two official languages, and therefore have ‘coast-to-coast’ bilingualism, is a myth that doesn’t hold true in the rest of Canada.”

Over half of the respondents in Quebec felt that the other provinces should be bilingual like New Brunswick, at 60%, whereas only 26% agreed with that sentiment in the rest of the country. 

Additionally, 55% of Quebec respondents thought their province should officially recognize both English and French as its official languages, while only 22% thought that across Canada. 

“We’ve seen that, for the rest of Canada, people don’t see Canada’s official bilingualism as something positive,” said Poitras.

Only 41% of total respondents agreed that official bilingualism is at the heart of Canada’s identity, with the bulk of those being Quebecers, while 49% said that it only exists to satisfy a small minority of the population.  

According to Poitras, Canadians’ view of federal bilingualism outside of Quebec is “indifferent at best.” 

“When asked about the importance of Canada’s official bilingualism, just over half of anglophones say it’s not important,” he added. 

Respondents were asked if the survival of French was under threat in Canada, to which 70% of Quebecers agreed, whereas only 19% did outside of the province. 

When asked if French was under threat within the province of Quebec, 63% said yes, compared to only 11% elsewhere. 

Focusing on English, 38% of respondents outside of Quebec said it was under threat, while only 17% felt that way in Quebec. 

Studies conducted by the Fraser Institute in 2009 and 2012 found that the government spent a total of $2.4 billion annually at the federal, provincial and municipal levels combined on official bilingualism, based on data gathered from the 2006-07 fiscal year. 

“In our previous study, Official Language Policies at the Federal Level in Canada: Costs and Benefits in 2006, we estimated that the total cost of federal bilingualism at $1.8 billion,” reads the study.

“Since these expenditures include transfers to provinces that are spent by them on official language programs aggregating federal, provincial, and local spending must net out these transfers to avoid double counting. Once transfers are netted out, we have $1.5 billion at the federal level and $868 million at the local and provincial level for a total rounded of $2.4 billion or $85 per capita for 2006/07.”

The Léger survey was conducted online with 1,536 respondents but cannot be assigned a margin of error.