Statistics Canada released its latest batch of information from the 2006 census today, this time covering the sensitive topics of language and immigration. While the Globe and Mail has already prepared a full dossier on the new information, with a look at nationwide trends, none of Montreal’s media outlets has published anything yet.
The new census results give us an idea of Montreal’s current linguistic makeup. I’ve crunched the numbers and here’s some of what I found:
Percentage of population by mother tongue, Montreal Island, 2006
Percentage of population by language spoken at home, Montreal Island, 2006
Percentage of population by mother tongue, Greater Montreal, 2006
Percentage of population by language spoken at home, Greater Montreal, 2006
As you can see, there is a clear linguistic split between Montreal Island and the off-island suburbs, which include not just Laval, the North Shore and the South Shore, but towns as far away as St. Jérôme. Native French speakers are actually a slight minority on the island whereas, in the metropolitan area as a whole, they form a large majority. Anglophones and allophones, meanwhile, are just the opposite: they make up a far larger chunk of the population on the island than they do off of it.
The real story is how these numbers have changed over time. Throughout the metropolitan area, both on the island and in the off-island suburbs, the percentage of native anglophones and francophones continues to decline while the percentage of allophones increases. Between 1991 and 2006, for instance, the proportion of anglos in Greater Montreal declined from 12.9 percent to 11.9 percent. The proportion of native francophones declined even more rapidly, from 67.2 percent to 64.9 percent. The proportion of allophones, meanwhile, increased from 17.6 percent to 21.2 percent.
These changes are attributable in large part to immigration. Currently, about 30 percent of Montreal Island residents were born outside of Canada. In the entire metropolitan area, that figure is lower, at around 20 percent. That’s still a nearly three-percent increase since 1991, when 17 percent of people in metropolitan Montreal were immigrants.
The languages that Montrealers speak are changing beyond French and English, too. Italian still holds its long-standing spot as the most-spoken non-official language in Montreal, with about 120,000 native speakers. Spanish and Arabic are quickly catching up, however, with about 100,000 native speakers each. Chinese languages come fourth with about 60,000 native speakers.
You can find out more information on Montreal at Statistics Canada’s community profiles page.
UPDATE: Local media are now covering the newly-released census data. The Gazette leads with a story that looks at the first increase in Quebec’s anglo population since the 1970s. It also asks whether there is an exodus from Quebec after all: “After earlier news showing people are leaving Quebec in record numbers, today’s census figures painted a surprisingly rosier picture.”
La Presse focuses on the concern expressed by the nationalist Société St-Jean-Baptiste that the French language is “in decline” in Montreal, because the proportions of people whose mother tongue is French and who speak French at home have both declined. (That said, the proportion of allophones who speak French at home has risen by nearly 10 percent since 1996, passing the 50-percent mark for the first time ever.) There’s also a story about Sherbrooke attracting a record number of immigrants, making it the second most-popular destination for newcomers to Quebec.
The Westmount Examiner, finally, has an interesting look on the linguistic trend in the West Island, where the proportions of anglophones and allophones have risen as the percentage of francophones has declined.
Meanwhile, the news that nearly one third of Montrealers were born outside of Canada is accompanied today by the announcement that provincial funding for the integration of new immigrants in Montreal will be doubled.