IMMIGRATION INCREASES CANADA’S MULTILINGUAL MIX

IMMIGRATION INCREASES CANADA’S MULTILINGUAL MIX

TORONTO, DEC 2 (REUTERS) – IMMIGRATION IS SLOWLY ERODING THE PREDOMINANT ENGLISH AND FRENCH CULTURES OF CANADA, PUSHING THE COUNTRY TO NEW LEVELS OF MULTILINGUALISM, A STUDY RELEASED ON TUESDAY SHOWED.
NEW CENSUS DATA RELEASED BY THE GOVERNMENT SHOWED THAT IN 1996 ALMOST 5 MILLION CANADIANS, OR 17 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION, HAD A MOTHER TONGUE OTHER THAN ENGLISH OR FRENCH — CANADA’S TWO OFFICIAL LANGUAGES. THIS COMPARED TO 15 PERCENT IN 1991 AND 13 PERCENT IN 1971.
AN INFLUX OF IMMIGRANTS WHOSE FIRST LANGUAGE IS NEITHER ENGLISH NOR FRENCH AND A DECLINING BIRTH RATE AMONG ANGLOPHONES AND FRANCOPHONES DECREASED THE PROPORTION OF ENGLISH AND FRENCH SPEAKERS TO 60 PERCENT AND 24 PERCENT RESPECTIVELY IN 1996.
COLONIZED BY BOTH THE BRITISH AND FRENCH, CANADA ADOPTED AN OFFICIAL POLICY OF BILINGUALISM IN 1969, IN AN EFFORT TO CEMENT FRENCH CANADIANS’ PLACE IN CANADA.
MORE THAN 1 MILLION FOREIGNERS IMMIGRATED TO CANADA BETWEEN 1991 AND 1996, WITH MOST SETTLING IN ONTARIO, BRITISH COLUMBIA AND QUEBEC, THE GOVERNMENT STATISTICS AGENCY SAID.
IN QUEBEC THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHOSE FIRST LANGUAGE IS NEITHER FRENCH NOR ENGLISH, SO-CALLED ALLOPHONES, FOR THE FIRST TIME EXCEEDED THE NUMBER OF ANGLOPHONES.
THE AGENCY ATTRIBUTED THIS TO A WAVE OF IMMIGRATION INTO QUEBEC AND AN EXODUS OF ANGLOPHONES FROM THE SEPARATIST-RULED FRENCH-SPEAKING PROVINCE.
IN 1996, ALLOPHONES REPRESENTED 9.7 PER CENT OF QUEBECERS, COMPARED WITH 8.8 PER CENT FOR ANGLOPHONES. IN 1971, 13 PERCENT OF QUEBECKERS WERE ANGLOPHONES.
THE IMMIGRANT ISSUE IS A HOT TOPIC IN QUEBEC, WHERE THE PREMIER IN 1995 BLAMED THE DEFEAT OF A REFERENDUM ON SECESSION FROM CANADA ON "MONEY AND THE ETHNIC VOTE."
THE MAKEUP OF CANADA’S ALLOPHONES IS ALSO CHANGING DRAMATICALLY, STATISTICS CANADA REPORTED.
"WHAT WE ARE SEEING IS A CHANGE IN THE NON-OFFICIAL LANGUAGES GROUP. BEFORE THEY WERE MORE FROM EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, NOW THEY ARE MORE FROM ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST. FOR EXAMPLE, WE SAW A REALLY BIG INCREASE FOR THE CHINESE GROUP, FOLLOWED BY PUNJABI AND ARABIC," SAID LOUISE MARMEN, A SPOKESMAN FOR THE GOVERNMENT STATISTICS AGENCY.
CHINESE WAS THE THIRD-MOST COMMON MOTHER TONGUE IN CANADA IN 1996, AFTER ENGLISH AND FRENCH, FOLLOWED BY ITALIAN, GERMAN, SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE, THE REPORT SHOWED.
BETWEEN 1991 AND 1996, THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO GAVE CHINESE AS THEIR MOTHER TONGUE SURGED 42 PERCENT TO 736,000, REPRESENTING NEARLY 2.6 PERCENT OF CANADA’S POPULATION.
EIGHTY SIX PERCENT OF THE CHINESE SPEAKERS CONTINUED TO USE THE LANGUAGE AT HOME — CONTRARY TO THE TENDANCY AMONG PREVIOUS IMMIGRANTS, WHO WERE MOSTLY EUROPEAN AND TENDED TO SWITCH TO ENGLISH OR FRENCH AT HOME SOON AFTER ARRIVING IN CANADA.
02-12-97

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