OTTAWA – The percentage of immigrants arriving in Quebec in recent years who have sufficient knowledge of French to conduct a conversation has declined slightly for several years, according to data released Wednesday by Statistics Canada.
Their percentage among newcomers who settled in the province between 2016 and 2021 is 75.8%, according to the most recent census data. A decrease of about five percentage points compared to the same measure adopted in 2016, for immigrants who arrived between 2011 and 2016.
In fact, the percentage was therefore estimated at 80.7%. It was measured at 80.8% and 77.7% in previous censuses, in 2011 and 2006.
These percentages include newcomers who can express themselves in both Molière’s and Shakespeare’s languages. “Many of them had a mother tongue other than French or English,” Éric Caron-Malenfant, deputy director at Statistics Canada’s demographic center, said in an interview.
This reality is the same across Canada, where 69.4% of recent immigrants said in 2021 that they have another mother tongue. However, over 60% of respondents said they regularly speak one or the other of the two official languages at home. However, only 4.5% reported that they regularly speak French at home.
Another linguistic indicator, the first official language spoken, also fell slightly in Quebec, notes Caron-Malenfant. In 2021, 54.5% of recent immigrants had French as their first official language compared to 60.5% in 2016. The figure was 58.8% in 2011 and 54.2% in 2006, Statistics Canada said. .
In 2021, 25.5% had only English as the first official language spoken in Quebec, and 14.7% identified both English and French.
The first official language spoken is determined taking into account the mother tongue, the language spoken at home and knowledge of the official languages.
“It’s not necessarily something that will be resolved over time,” says the deputy director.
However, Statistics Canada pointed out, publishing its data on Wednesday, that “the predominant knowledge or use of French or English generally directs immigrants to one or other of Canada’s two official language communities in the public sphere. and even in the private sphere.
The government agency expects data to be released in November on workplace language to provide a more complete picture of language integration.
Nearly one in four Canadian immigrants
In addition, data released Wednesday revealed that new arrivals represent 23% of the Canadian population, the highest percentage ever seen in the history of the Confederation.
Thus, nearly one in four people in Canada had landed an immigrant or permanent resident in 2021 or had been.
Statistics Canada indicates that this new record makes Canada the G7 country with the highest percentage of immigrants in its population.
The government agency points out that more than half of the newly received newcomers come from economic immigration. Statistics Canada estimates that newcomers can fill the labor shortage “in many sectors and regions of the country.”
In Quebec, economic immigration programs are the responsibility of the provincial government and 46.4% of new arrivals in 2021 had been admitted as skilled workers.
Additionally, Statistics Canada notes that Montreal received a smaller share of immigration in 2021 (12.2%) than in 2016 (14.8%), the previous census year. This is the steepest decline among Canada’s three largest urban centers.
More newcomers than before are reportedly settling outside major urban centers, such as the Ottawa and Gatineau region.
The percentage of recent immigrants who have chosen to settle in rural areas in Canada as a whole is only 3.2%.
More than 60% of new arrivals admitted between 2016 and 2021 were born in Asia. The main country of origin of all newcomers is India. In 2016, the Philippines ranked first and are now in second place.
Statistics Canada senior analyst Hélène Maheux points out that this ranking differs in Quebec, where the main countries of origin are France, Algeria and Syria. Immigrants born in an African country are also much more numerous than elsewhere in the country, she points out.
Additionally, Statistics Canada estimates that around one-third of newcomers, both in Quebec and the country as a whole, have had previous experience before gaining permanent resident status. They may, for example, have been temporary workers or foreign students.
“We noticed in the studies that they were done with data other than the census (…) which gave them a certain advantage. For example, we see that they have higher salaries than immigrants who do not have this previous experience, ”says Ms Maheux.
To know how such a path in immigration can affect learning French and English in the long, short and long term, more in-depth analysis would be needed, Caron-Malenfant believes.