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2006 Census: The Evolving Linguistic Portrait, 2006 Census: The proportion of Francophones and of French continue to decline

The number of Francophones in Canada increases but their proportion continues to decline

Francophones (those who reported French as their mother tongue) made up 22.1% of the Canadian population in 2006, down from 22.9% in 2001. This is a slightly larger decrease than in the period of 1996 (23.5%) to 2001.

Between 2001 and 2006, there was an increase in the number of Francophones by almost 110,000 individuals. While Francophones had a lower rate of population growth (+1.6%) than Anglophones (+3.0%) and allophones (+18%), the rate was higher than in the previous five-year period, when it was only 1.1%.

In every province and territory outside Quebec, in contrast to English, the proportion of people who use French most often at home is smaller than the proportion whose mother tongue is French. The gap, which has been declining in every part of the country over the past 15 years, is due to the language transfers of Francophones who, especially outside Quebec, use English at home instead of French. Allophones tend also not to adopt French as their home language.

Table 7 Population of French mother tongue and population of French as the language spoken most often at home, and difference between the two, Canada, 1971 to 2006

In 1971, one Canadian in four (25.7%) spoke French at home. Thirty years later, in 2001, the proportion had decreased to 22.0%. The decline has continued since 2001, reaching 21.4% in 2006. Since 1991, the downward trend of French as the language spoken at home has been a steady 0.6 percentage point every five years.

Outside Quebec, French as mother tongue and as home language continue to decline

According to the 2006 Census, 4.1% of the population outside Quebec have French as their mother tongue, down from 4.4% in 2001. The decline continues a more than half-century-long trend. The number of Francophones decreased from 980,000 in 2001 to 975,000 in 2006, primarily because of migration exchanges with Quebec. The proportion of people who use French as their main language at home was also down, from 2.7% in 2001 to 2.5% in 2006. The number of people who speak French most often at home is nearly 400,000 less than those with French as mother tongue.

Between 2001 and 2006, the number of Francophones decreased by 5,000, or -0.5%. With regard to the population that uses French most often at home, their numbers decreased by 8,000, representing a decline of 1.3%.

There is much variation in the growth patterns in each province (see Table A-5 and Table A-6). In Quebec and New Brunswick, where Francophones make up 80% and 33% of the population respectively, the proportion of residents whose mother tongue is French and who use French most often at home also declined between 2001 and 2006.

New Brunswick had the largest drop in Francophones, losing 4,000 between 2001 and 2006. This downward trend has been evident since 1991. The decline in Francophones between 2001 and 2006 was seen in most provinces outside Quebec.

Ontario and Alberta experienced increases of 1,000 and 2,500, respectively. In addition, the decline in the francophone population was very small or negligible in Manitoba and British Columbia.

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