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

Interprovincial migration by Francophones

Language transfer of Francophones to English continues to increase outside Quebec1

Language transfer refers to the use of a language most often at home which is different from the mother tongue.

Although it has no direct impact on the size and growth of Francophone minorities outside Quebec, language transfer of Francophones to English is often a harbinger of future change. The language spoken most often at home is generally the language transmitted to the children as their mother tongue.2

The rate of language transfer to English for Francophones has been rising steadily since 1971. In 2006, 39% of Francophones used English most often at home, compared with 38% in 2001, 35% in 1991 and just under 30% in 1971. For most provinces and territories, this proportion was also higher in 2006 than in 2001. The exceptions were Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Yukon territory. In all these cases, more than 50% of Francophones spoke English most often at home in 2006.

Table 9 Proportion of Francophones (single mother tongue) speaking English most often at home, Canada, provinces, territories and Canada less Quebec, 1971, 1991, 2001 and 2006

Language transfer does not necessarily mean that people stop using their mother tongue. Since 2001, the Census provides more detailed information about use of language at home. The new data identify people who have made a language transfer but still use their mother tongue regularly at home. In 2006, outside Quebec, nearly 42% of Francophones who use English most often at home also speak French regularly, up from 39% in 2001.

Table 10 Among Francophones (single mother tongue) speaking English most often at home, proportion of those who speak French regularly at home, Canada, provinces, territories and Canada less Quebec, 2001 and 2006

Increase in language transfers contributes to aging of Francophone population outside Quebec

As is generally the case across Canada, the Francophone population outside Quebec is aging due to low fertility and increased life expectancy. In addition, increasing numbers of language transfers to English contribute to the non-transmission of French as a mother tongue to the children of Francophone women. Consequently, the number and proportion of Francophone children is much reduced. As a result, the Francophone population is aging much faster than the Anglophone population.

Outside Quebec, the number of Francophones was largest among the baby-boomers who were between 40 and 59 years of age in 2006. As for younger age groups, the numbers are declining rapidly. In sharp contrast to the age distribution for the population of Canada, the number of children under age 5 is roughly the same as the number of people aged 75 to 79, and is three times smaller than the number of people aged 45 to 49.

Figure 2 Age structure of English and French mother tongues, 5 year age groups, Canada less Quebec, 2006


  1. The situation of official language minorities will be studied in greater depth in an analytic report on the results of the Survey on the Vitality of Official-Language Minorities, which will be released on December 11, 2007.
  2. Language passed on to the child by the parents.

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