Support for Canadian Bilingualism on the rise

Anonby stan-sandy_anonby at
Wed Mar 9 15:45:41 UTC 2005

I think that's great news, and something I have observed informally.

I wonder why there has been this change of attitude. Any ideas? It seems to
me that support for bilingualism comes lockstep with tolerance. Does that
ring any bells? On almost all issues, I would say Canadian young people are
more tolerant, less rigid than their elders. Do you think this might be true
of young people throughout most of the world?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Harold F. Schiffman" <haroldfs at>
To: "Language Policy-List" <lgpolicy-list at>
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 11:20 AM
Subject: Support for Canadian Bilingualism on the rise

> Public support for bilingualism on the rise
> By Andrew Parkin, Ph.D.
> In her recent annual report, Dyane Adam, Canadas Commissioner of Official
> Languages, insists that linguistic duality is a fundamental Canadian
> value, and she cites CRIC survey data to support her assertion.
> While these recent surveys report on attitudes today, an analysis of
> polling since the 1980s paints an even more positive picture showing that
> public support for bilingualism is on the rise.
> Current attitudes
> Both CRICs Portraits of Canada 2001 survey, and its February 2002 survey
> on rights and freedoms, confirm high levels of support for official
> bilingualism and minority language rights. Among Canadians living outside
> of Quebec, 88% support the official languages policy (defined as meaning
> that citizens can get services from the federal government in the official
> language that they speak).
> Eighty one per cent agree that French-speaking families living in their
> province should have the right to educate their children in French, and
> 70% think that it is either important, or somewhat important, to preserve
> French and English as the two official languages.
> Decline then growth in support
> The changes in attitudes over time are equally compelling. The Focus
> Canada surveys, conducted by Environics Research, show that support for
> bilingualism declined in the late 1980s and early 1990s, amid the
> controversy surrounding Quebecs French-only sign law and the
> recriminations that followed the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord. Since
> then, however, support has gradually increased. Today, it is higher than
> it was before the decline of the late 1980s.
> Consider the number of anglophone Canadians who say that bilingualism is
> important to the Canadian identity. Seven in ten held this view in 1985,
> but the figure dropped to 55% in 1991. It has risen by 21 points since
> then: it stood at 76% in 2000.
> The same pattern holds when anglophone Canadians are asked if they are in
> favour of bilingualism for all of Canada. It should be noted that support
> for bilingualism, when described in such broad terms, is lower than when
> it is described in terms that more accurately reflect the objectives of
> the Official Languages Act, or in terms of language and education rights
> for official-language minorities. What is important, in terms of support
> for bilingualism for all of Canada, is the trend. In 1988, 44% of
> anglophones supported bilingualism for all of Canada, but this fell to 32%
> in 1991. By 2000, the figure had risen to 47%.
> Further confirmation
> The same trend is apparent in a third question, which asks whether
> Canadians favour bilingualism for their province. In 2000, for the first
> time, the number of anglophones favouring bilingualism at the provincial
> level hit 50%, up from 33% in 1991.
> (While I have highlighted the attitudes of anglophones, the same general
> pattern holds in the case of francophones and allophones. It should be
> noted that both these groups are more supportive of bilingualism than
> anglophones.)
> Perhaps the best news for supporters of bilingualism is that the policy is
> more strongly supported by young people than any other age group  an
> indication that it is not only those who came of age during the Trudeau
> era who have bought in.
> Countering stereotypes
> When CRIC presented its own data showing relatively high levels of support
> for bilingualism in all regions of the country, some observers expressed
> surprise. They had assumed that Westerners, at least, were skeptical of,
> if not hostile towards, the official languages policy. This is why public
> opinion research is important. It allows Canadians to counter the
> stereotypes that they sometimes hold about one another. For instance, the
> most recent surveys show that two-thirds of Albertans say that
> bilingualism is important to the Canadian identity, and three-quarters
> support the official languages policy. Thus, when the Official Languages
> Commissioner speaks of linguistic duality as a fundamental Canadian value,
> she is indeed speaking of a value shared from coast to coast.
> The data presented in this article, unless otherwise noted, are from
> Environics Research Group. The data were obtained from the Canadian
> Opinion Research Archive at Queens University.
> Andrew Parkin is Assistant Director CRIC.
> Canadians are becoming more bilingual
> In a recent speech to Canadian Parents for French, Intergovernmental
> Affairs Minister Stphane Dion cited CRIC research that shows Canadians
> support official bilingualism, then provided some figures on how that
> support has translated into reality.
> He offered the following examples:
> today, 24% of young high school graduates, across Canada, know both
> official languages, making this the most bilingual generation yet;
> today, 19% of young anglophones outside Quebec speak French, compared to
> only 8% in 1981;
> outside Quebec, between 1981 and 1996, bilingualism increased by 170% in
> Prince Edward Island, 167% in Newfoundland and Labrador, 105% in the
> Northwest Territories; 100% in Nova Scotia, 88% in Saskatchewan, 82% in
> Manitoba, 77% in Yukon, 72% in British Columbia, 70% in Alberta and 69% in
> New Brunswick;
> in Quebec, the 1996 Census put bilingualism among francophones at 34%.
> Among anglophones, it went from 37% in 1971 to 63% in 1996.

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