Language demographics of Quebec

Language demographics of Quebec

This article presents the current language demographics of the Canadian province of Quebec.


Demographic terms

The complex nature of Quebec's linguistic situation, with individuals who are often bilingual or multilingual, has required the use of multiple terms in order to describe who speaks which languages.

having a mother tongue other than English or French.
Mother tongue 
The first language learned by a person, which may or may not still be used by that individual in adulthood, is a basic measure of a population's language. However, with the high number of mixed francophone-anglophone marriages and the reality of multilingualism in Montreal, this description does not give a true linguistic portrait of Quebec. It is, however, still essential, for example in order to calculate the assimilation rate. Statistics Canada defines mother tongue as the first language learned in childhood and still spoken; it does not presuppose literacy in that or any language.
Home language 
This is the language most often spoken at home and is currently preferred to identify francophones, anglophones, and allophones. This descriptor has the advantage of pointing out the current usage of languages. However, it fails to describe the language that is most used at work, which may be different.
Knowledge of official languages 
This measure describes which of the two official languages of Canada a person can speak informally. This relies on the person's own evaluation of his/her linguistic competence and can prove misleading.
First official language learned
Measures whether English or French is first language learned; it places allophones into English or French linguistic communities.
Official language minority
Based on first official language learned, but placing half of the people equally proficient since childhood in both English and French into each linguistic community; it is used by the Canadian government to determine the demand for minority language services in a region

Current demographics

  • Population: 7,651,000 (2006 est.)
  • Official language: French
  • Majority group: Francophone (82.0% native language, 84.5% speak French as a dominant language)
  • Percentage of population that is fluent in French (95.0%)
  • Minority groups: Anglophone (7.9%), allophone (9%), Aboriginals (1%), bilingual

Among the ten provinces of Canada, Quebec is the only one whose majority is francophone. Quebec's population accounts for 23.9% of the Canadian population, and Quebec's francophones account for at least 90% of all of Canada's French-speaking population.

English-speaking Quebecers reside mostly in the Greater Montreal Area, where they have built a well-established network of educational, social, economic, and cultural institutions. There are also historical English-speaking communities in the Eastern Townships, the Ottawa Valley, and the Gaspé Peninsula.[1] By contrast, the province's second-largest city Quebec City is almost exclusively francophone. The absolute number and the share of native English speakers has dropped significantly during the past forty years (from 13.8% in 1951 to just 8% in 2001) due to a net emigration to other Canadian provinces . This decline will likely continue in the near future.[2]

Similarly, the usage of French has declined sharply outside Quebec and New Brunswick during the same period. This decline is unlikely to stop due to the older age of the Francophone population, high rate of intermarriage with anglophones as well as the failure to pass the French language to the younger generations.[citation needed]

The remaining 10% of the population, known as allophones, comprises more than 30 different linguistic/ethnic groupings. With the exception of Aboriginal peoples in Quebec (the Inuit, Huron, etc.), the majority are products of 20th-century immigration and eventually adopt either English or French as home languages.

Of the population of 7,546,131 counted by the 2006 census, 7,435,905 people completed the section about language. Of these, 7,339,495 gave singular responses to the question regarding their first language. The languages most commonly reported were the following:

Language Number of
native speakers
Percentage of
singular responses
French 5,877,660 80.1%
English 575,555 7.8%
Italian 124,820 1.7%
Spanish 108,790 1.5%
Arabic 108,105 1.5%
Chinese 63,415 0.9%
Berber 41,845 0.6%
Portuguese 34,710 0.5%
Romanian 27,180 0.4%
Vietnamese 25,370 0.3%
Russian 19,275 0.3%
German 17,855 0.2%
Polish 17,305 0.2%
Armenian 15,520 0.2%
Persian 14,655 0.2%
Creole 14,060 0.2%
Cree 13,340 0.2%
Punjabi 11,905 0.2%
Tagalog (Filipino) 11,785 0.2%
Tamil 11,570 0.1%
Hindi 9,685 0.1%
Bengali 9,660 0.1%
Inuktitut 9,615 0.1%
Montagnais-Naskapi 9,335 0.1%
Khmer (Cambodian) 8,250 0.1%
Yiddish 8,225 0.1%
Hungarian (Magyar) 7,750 0.1%
Marathi 6,050 0.1%
Turkish 5,865 0.1%
Ukrainian 5,395 0.1%
Atikamekw 5,245 0.1%
Bulgarian 5,215 0.1%
Lao 4,785 0.1%
Hebrew 4,110 0.1%
Korean 3,970 0.1%
Dutch 3,620 0.05%

Numerous other languages were also counted, but only languages with more than 3,000 native speakers are shown.
(Figures shown are for the number of single language responses and the percentage of total single-language responses)[3]


2006 Mother tongue language by metropolitan areas
City / Language French English Other
Montreal (island) 48.8% 16.8% 33.6%
Montreal (metropolitan area) 64.9% 11.9% 22.5%
Quebec City 95.3% 1.5% 2.9%
Gatineau 79.8% 10.6% 8.5%
Sherbrooke 89.9% 4.8% 4.8%
Saguenay 97.9% 0.7% 1.2%
Trois-Rivières 96.9% 0.9% 1.9%


There are today three distinct territories in the Greater Montreal Area: the metropolitan region, Montreal Island, and Montreal, the city. (The island and the city were coterminous for a time between the municipal merger of 2002 and the "demerger" which occurred in January 2006.)

Quebec allophones account for 9% of the population of Quebec, however 88% of this population reside in Greater Montreal. Anglophones are also concentrated in the region of Montreal (80% of their numbers).

Francophones account for 65% of the total population of Greater Montreal, anglophones 12.6% and allophones 20.4%. On the island of Montreal, the francophone majority dropped to 49.8% by 2006, a net decline since the 1970s owing to francophone outmigration to more affluent suburbs in Laval and the South Shore (fr. Rive-Sud). The anglophones account for 17.6% of the population and the allophones 32.6%.


Between 1971 and 1996, the proportion of native francophones who claimed to know English, too, rose from 26% to 34%. The proportion of native anglophones claiming to know French, too, rose from 37% to 63% percent over the same period. Among allophones claiming a third mother tongue in 1996, 23% also knew French, 19% also knew English, and 48% also knew both. On the whole, the 1971 to 1996 period showed a progression towards better knowledge of French. By 1996, 2.6% of the population (182,480 persons, predominately Hispanic) were trilingual in French, English and Spanish.

Birth rate

At 1.74 children per woman, Quebec's 2008 fertility rate is above the Canada-wide rate of 1.59, and has increased for five consecutive years. However, it is still below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1. This contrasts with its fertility rates before 1960, which were among the highest of any industrialized society. Although Quebec is home to only 23.9% of the population of Canada, the number of international adoptions in Quebec is the highest of all provinces of Canada. In 2001, 42% of international adoptions in Canada were carried out in Quebec.


In 2003, Quebec accepted some 37,619 immigrants. A large proportion of these immigrants originated from francophone countries and countries that are former French colonies. Countries from which significant numbers of people immigrate include Haiti, Congo-Brazzaville, Lebanon, Morocco, Rwanda, Syria, Algeria, France and Belgium. Under the Canada-Quebec Accord, Quebec has sole responsibility for selecting most immigrants destined to the province (see related article, Immigration to Canada).

Interprovincial Migration

Interprovincial Migration Between Quebec and Other Provinces and Territories by Mother Tongue Source: Statistics Canada[4]
Mother Tongue / Year 1971–1976 1976–1981 1981–1986 1986–1991 1991–1996 1996–2001 Total
French -4,100 -18,000 -12,900 5,200 1,200 -8,900 -37,500
English -52,200 -106,300 -41,600 -22,200 -24,500 -29,200 -276,000
Other -5,700 -17,400 -8,700 -8,600 -14,100 -19,100 -73,600

Interprovincial migration, especially to Ontario, results in a net loss of population in Quebec. The numbers of French-speaking Quebecers leaving the province tend to be similar to the number entering, while immigrants to Quebec tend to leave. Outmigration threatens mostly the English-speaking minority in Quebec, accounting almost entirely for its population being almost cut in half in the last thirty years.


There are two sets of language laws in Quebec, which overlap and in various areas conflict or compete with each other: the laws passed by the Parliament of Canada and the laws passed by the National Assembly of Quebec.

Since 1982, both parliaments have had to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which constitutionalized a number of fundamental human rights and educational rights of minorities in all provinces (education is a provincial jurisdiction in Canada). Prior to this, Quebec was effectively the sole province required constitutionally to finance the educational needs of its linguistic minority. Ontario and Quebec are both required to finance schools for their principal religious minorities (Roman Catholic in Ontario, Protestant in Quebec), but only in Quebec is the minority almost completely composed of speakers of the minority language. (Quebec also provided English schools for anglophone Roman Catholics.) In 1997, an amendment to the constitution allowed for Quebec to replace its system of denominational school boards with a system of linguistic school boards.

The federal language law and regulations seek to make it possible for all Canadian anglophone and francophone citizens to obtain services in the language of their choice from the federal government. Ottawa promotes the adoption of bilingualism by the population and especially among the employees in the public service.

In contrast, the Quebec language law and regulations try to promote French as the common public language of all Quebecers. Although Quebec currently respects most of the constitutional rights of its anglophone minority, it took a series of court challenges. The government of Quebec promotes the adoption and the use of French to counteract the trend towards the anglicization of the population of Quebec.

Anglicization and francization

The following table[5] shows summary data on the language shifts which have occurred in Quebec between 1971, year of the first Canadian census asking questions about home language, and 2001 :

1971–2001 Period
(A) Language (B) Speakers according to mother language (C) Speakers according to home language (D) Linguistic persistence and attraction (E) Linguistic vitality indicator
(1) French 5,787,012 5,897,610 110,598 1,019
(2) English 582,564 733,643 151,079 1,259
(3) Others 681,224 419,548 -261,676 0,616

The second column starting on the left shows the number of native speakers of each language, the third shows the number of speakers using it at home.

The fourth column shows the difference between the number of speakers according to home language and those who speak it as mother tongue.

The fifth column shows the quotient of the division between the number of home language speakers and the native speakers.

Until the 1960s, the francophone majority of Quebec had only very weak assimilation power and, indeed, did not seek to assimilate non-francophones. Although the quantity of non-francophones adopted French throughout history, the pressure and, indeed, consensus from French-language and English-language institutions was historically towards the anglicization, not francization, of allophones in Quebec. Only a high fertility rate allowed the francophone population to keep increasing in absolute numbers in spite of assimilation and emigration. When, in the early 1960s, the fertility rate of Quebecers began declining in a manner consistent with most Western societies, Quebec's anglophone population – like elsewhere in Canada – maintained its relative proportion within the total population and kept on growing in absolute numbers, while Quebec's francophone majority (and the francophone minorities in the rest of Canada) experienced the beginning of a demographic collapse[6]: unlike the anglophone sphere, the francophone sphere was not assimilating allophones, and lower fertility rates were therefore much more determinative.

Quebec's language legislation has tried to address this since the 1960s when, as part of the Quiet Revolution, French-Canadians chose to move away from Church domination and towards a stronger identification with state institutions as development instruments for their community. Instead of repelling non-Catholic immigrants from the French-language public school system and towards the Protestant-run English system, for instance, immigrants would now be encouraged to attend French-language schools. The ultimate quantifiable goal of Quebec's language policy is to establish French as Quebec's common public language.

Recent census data show that goal has not been reached as successfully as hoped. After almost 30 years of enforcement of the Charter of the French Language, approximately 49% of allophone immigrants – including those who arrived before the Charter's adoption in 1977 – had assimilated to English, down from 71% in 1971, but still more than double anglophones' 21% share of the province's population.[7] This leads some Quebecers, particularly those who support the continued role of French as the province's common public language, to question whether the policy is being implemented successfully. The phenomenon is linked to the linguistic environments which cohabit Montreal – Quebec's largest city, Canada's second-largest metropolitan area, and home to a number of communities, neighbourhoods, and even municipalities in which English is the de facto common language. The anglophone minority's capacity to assimilate allophones and even francophones has therefore compensated to a large extent for the outmigration of anglophones to other provinces and even to the U.S.

A number of socio-economic factors are thought to be responsible for this reality. They include: the historic role of the English language in Canada and the U.S.; its growing influence in the business and scientific world; the perceived advantages of learning English that result from this prominence and which are particularly appealing to allophones who have yet to make a linguistic commitment; the historic association of English with immigrant Quebecers and French with ethnic French-Canadian Québécois, which plays into linguistic and identity politics; and the post-industrial clustering of anglophones into Montreal and away from regional communities[citation needed]. These factors go not only to allophone immigrants' direct linguistic assimilation, but also their indirect assimilation through contact with the private sector[citation needed]. Although the Charter of the French language makes French the official language of the workplace, the socio-economic factors cited here also often make English a requirement for employment, especially in Montreal, and to a lesser extent outside of it, notably in the National Capital Region, bordering Ontario, and in the Eastern Townships, particularly Sherbrooke.

The result is a largely bilingual workforce. Francophones are compelled to learn English to find employment, anglophones are pressured to do the same with French, and allophones are asked to learn both.[8] In reality, allophones start with one of the two, mostly English but more and more French[clarification needed]. Census data adjusted for education and professional experience show that bilingual francophones had a greater income than bilingual anglophones by the year 2000. [1]

In 2001, 29% of Quebec workers declared using English, either solely (193,320), mostly (293,320), equally with French (212,545) or regularly (857,420). The proportion rose to 37% in the Montreal metropolitan area. Indeed, the majority of Montrealers are bilingual and move easily between French and English-speaking social milieux[citation needed]. Outside Montreal, on the other hand, the proportion of anglophones has shrunk to 3% of the population and, except on the Ontario and U.S. borders, struggles to maintain a critical mass to support educational and health institutions – a reality that only immigrants and francophones usually experience in the other provinces. Unilingual anglophones are however still on the decline because of the higher English-French bilingualism of the community's younger generations.

Not all analysts[9] are entirely comfortable with this picture of the status of the English language in Quebec. For example, a more refined analysis of the Census data[9] shows that a great deal of anglicization continues to occur in the communities traditionally associated with the English language group, e.g., the Chinese, Italian, Greek and Indo-Pakistani groups[citation needed]. A majority of new immigrants in every census since 1971 have chosen French more often than English as their adopted language. Further, Calvin Veltman has shown that minority language children have often made French their personal language of use although this fact cannot be picked up by Statistics Canada because their parents continue to report them as usually speaking the ancestral language at home[citation needed]. And a recent study by M. McAndrew and C. Veltman (1999) show that minority language children in French schools are much more francized than are their parents[citation needed]. In addition, the rates of intermarriage between English and French-speaking people continue to rise, together with the proportion of children who have French for their first language instead of English, further undermining the capacity of the English language group to sustain itself in the medium to long run. All these factors have already combined to produce an increase in the relative size of the French-speaking population and may be expected to more fully assert themselves in the Census of 2006 and subsequent years[citation needed]. The corollary would be a continued decline in the relative size of the other language groups.

Aboriginal peoples

Aboriginal peoples in Quebec are a heterogeneous group of about 71,000 individuals, who account for 9% of the total population of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Approximately 60% of those are officially recognized as "Indians" under the federal Indian Act. Nearly half (47%) of this population in Quebec reported an Aboriginal language as mother tongue, the highest proportion of any province. The following table[10] shows the demographic situations of Aboriginal peoples in Quebec:

People Number Language family Region of Quebec Language of use Second language
Abenakis 2,000 Algonquian Mauricie French Abenaki
Algonquins 9,000 Algonquian North East Algonquin French or English
Atikameks 6,000 Algonquian North Atikamek French
Crees 14,800 Algonquian North Cree English
Malecites 764 Algonquian St. Lawrence South shore French English
Micmacs 4,900 Algonquian Gaspésie Micmac French or English
Montagnais 15,600 Algonquian North Coast Innu-Aimun French
Naskapis 600 Algonquian North East Innu-Aimun English
Hurons 3,000 Iroquoian near Quebec City French English
Mohawks 11,400 Iroquoian near Montreal English Mohawk
Inuit 10,000 Eskimo–Aleut Arctic Inuktitut English

See also


  1. ^ Claude Belanger. "Anglophone population of Quebec, Percentage of regional population, 1861–1981". Marionapolis College. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  2. ^ Jedwab, Jack (2007-01-15). "Quebec Turns Red Again When it Comes to Interprovincial Migration" (pdf). Association for Canadian Studies. Archived from the original on 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  3. ^ Detailed Mother Tongue (148), Single and Multiple Language Responses (3) and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census – 20% Sample Data. 2007. 
  4. ^ Statistics Canada. "Factors Affecting the Evolution of Language Groups". Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2006-10-27. 
  5. ^ Charles Castonguay, Les indicateurs généraux de la vitalité des langues au Québec : comparabilité et tendances 1971–2001, 2005
  6. ^ Charles Castonguay, Getting the facts straight on French : Reflections following the 1996 Census, in Inroads Journal, volume 8, 1999, pages 61
  7. ^ Charles Castonguay, Les indicateurs généraux de vitalité des langues au Québec : comparabilité et tendances 1971–2001 (Étude 1), Office québécois de la langue française, 26 mai, 2005, page 17
  8. ^ Virginie Moffet, Langue du travail : indicateurs relatifs à l’évolution de la population active et à l’utilisation des langues au travail en 2001, Office québécois de la langue française, page 57
  9. ^ a b cite book|last=Veltman|first=Calvin|title=The English Language in Quebec, 1940–1990|year=1995|publisher=Mouton de Gruyter|location=Berlin|isbn=3-11-014754|pages=205–235|=,+1940-1990&ots=FUW1wozcgS&sig=1pLRvXjKo_zpb0gw7rUz1p1zyCc#v=onepage&q=The%20English%20Language%20in%20Quebec%2C%201940-1990&f=false
  10. ^ "Aboriginal Peoples in Quebec". Archived from the original on 2008-02-26. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 


General Studies

Language shifts

In French

General Studies

Language at work

Language shifts

Demolinguistic forecast

  • Termote, Marc (2003). "La dynamique démolinguistique du Québec et de ses régions", in Piché, Victor and Le Bourdais, Céline (eds.), La démographie québécoise. Enjeux du XXIe siècle. Montréal, Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, collection "Paramètres", pages 264–299
  • Termote, Marc (2002). "L'évolution démolinguistique du Québec et du Canada", in La mise à jour des études originalement préparées pour la Commission sur l'avenir politique et constitutionnel du Québec. Rapport soumis au ministre délégué aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes. Volume 2, livre 2. Québec, Conseil exécutif, Bureau de coordination des études, pages 161–244
  • Termote, Marc (1999). Perspectives démolinguistiques du Québec et de la région de Montréal à l'aube du XXIe siècle : implications pour le français langue d'usage public, Conseil de la langue française, Montréal, 15 September 1999

Aboriginal languages

External links

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