Statistics Canada released the latest round of 2011 Census information last week, this time focusing on questions of language. Predictably, the results reflected Canada's growing multicultural landscape and recent immigration trends.
Overall, the last Census found that 6.6 million Canadians — roughly 20 per cent of the population — speak languages other than French or English. A significant number — over 2.1 million people — speak languages other than French or English at home, which represents 6.5 per cent of the population.
The number of bilingual (French and English) speakers increased by a tenth of a per cent, and in 2011 some 17.5 per cent of the population (over 5.8 million Canadians) spoke at least two languages in the home.
Vancouver numbers stood out in Canada with roughly 711,515 people — about a third of the population of Greater Vancouver — speaking an immigrant language at home. The most common languages were Chinese and Punjabi. Only Toronto had a higher percentage of non-English or non-French speakers with 32.4 per cent.
Debra Pool, the president of Canadian Parents for French B.C. and Yukon, welcomed the 10 per cent increase in French speakers in the region since 2001. "French immersion enrolment has been increasing in British Columbia for 14 consecutive years," she said. What (the Oct. 24) census report shows is that French second language education has been a real success story here in Canada's most western province."
Currently there are 46,800 students enrolled in French Immersion programs, representing 8.1 per cent of the student population in B.C. and the Yukon.
In Whistler, 80.6 per cent of the population (7,915 people) reported English as a mother tongue while 90.6 per cent (8,900 people) reported that they spoke English at home. Some 5.7 per cent reported French as their mother tongue, while 12.1 per cent grew up speaking a non-official language.
Just 2.7 per cent spoke French only at home, and 4.9 per cent spoke another non-official language.
That's a higher percentage of English-at-home speakers than the provincial average of 80.5 per cent. The number of French-at-home speakers was also higher than the provincial average of 0.4 per cent.
The census of 9,825 Whistler residents included 7,915 English speakers, 560 French speakers and 1,185 non-official language speakers.
Of the non-official languages, 2.5 per cent of the population (245) spoke Japanese, 1.9 per cent (190) spoke Tagalog (Filipino) and 1.8 per cent (175) spoke German.
Where Whistler gets high marks is in bilingualism. Some 17.8 per cent of residents could speak both English and French, representing some 1,745 residents.
While English remains the dominant language, there's no denying that Whistler is more multicultural. Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) is already working to provide more services to newcomers who don't speak French or English.