Demographic Vitality

The French Language

The number of Canadians who reported French as their mother tongue rose to 6,970,405 in 2006, including 5,957,865 in Quebec and 1,012,530 in the other provinces and territories.

However, Canada is becoming more and more diversified, and we are now seeing many citizens who, if they have Wolof, Creole or Bambara as their mother tongue, use French as their main language of daily communication. This is why reference is increasingly made to the number of Canadians who have French as their first official language spoken. Using this figure, there are now 7,536,315 Francophones in all of Canada, or 24% of the population. Of these, there are 6,482,505 in Quebec and 1,053,800 in the Francophone and Acadian communities. This means that close to 14% of all Francophones live outside Quebec, where they represent 3.4% of the total population.
 

Population by Mother Tongue, 2006, Canada less Quebec

Population by Mother Tongue, 2006, Canada less Quebec

Data from: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census


French 1,012,530
English 17,591,555
Non-official languages 5,261,550
Total population, Canada less Quebec 23,805,130

Note: Some people declared having more than one mother tongue. As a result, the total of the categories exceeds the total population.
Population by First Official Language Spoken, 2006, Canada less Quebec

>Population by First Official Language Spoken, 2006, Canada less Quebec

Data from: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census


French 1,053,800
English 22,425,020
Neither English nor French 439,655

Note: Some people declared having more than one mother tongue. As a result, the total of the categories exceeds the total population.

Provincial and territorial distribution

The Francophone presence varies widely throughout Canada. Ontario has the largest French-speaking population (578,040), followed by New Brunswick, with 236,100 individuals. These two provinces account for more than three quarters (77%) of the Francophones living outside Quebec. Home to 70,410 Francophones, British Columbia ranks third, followed closely by Alberta (66,995). Manitoba and Nova Scotia follow with French-speaking populations of 44,110 and 32,940 respectively, while Saskatchewan has 15,225 Francophones. Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the three territories have the lowest number of Francophones.
 

Francophone population, 2006, Provinces and Territories

Province/territory Mother Tongue First Official Language Spoken
 
N
%
N
%
Newfoundland and Labrador
2,225
0.4
2,030
0.4
Prince Edward Island
5,875
4.4
5,180
3.9
Nova Scotia
34,920
3.9
32,940
3.6
New Brunswick
237,575
32.8
236,100
32.7
Ontario
532,855
4.4
578,040
4.8
Manitoba
47,110
4.1
44,110
3.9
Saskatchewan
17,575
1.8
15,225
1.6
Alberta
68,435
2.1
66,995
2.1
British Columbia
63,295
1.5
70,410
1.7
Yukon
1,225
4.0
1,245
4.1
Northwest Territories
1,025
2.5
1,060
2.6
Nunavut
455
1.4
465
1.6
Total - Canada less Quebec
1,012,530
4.3
1,053, 800
4.4


Data from: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census

Proportion varies by region

Francophones account for less than 5 percent of the total population in the represent provinces and territories, except in New Brunswick where they represent a third of the population. Within a number of provinces, however, there are regions where Francophones form a higher proportion of the population. In Northern and Northeastern New Brunswick, where 65% of the province's Francophones live, they are also very much in the majority. In Southwestern Nova Scotia, they account for one third of the population of Digby County, and one quarter of Yarmouth County. The French-speaking population of Northeastern and Southwestern Ontario represents more than 20% of the overall population. In Prince County, Prince Edward Island, where over two thirds of the island's Francophones live, 8% of residents have French as their first official language spoken.

An increase in numbers...

Francophone numbers outside Quebec have grown significantly since 1951, rising from 721,820 persons with French as their mother tongue to more than one million in 2006, while the population with French as first spoken official language grew by close to 50,000 between 1991 and 2006. The increase in numbers was particularly strong between 1951 and 1971 as Francophones enjoyed a high fertility rate. Since 1991, the numbers have stabilized and continue to grow, primarily thanks to the influx of newcomers who have French as their language of use.

French as Mother Tongue and French as First Official Language Spoken, 1951-2006, Canada less Quebec

French as Mother Tongue and French as First Official Language Spoken, 1951-2006, Canada less Quebec

Data from: Marmen and Corbeil, 2004 and Statistics Canada

*The first official language spoken variable did not exist prior to 1991

... but a gradual decline in percentages

While the number of Canadians with French as their mother tongue has continued to grow over the past 45 years, their proportion has declined. Outside Quebec, Francophones represent 4.4% of the population, compared with 7.3% in 1951. This drop in percentages began in the 1950s as a result of the international immigration which caused the nonofficial-language population in Canada to swell. However, it has been weaker since 1991.
 

Growth of the major cities

The French-language population growth rates vary widely from region to region. While there has been an increase, over the past five years, in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon, in that same period there has been a slight decline in the four Atlantic provinces, and a more pronounced decline in Saskatchewan, while the numbers have remained relatively stable in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. A number of regions have seen much stronger growth than others as the result of major population movements that have progressively drained the rural areas, to the advantage of towns and cities, and thanks to the influx of French-speaking immigrants.


Ontario has by far seen the largest increases in numbers in ten years. While the number of people with French as their first spoken official language was 542,950 in 1996, it is now 578,040. Close to 60% of the Franco-Ontarian population lives in the five large metropolitan regions of Toronto, Hamilton, Greater Sudbury, Ottawa and Windsor. Ottawa and Toronto alone have close to 15,000 more Francophones than five years ago, with growth rates of 5.4% and 5.9%, respectively. The United Counties of Prescott-Russell where Francophones represent close to 68% of the population, recorded a growth rate of 3.6% for their French-language population.

The Francophone populations of the metropolitan areas of British Columbia and Alberta are also growing at a significant pace. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of persons with French as their first official language spoken rose by 15.3% in Victoria, 3.9% in Vancouver, 17.2% in Calgary and 6.8% in Edmonton. These statistics represent close to 7,000 more Francophones in these four metropolitan centres.

In the Atlantic provinces, the French-speaking population remained stable in Halifax (10,730 persons with French as their first official language spoken, compared with 10,545 in 2001), while the Francophone population of Moncton rose from 39,315 to 44,080 individuals.

A distortion of the age pyramid

Canada's Francophone and Acadian communities have a relatively low proportion of youth - just 19%. This low percentage has obvious repercussions toward the top of the age pyramid, where the older age categories occupy a disproportionate space: 38% of Francophones are 50 years of age or over, whereas this age category represents just 31.7% of the general population. Renewing the base constitutes a major challenge for the Francophonie outside Quebec.

The demographic structure of Canada's Francophone population differs greatly from region to region. The numbers of youth are higher in regions with high Francophone representation that are less affected by linguistic transfer. The number of persons 55 and over increases in rural areas, and this at a time when more and more young families are leaving. For example, 57.3% of the Francophones in Saskatchewan are 55 years of age or over - certainly an extreme example, but nevertheless illustrative of the difficulties rural areas are having in retaining their people.

Adults are represented in the metropolitan or highly urbanized areas where thousands of Francophone young adults have come to work. Halifax-Dartmouth, Vancouver/Victoria, and Calgary/Edmonton are the best examples of this. They are more numerous outside their areas of origin: the remainder of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, etc. Finally, they clearly predominate in the territories (Yukon, NWT and Nunavut) where they are greatly attracted by the employment opportunities.
 

Age Distribution, 2006, Francophones, Provinces and Territories

Province/territory
0-9
10-19
20-34
35-49
50-64
65+
Newfoundland and Labrador
6.4%
8.4%
15.5%
24.6%
28.0%
17.2%
Prince Edward Island
5.9%
8.9%
13.8%
24.0%
26.8%
20.5%
Nova Scotia
5.6%
8.1%
15.1%
25.2%
25.7%
20.4%
New Brunswick
8.5%
11.5%
17.8%
24.8%
23.1%
14.4%
Ontario
8.0%
12.5%
17.5%
25.5%
21.8%
14.7%
Manitoba
6.7%
9.4%
15.5%
22.2%
25.1%
21.2%
Saskatchewan
4.2%
6.5%
11.0%
21.0%
27.1%
30.2%
Alberta
5.0%
8.6%
20.9%
28.2%
23.1%
14.2%
British Columbia
4.9%
11.0%
18.3%
25.6%
23.9%
16.3%
Yukon
9.7%
8.5%
17.0%
33.2%
23.1%
8.5%
Northwest Territories
10.8%
9.4%
20.6%
29.9%
21.5%
7.9%
Nunavut
8.6%
10.8%
24.7%
33.3%
20.4%
2.2%

Total - Canada less Quebec

7.5%
11.5%
17.6%
25.3%
22.7%
15.4%

Data from: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census