Canada’s Census Prompts Bilingual Education Plans
Last month, Canada’s commissioner of official languages Raymond Théberge reacted to the release of the latest Census data related to official languages by recommending a re-evaluation of bilingual education provisions: “According to the data, one third of eligible children across the country have never attended school in the official language of the linguistic minority. Governments at all levels need to do more to ensure that rights holders can send their children to school in the official language of the linguistic minority.
“The data also shows how important French immersion programs are for English-speaking children across Canada. Although the data on French immersion in Québec was not available, we can still see that 16% of school-aged children outside Québec have been in an immersion program. Being bilingual creates opportunities and can contribute significantly to the use of both official languages in Canadian society. The new Census data shows, for example, that immersion graduates are a major contributing factor in the use of French in the workplace.
“Although Statistics Canada notes that comparing 2021 data with 2016 data should be done with some degree of caution, we can still see a decline in the use of French as the primary language of work in some regions of the country. I encourage policymakers to examine this new data—especially in terms of the possible links between language of instruction and language of work—and to do more to promote the use of French in the workplace.
“Moving forward, the federal government will need to take stock of all of the 2021 Census data relating to official languages and use it to develop its programs and initiatives, including the next Action Plan for Official Languages, which is set to begin in April 2023.
“In order to attain equality of status and use of both our official languages in Canadian society, English and French need to receive the necessary support, and government spending needs to achieve results.”
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