Diversity of Language in Canada

By: Cheryl

By: Klaidi Shehi

Happy Canada Day!

This 1st of July, we celebrate 155 years since our country’s founding in 1867. As we all gear up for a day filled with celebrations with family, barbecues, nice weather and of course fireworks, we wanted to highlight Canada’s diversity and the strong multiculturalism that is ingrained in the culture of the nation.

As many people know, Canada is a country that accepts one of the largest numbers of immigrants into its borders annually which has shaped our nation’s culture into one of the most multi-cultural melting pots in the world. One result of this strong immigration over the years is the abundance of foreign languages and bilingualism that is so prevalent in both smaller towns and major Canadian cities. To gain a deeper understanding of how Canada has developed a strong multi-cultural landscape we wanted to take a look back at our history.

History of Immigration In Canada

Our country for more than 3 centuries has been one built on immigration with early French and British settlers arriving in North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. There was a strong encouragement from the world’s colonial powers at the time to aid in establishing the sovereignty of colonial land claims from Britain and France respectively, primarily for the opportunities of the fur trade and natural resources. Because of an economic boom and need for labour, notably in Southern Europe and the United Kingdom, the beginning of the 19th century witnessed a surge of immigrants from numerous European nations, which lasted until the conclusion of World War I. From the 1960s through the 1990s, Canada’s immigration system underwent a significant transformation, with the introduction of the points system and the 1978 Immigration Act, which for the first time affirmed Canada’s commitment to refugee resettlement. This resulted in a boom of immigration of migrants from Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South America, the Indian Subcontinent, China, and Africa all seeking shelter from persecution in their homelands. On September 11th, 2001, Canada tightened its immigration policy by replacing the 1976 Immigration Act with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). This notably made it harder for immigration into Canada, especially for refugees seeking asylum, but it also made it easier for people in common-law or same-sex relationships to enter Canada.

Immigration in Canada Today

Today, Canada  welcomes a considerable number of immigrants every year with an annual average of approximately 250,000 landed immigrants settled in Canada from 2001 to 2014. This number has been  increasing steadily since then. Canada is also ranked 8th among nations with the largest number of immigrants, with 7.6 million Canadians being born outside the country as of 2019. In addition, our country also has one of the highest numbers of immigrant citizens as a percentage of the total population with around 21%, one of the highest proportions among G7 countries. As the number of immigrants entering from all walks of life increases in Canada,  so does the diversity and inclusivity of our country, particularly in terms of language.

Diversity of Language In Canada

It is no surprise that Canadians are among the most diverse populations in the world with its major cities being home to some of the largest diasporas in the world. As a result, walking up to any major street in a Canadian city will expose you to dozens of different spoken languages from all over the world. Although Canada’s 2 official languages are English and French, the 2016 Canadian Census reported over 200 languages as a home language or mother tongue in the country and close to one quarter (23.8%) reported English as their mother tongue. The most common language in Canada other than English and French was Chinese, specifically Mandarin, Tagalog, the language spoken in the Philippines as well as Spanish and Punjabi. In addition, 19.4 % of Canadians reported speaking at least two languages, up from 14 % in 2006. Of those who spoke more than 2 languages, 75% reported living in one of Canada’s 6 largest metropolitan areas (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa) showing a concentration of language diversity in the major cities.

Canada’s history is one engrained in immigration, becoming one of the most diverse countries in the world in terms of race, ethnicity, culture and of course, language. Canada today has become a world leader in total number of immigrants accepted yearly and refugee resettlement being one of the top locations for immigrants to move to amongst G7 countries. We want to thank this great nation for accepting so many new Canadians from countries abroad and sharing the true north strong and free amongst all 38 million of its citizens. As we set an example for diversity for countries all over the world, we raise a toast to this great nation, Canada, on its 155th  birthday!



“Immigration to Canada | the Canadian Encyclopedia.” 2021. Thecanadianencyclopedia.ca. 2021. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/immigration#:~:text=Modern%20Canada%20was%20built%20on,Asia%20and%20the%20Middle%20East..

Canadian Immigrant. 2013. “Diversity in Canada: An Overview.” Canadian Immigrant. June 4, 2013. https://canadianimmigrant.ca/guides/moving-to-canada/diversity-in-canada-an-overview.

“Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada.” 2013. Statcan.gc.ca. May 8, 2013. https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/as-sa/99-010-x/99-010-x2011001-eng.cfm.