The desire to live, to be educated and work in our chosen language is a goal for many of us. The ability to do all three depends on many factors.
Statistics Canada defines “mother tongue” as the language that an individual learned first and which the person can still understand. They may or may not be able to converse in the language or write in the language but they understand it. English and French are designated as the two “official” languages in Canada.
The Official Languages Act was passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1969 and is celebrating its 40th anniversary. It attempts to ensure that official language minorities have access to education and government services in either of the official languages. The application varies by province. In this area, access to French language education is now widespread and it continues to be so for English language education. A recent poll by Leger Marketing found that 59% of Canadians feel bilingualism has been a success.
According the 2006 Census, English only is the mother tongue of 90% of residents of South Dundas, the highest percentage in SD&G. At the other end of the spectrum, about 39% of residents of North Glengarry have a French only mother tongue … the highest in the region.
The 9% of Cornwall residents whose mother tongue is both English and French (they learned both official languages from birth) or some other language is the highest in the region. Only 2% have a non-official mother tongue only with German, Urdu, Tamil and Dutch being the largest in number.
What about being bilingual? Over half of residents of both North and South Glengarry can carry on a conversation in either of the official languages. North and South Dundas are the least bilingual Townships.
In Cornwall, 91% of residents with a French mother tongue are officially bilingual while 29% of residents with an English mother tongue are officially bilingual.
There is a generational trend relative to those with an English mother tongue who are learning French in the region. About 40% of those aged 20-24 whose mother tongue is English can now converse in French compared to less than 15% of those aged 65 and over who are bilingual.
Looking at Cornwall and surrounding area, the language of work is definitely geared to English. In 2006, 97% of those with an English mother tongue worked primarily in English. About 72% of those with a French mother tongue also worked primarily in English.
Does language make a difference relative to how much money you earn? The Census collected income information for the year 2005. The best measure is the annual employment income of people who worked full-time for a full year.
Now for the surprise or not! The average employment income of someone who lived in SD&G (including Cornwall) with an English mother tongue and who worked full-time for a full-year was $42,300 in 2005. This is identical to what someone with a French mother tongue earned.
Income equality, at least based on language, is now the reality in SD&G. it wasn’t that way when I was growing up.
Roger Sauvé is President of People Patterns Consulting (www.peoplepatternsconsulting.com). Roger is an economist and demographer and lives in Summerstown.
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