Statistics Canada. (2017). The Aboriginal languages of First Nations people, Métis and Inuit census of population, 2016.

Statistics Canada. (2017). The Aboriginal languages of First Nations people, Métis and Inuit census of population, 2016. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2018/statcan/98-200-x/98-200-x2016022-eng.pdf

“In 2016, 260,550 Aboriginal people reported being able to speak an Aboriginal language well enough to conduct a conversation.” (p 1)

“The number of Aboriginal people who could speak an Aboriginal language has grown by 3.1% since 2006.” (p 1)

“The number of Aboriginal people able to speak an Aboriginal language exceeded the number who reported an Aboriginal mother tongue. This suggests that many people, especially young people, are learning Aboriginal languages as second languages.” (p 1)

“Past events have significantly harmed the vitality of Aboriginal languages in Canada. These include the residential school system, under which generations of Aboriginal children were not permitted to speak their Aboriginal mother tongues.1 Today, as in the past, Aboriginal languages continue to be caught between the majority languages of English and French, which for many people are the dominant languages of work, education and everyday life. Several Aboriginal languages are now ‘endangered,’ with few speakers, although a few others are considered ‘viable’ in the long term.2” (p 1)

“In 2016, 15.6% of the Aboriginal population reported being able to conduct a conversation in an Aboriginal language. This is compared with 21.4% in 2006. While the percentage of the Aboriginal population able to conduct a conversation in an Aboriginal language declined between 2006 and 2016, the number of people in the Aboriginal population who could speak an Aboriginal language increased by 3.1%.” (p 3)

“In 2016, as in previous censuses, the number of Aboriginal people able to speak an Aboriginal language (260,550) exceeded the number who reported having an Aboriginal mother tongue (208,720). This is evidence that people are learning Aboriginal languages as second languages. Learning an Aboriginal language at home in childhood as a primary language is a crucial element of the long-term viability of Aboriginal languages.7” (p 4)

“In 2016, 41,650 Inuit reported speaking an Inuit language well enough to conduct a conversation, representing 64.0% of Inuit. …

“Most Inuit (72.8%) were living in Inuit Nunangat. Inuit Nunangat, meaning ‘the Inuit homeland,'” (p 4)

“The overwhelming majority of on-reserve residents are First Nations people, and it may be easier to learn an Aboriginal language and maintain knowledge of it in an area with a high concentration of other speakers. In 2016, a higher percentage of First Nations people with Registered Indian status living on reserve were able to speak an Aboriginal language (44.9%), compared with those living off reserve (13.4%).” (p 6)

“Older First Nations people were more likely to be able to speak an Aboriginal language than their younger counterparts. Seniors aged 65 and older were those most likely to speak an Aboriginal language. In each subsequent younger age group, the percentage of First Nations people who could speak an Aboriginal language declined. In 2016, 35.6% of First Nations seniors could speak an Aboriginal language, compared with 24.5% in the 25-to-64 age group, 16.5% in the 15-to-24 age group, and 15.8% in the 0-to-14 age group.” (p 7)

“First Nations population is young — in 2016, there were more than four times as many First Nations children (285,825) as seniors (62,070). As a result, there were twice as many First Nations children (45,135) as seniors (22,125) who could speak an Aboriginal language.” (p 7)

Selected Notes

  • 1. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2015. Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
  • 2. & 7. Norris, M.J. 2007. “Aboriginal languages in Canada: Emerging trends and perspectives on second language acquisition.” Canadian Social Trends. No. 83. May. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-008-X.
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