A strong majority of Canadians, from findings of a recent public opinion survey, agree official languages and other forms of diversity can go hand in hand, and can even strengthen each other. Raymond Théberge, the Commissioner of Official Languages, released the data from the survey on official languages February 24, 2022, indicating 87 per cent of Canadians overall support official languages.
“Public support for our official languages has shown to be resilient over time, and official bilingualism remains a core value across the country,” says Théberge.
The overall survey findings are consistent with the results of 2016, showing Canadians’ support for official bilingualism remains strong.
Not all supporters are bilingual
The national telephone survey of 1,507 adult Canadians, aged 18 and up, for the Commissioner of Official Languages by Environics Research was carried out between September and October 2021. The aim was to gauge Canadians current attitudes toward the Official Languages Act and official bilingualism in Canada.
“This widespread public support should be backed by strong policies and initiatives from governments at all levels, to promote the value of our official languages throughout Canada,” says Théberge.
It is important to note, says Théberge, that support for the Official Languages Act is not dependent on the ability to speak both languages. While nine out of 10 bilingual Canadians support the aims of the Act, more than eight out of 10 unilingual Canadians do as well.
“With an updated Official Languages Act in close sight, we are moving into a period of enormous potential for official languages,” says Théberge.
Canadians from diverse backgrounds agreed that having two official languages can actually help reinforce other forms of diversity.
Notably, most Canadians agreed the reason for supporting the Act was recognizing Canada’s history, status and culture as a bilingual country; and that “Canada can and should promote both official languages and Indigenous languages at the same time.”
The survey delved into Canadians’ perspectives on important issues relating to official languages, including education and diversity.
A strong majority of Canadians support second-language education, wanting both English and French to continue to be taught in elementary schools across Canada, and second-language learning to be generally more accessible.
Canadians are also in favour of measures to support official language minorities, which include the English-speaking community in Quebec and over a million French speakers who live in provinces and territories outside Quebec.
“However, we must not take Canadians’ high level of support for official languages for granted,” cautions Théberge.
Survey results of support for the aims of the Official Languages Act: Quebec (95 per cent), Ontario, British Columbia and the Territories (87 per cent), and the Atlantic region (86 per cent). Support is 80 per cent in Alberta and 78 per cent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Canadians 18 to 34 years old showed the highest level of support at 90 per cent.