canada-bilingualCanada may be an officially bilingual country. However, Statistics Canada has revealed that the amount of individuals able to speak both French and English is on the decline for the first time in 50 years.

The majority of bilingual individuals can be found in the primarily French-speaking province of Quebec, where many residents learn English so as to function within North American society as a whole.

On the other hand, outside of Quebec bilingualism levels have edged downwards, to 17.5 percent from a previous 17.7 percent.

Immigration from abroad, a primary factor for Canada’s population growth, may contribute to this slight reduction. While Quebec places a high premium on French language skills for immigrants coming to the province, other areas of Canada do not require high levels of French comprehension.

“Outside Quebec, the major growth of immigration and tendency to steer toward English put downward pressure on bilingualism rates,” said a Statistics Canada representative. “What we’re observing is that [...]international immigration has become a challenge for those who want to make bilingualism progress outside of Quebec.”

For immigrants coming to Quebec, however, bilingualism is the norm. More immigrants (51 percent) could speak both French and English than native-born Quebeckers (42 percent), and many of these immigrants spoke third or fourth languages as well.

Additional reasons for diminishing levels of bilingualism include a reduction in the quality and frequency of French language instruction.

This study was published on the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which led to the Official Languages Act. The act mandates that services should be presented in both English and French throughout Canada.