A new survey finds that more Canadians report a strong attachment to their main language than to other markers of identity, including the country they call home.
The survey, which was conducted by Léger for the Association for Canadian Studies, found that 88% of respondents reported a strong sense of attachment to their main language, while 85% said the same for the Canada.
The greater importance of language was particularly notable among Francophones and Indigenous peoples.
Reports of strong attachment to the primary language exceeded all other markers of identity, including geography, ethnic group, racialized identity, and religious affiliation.
Among the identity markers taken into account in the survey, Canadians were the least likely to report a strong sense of attachment to a religious group.
Association for Canadian Studies president Jack Jedwab said the survey results highlight the important role language plays in people’s identity.
“I think that might come as a surprise to many Canadians, who may not intuitively think that language is as important as other attention-grabbing expressions of identity,” he said.
Jedwab said people should be careful not to downplay the importance of language given how important it can be to a community. He said language has a dual function of facilitating communication and being an expression of culture.
“People may tend to downplay the importance of other languages,” he said.
“Historically, we haven’t paid enough attention to Indigenous languages, which we now see our federal government investing heavily in, trying to help maintain and revive Indigenous languages,” he added. .
The online survey was completed by 1,764 Canadians between July 8 and July 10. It cannot be assigned a margin of error, as online surveys are not considered truly random samples.
Among Canadians whose main language is French, 91% reported a strong sense of attachment to their language, compared to 67% who reported the same feeling for Canada.
In Quebec, more people reported a strong sense of attachment to their main language than to the province.
Only 37% of Canadians reported having a strong sense of attachment to a religious group.
The results come ahead of Statistics Canada’s latest census of languages in the country, which is expected to be released on Wednesday.
Jedwab said the census release will be particularly important for Quebec, where there is close monitoring of the state of the French language relative to other languages.
The Léger poll also revealed that more than half of French-speaking Quebecers say they know English well enough to hold a conversation. This contrasts with less than one in 10 Anglophone respondents in all provinces except Quebec and New Brunswick who say they can hold a conversation in French.
According to the last census, English-French bilingualism rose from 17.5% in 2011 to 17.9% in 2016, reaching the highest rate of bilingualism in Canadian history. More than 60% of this growth in bilingualism is attributable to Quebec.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 11, 2022.