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English-French bilingualism hits all-time high amid linguistic diversity

Linguist Derek Denis is shown in Toronto on Monday, June 26, 2017. Denis, a post-doctoral researcher of linguistics at the University of Victoria, said there's more than just the stereotypical "eh" that unites Canadians. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

The 2016 census is shedding new light on the depth of Canada’s linguistic diversity, with more Canadians than ever before saying they can speak both of the country’s official languages.

The bilingualism rate in Canada hit 18 per cent last year, with two-thirds of the growth in the bilingual population emanating from Quebec, even though bilingualism increased in most provinces and territories.

More than 7.7 million people reported a mother tongue that was neither English nor French, with the Filipino language of Tagalog again leading the fastest-growing languages, along with Arabic, Farsi, Hindi and Urdu.

By far, more people reported speaking Mandarin and Cantonese than any other immigrant language, an increase due largely to the fact that 2016 was the first time the census asked for specific details about Chinese languages.

Statistics Canada also captured some 70 Indigenous languages, with high retention rates for eight main Aboriginal tongues spoken at home: Inuktitut, Atikamekw, Montagnais, Dene, Oji-Cree, Cree, Mi’kmaq, and Ojibway.

The census also identified growth in Indigenous languages beyond those raised with them. Nearly 229,000 people reported speaking such languages at home, even though only 213,230 people reported having an Indigenous mother tongue