The proportion of people in Quebec who mainly speak French at home has continued to dwindle, according to Statistics Canada.
In 2021, 85.5 per cent of Quebecers reported speaking French at home at least regularly, according to census data published by the government agency Wednesday.
That compares to 87.1 per cent in 2016 — through the agency has also revised the format of its questions regarding languages most commonly spoken at home since then.
Although the number of people speaking French at home has increased — rising from 6.4 million in 2016 to 6.5 million in 2021 — they now make up 77.5 per cent of Quebecers, falling 1.5 percentage points in five years.
The share of Quebecers who most often speak French at home equally with another language increased slightly, from 3.3 per cent in 2016 to 3.5 per cent in 2021.
The census shows French remains the first official language spoken by more than 90 per cent of Quebecers. Especially high numbers were reported in the Bas-Saint-Laurent (99.1 per cent), Mauricie (97.9 per cent) and Laurentians (91.3 per cent).
English in Quebec
The number of English speakers in the province has also climbed.
The proportion of people who listed English as their first official language increased by one percentage point to 13 per cent between 2016 and 2021.
And for the first time, the number of people in Quebec who cited English as their first official language reached 1 million in 2021, the report shows. More than seven in 10 English speakers (71.7 per cent) lived in Montreal or in Montérégie.
People in Quebec whose only first language is English rose by 38,000 to 639,000, but the proportion of English speakers in the province was relatively steady, going from 7.5 per cent in 2016 to 7.6 per cent in 2021.
Nearly one in five people in Quebec (19.2 per cent) spoke English at home regularly and of those, more than half lived in bilingual or trilingual households.
Factors that contributed to the rise in English speakers in the province include migration trends and Quebec's English-speaking population being younger on average, which corresponds to fewer deaths proportionally.
In 2021, more than half of Quebecers said they could have a conversation in English, an all-time high since the government started collecting data on knowledge of official languages in 1901.
The "vast majority" of these individuals said they could hold a conversation in French, according to the Statistics Canada report.
First official language spoken
In Montreal, 58.4 per cent of the population cited French as their first official language spoken, whereas the percentage for nearby Laval is 68.9.
In nearly all Quebec regions from 2016 to 2021, the proportion of the population that listed French as its first official language spoken fell, except for Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, which saw a 1.1 percentage point increase.
Regions displaying the largest drops are Nord-du-Québéc (-3.6 percentage points), Laval (-3 percentage points), the Outaouais (-2.4 percentage points) and Montreal (-2.4 percentage points).
Bilingualism up in Quebec
In the past five years, the rate of English-French bilingualism grew in Quebec, unlike the rest of Canada.
In 2021, 46.4 per cent of the Quebec population reported being bilingual, compared to 44.5 in 2016.
And despite an increase of 53,000 English-French bilingual Canadians — the rate of English-French bilingualism outside the province dipped to 9.5 per cent from 9.8 per cent.
Nearly six in 10 of English-French bilingual Canadians live in Quebec, an increase of 1.5 percentage points, the report said.
The ratio of bilingual English-French speakers was higher among those who listed French as their first language.