Ignore the alarmists, there is no language crisis in Quebec, economists say

Interesting and pertinent analysis of Census language data, using the different measures, and the resulting complexities of mixed linguistic unions:

Quebec’s June 24 Fête nationale is a celebration rooted in an impulse for preservation. Behind the parades, concerts and bonfires across the province this weekend lays a reminder of the ever-present need to defend the French language.

It is a message regularly reinforced by the media and politicians, from reports highlighting a decline in the proportion of Quebecers with French as their mother tongue to dismay over Montreal merchants embracing English with a ‘Bonjour-Hi’ greeting.

In fact, it is hard to imagine a Quebec without a serious language issue. But according to the author of a new economic study for a Montreal think tank, that Quebec already exists.

Analyzing the supply and demand of English and French in Quebec over the 40 years since the language law known as Bill 101 was introduced, the study by Université de Montréal economics professor François Vaillancourt finds the law and other measures have done their job.

Knowledge of French has increased despite a drop in the share of French mother-tongue speakers. Francophone employers dominate the Quebec economy. And speaking only French is no longer a brake on earning power.

“Quebec language policy will always face challenges, since Quebec is surrounded by anglophones,” the study for the CIRANO research group concludes. “But considering the picture presented in this paper, we must set aside language policies that regard English as the language of conquest and not the language of international openness.”

He is an economist, but Vaillancourt is intimately familiar with Quebec language law. In 1977 he was recruited to work as a consultant to Parti Québécois cultural development minister Camille Laurin in the drafting of Bill 101.

Forty years later, he decided it was time to assess the impact, and his paper published last month is the result.

Quebec Premier Rene Levesque tries to hush supporters at a Parti Quebecois rally in Montreal, Nov.15, 1976, following his party’s victory in the provincial election. The PQ victory led to the landmark Charter of the French Language, more commonly known as Bill 101, which became law on Aug. 26, 1977.

“Essentially, we are told two things,” Vaillancourt says in an interview. “There are fewer Quebecers with French as a mother tongue, and at the same time Montreal is becoming more English. That is true, but it is not the whole story. There are other things going on.”

For one thing, the percentage of the Quebec population able to speak French rose to 94.5 per cent in 2016 from 88.5 per cent in 1971, before Bill 101 was adopted. Because of the province’s selection criteria, more than half of immigrants to Quebec today already speak French, and Bill 101’s requirement that their children attend French school has ensured future generations become fluent.

To an economist’s eye, this is an increase in the supply of French speakers, and it has coincided with an increased demand, as francophones took control of the Quebec economy and workplaces became more French.

Vaillancourt has found that French is more common in the workplace when the ownership is francophone, and he notes that between 1961 and 2003 — the last year for which data is available — francophone-owned companies went from employing 47 per cent of workers to 67 per cent.

Using census data, Vaillancourt documents a steady increase in the income of unilingual francophones in comparison to their unilingual anglophone counterparts. For example, in 1970, a unilingual anglophone man earned on average 10 per cent more than a unilingual francophone man with comparable education. By 2010, the advantage had flipped to the unilingual francophone, who was earning 10 per cent more than a unilingual anglophone — and eight per cent more than a bilingual anglophone.

Economists Vincent Geloso and Alex Arsenault Morin have also written a paper challenging the commonly held view that French is in decline in Quebec.

The reality, they say, is that language-usage patterns have become much more complex as a result of immigration and “inter-linguistic marriages.” Their 2016 paper says that while census data shows a slight decline between 2001 and 2011 in the proportion of people speaking French at home, it is compensated for by an increase in those using French at work.

“In other words, 88 per cent of the population of Quebec have French as their most often used language at home, at work or in both spaces. The apparent decline of French in Quebec is then a consequence of a rise in multilingualism,” they write.

Statisticians struggle to keep up with evolving behavior that muddies once reliable measures such as mother tongue and language spoken at home.

“Before, if you were a French speaker, you married a French speaker, you worked in a French job and that was it,” Geloso, an assistant professor at Bates College in Maine, says in an interview.

“Now you may be a French speaker who marries an English person and works a French job. … It’s not because somebody uses English 30 per cent of his life instead of zero per cent that French is in a crisis, especially if some English speakers in the process start speaking more French on a daily basis.”

Vaillancourt says language has practically become a matter of faith in Quebec, with people worshipping at the altar of Bill 101 instead of the Catholic Church. But he thinks it is time to challenge the language-law orthodoxy.

He notes that the majority of people affected by Bill 101’s schooling restrictions are francophones, because they are prevented from sending their children to English school.

“That’s fine, but I don’t think having a common language necessarily implies depriving ourselves of understanding another language,” he says.

In 2011, just 38 per cent of Quebec francophones were bilingual, according to census results, compared with 61 per cent of Quebec anglophones. Vaillancourt proposes a mandatory one-year English immersion program for all students in French schools. He acknowledges there could be an increased “risk of assimilation” but says Quebecers’ economic potential would grow.

In parallel, with a view to ensuring all employees are able to provide service in French, he recommends that anglophones should be obliged to have part of their schooling in French, either in an immersion program or in French schools.

Quebec should draw inspiration from the Netherlands, where 90 per cent of the population speaks English, 71 per cent speaks German, and no one worries about he disappearance of the Dutch language, Vaillancourt says.

And if ever a widespread knowledge of English in Quebec led to the disappearance of francophone Quebec hundreds of years from now, “it would have to be understood that this is the result of the choice of francophones themselves and not a forced assimilation,” he concludes.

Source: Ignore the alarmists, there is no language crisis in Quebec, economists say

Taking Back the Language | Noah Rothman

Nice reminder that language can but both ways by Rothman:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stumbled into controversy this week, although it was perhaps unwarranted. Trudeau became the subject of derision and mockery when he interrupted a woman at a town hall to correct her use of the term “mankind,” suggesting that she replace this dated designation with the more inclusive “peoplekind.” He only offered his proposal after enduring several minutes of a rambling new-age monologueregarding the chemical composition of “maternal love.” Trudeau’s interjection was probably flippant, but neither his interlocutor nor his critics seemed to notice. It’s hard to blame them.

When it comes to subservience to the many demands that identity politics makes on language and behavior, Canada’s prime minister takes a back seat to no one. It’s only prudent to assume Trudeau’s mawkishness is earnest. What’s more, the fact that “gendered” nouns and pronouns, including “mankind,” find themselves in the censors’ crosshairs isn’t exactly news. The popular grammar-checking program Grammarly flags “mankind” for “possible gender-biased language” and suggests more neutral substitutes like “humankind” or “humanity.” Learning to love unidiomatic expressions and consigning gender-specific language to history is a fixation of political activists posing as academicians, even if legitimate etymological scholars cannot support these arguments by citing linguistic corpora. Those who resent an increasingly overbroad definition of what constitutes offensive language are primed for a fight.

Language policing has been the stock-in-trade of a particular type of activist for decades, much to the consternation of both conservatives and liberals interested more in clarity than conformity. Recently, though, the intramural debate on the left over the limited utility of scrutinizing potentially objectionable speech rather than the ideas conveyed by that speech has been relegated to the back burner. That’s for a good reason.

Donald Trump’s presidency, much like his candidacy, is a brusque counterattack against “PC culture.” Often, what Trump and his supporters call “politically incorrect” language is just plain rudeness. The value of the kind of speech they find delightfully provocative isn’t its concision but its capacity to offend the right people. Thus, some self-styled arbiters of linguistic enlightenment might be tempted to dismiss Trump’s campaign against ambiguous semantics as nothing more than a brutish primal scream. If so, they would have failed to properly appreciate the threat Trump and the presidential pulpit he commands represent to their capacity to shape the terms of the debate through language. Trump isn’t limited to displays of rhetorical brute force. Sometimes, he and his speechwriters are capable of compelling eloquence.

Amid a blizzard of FBI texts, dueling intelligence committee memos, and legalisms regarding the oversight of America’s necessarily secretive espionage courts, the State of the Union address has all but been forgotten in Washington. It’s less likely, though, that a well-received speech watched by at least 46 million Americans will be so quickly forgotten across the country. And that should concern liberals because if there was any single line in that speech that won’t be overlooked, it was one that cuts at the heart of the Democratic Party’s ability to lay claim to the moral high ground. “My duty and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities and their right to the American dream,” Trump said. “Because Americans are dreamers, too.” This was a masterful line. Its potency has been underestimated, and not just by those who resent the restrictive immigration policies it was designed to advance.

The name of the bipartisan 2001 “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” transgressed a little in order to achieve a lot for the children of illegal immigrants brought into the U.S. as minors. Referring to this demographic as “alien” is taboo, and an offense against modern sensibilities. But to describe them as “DREAMers” yields a windfall of sympathy for this already deserving group of largely naturalized non-citizens. Trump’s turn of phrase spreads the dreaming around, thus diluting the designation DREAMer of much of its unique sympathy.

Democrats might have missed the significance of this expression amid their irritation over another set phrase in that speech: “chain migration.” Trump’s use of this term during the State of the Union Address to describe the process by which legal immigrants sponsor members of their extended family to become American citizens elicited boos from Democrats. Many implied the phrase is a new invention with racist connotations, but the term has been used by policymakers (including some of these same Democrats) for decades. Maybe it was the self-evident hypocrisy, or maybe it was the contrived effort to move the goalposts. For whatever reason, the Democrats’ campaign to label “chain migration” a racist term landed with a thud. Time was that the left could dictate the terms of a debate by controlling the language of its participants, but their grip on the national dialogue may be slipping. The power of the presidency—you’ll forgive the expression—trumps the braying of the pedantic opposition.

The energy expended by political activists on policing speech is not wasted; dictating the boundaries of what constitutes acceptable discourse is a profitable and productive enterprise. If the right is getting into the game, they’re only following a course forged by their political adversaries.

via Taking Back the Language | commentary

Spanish use is steady or dropping in US despite high Latino immigration

Second generation effect:

Hidden just beneath the surface of the ongoing heated debate about immigration in the United States lurks an often unspoken concern: language. Specifically, whether immigration from Spanish-speaking countries threatens the English language’s dominance.

Language and immigration have long been politically linked in the U.S. When Farmers Branch, Texas, passed an English-only “requirement” in 2006, then-Mayor Tim O’Hare justified it by saying that “we need to address illegal immigration in our city and we need to do it now.”

The Farmers Branch city council voted unanimously to drop the controversial ordinance last November, but 31 states and hundreds of towns in the United States still have local English-only or “official English” laws.

The perception that Latino immigration has led Spanish to sideline or even overtake English in the U.S. is widespread. After all, Spanish is the second most dominant language in the country, after English. It is spoken by 48.6 million people: 34.8 million Spanish-speakers age 5 and older of various national-origin backgrounds, 11 million undocumented Latin American immigrants and an estimated 2.8 million non-Latinos who use Spanish in the home.

Census data on U.S. demographic changes project that by 2060 the Latino population in the U.S. – the group most likely to speak Spanish – will grow 115 percent, to 119 million.

But these figures don’t tell the whole story. As a linguist, I have studied Spanish-English bilingualism in Texas, California, Florida and beyond, and I can attest that Spanish is not taking over the United States. Far from it: Political fearmongering notwithstanding, Spanish actually holds a rather tenuous position in the country.

From bilingual to monolingual

How can the Latino population be growing rapidly while Spanish-speaking remains stable? The answer lies in oft-overlooked peculiarities of census data and in the particular linguistic history of the United States.

If one looks only at immigration patterns over the past half-century, it is true that the U.S. has been gaining Spanish-speakers. From 1965 to 2015, roughly half of all immigration has come from Latin American countries. This trend added some 30 million people, most of whom came speaking Spanish, to the American populace.

But this is only half the story. While new immigrants bring Spanish with them, research shows that their children tend to become bilinguals who overwhelmingly prefer English. As a result, the same immigrants’ grandchildren likely speak English only.

Linguists call this phenomenon “the three-generation pattern.” In essence, it means that non-English languages in the U.S. are lost by or during the third generation.

We can see this pattern playing out in data from the Pew Hispanic Center. Surveys show that in 2000, 48 percent of Latino adults aged 50 to 68 spoke “only English” or “English very well,” and that 73 percent of Latino children aged 5 to 17 did.

By 2014, those numbers had jumped to 52 percent and 88 percent, respectively. In other words, the shift from Spanish to English is happening nationwide, both over time and between generations.

Why English dominates

Language shift is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Rather, it is a consequence of cultural forces that pressure speakers to give up one language to get another. These forces include restrictive language laws that formally prohibit the use of Spanish in educational or government settings, as Farmers Branch, Texas, did for 11 years.

Schools also drive the three-generation pattern. Even though Latin American parents often speak to their U.S.-born children in Spanish, those children almost invariably attend English-only schools.

There, they learn that academic success is achieved in English. As a result, first-generation children expand their vocabularies and literacy practices in English, not in Spanish.

They may also encounter negative attitudes toward Spanish from teachers and peers. For example, in October 2017, a New Jersey high school teacher was caught on video reprimanding three students for speaking Spanish, encouraging them, instead, to speak “American.” That no such language exists is beside the point – her message was clear.

Social pressure to speak English is so great that Latino immigrant parents may notice resistance to using Spanish at home as early as kindergarten. A generation later, though grandparents may continue to use Spanish in the home, grandchildren will often respond to them in English.

The numerous blogs, websites and guides dedicated to helping Latino parents navigate this bilingual terrain indicate just how common language shift is.

Indeed, when I ask my own Latino students about when they speak what to whom, the answer is almost always the same: Spanish with elders, English with everyone else.

This pattern seems to hold in small towns and big cities, on the East Coast and on the West, and in towns with large and small Latino populations. From Chicago to Southern California, children of Spanish-speaking immigrants become English-dominant.

The Spanish-to-English shift even occurs in Miami, where over 65 percent of the population is Latino and where speaking Spanish has clear economic benefits. That’s why Miami struggles to find enough Spanish-speaking teachers to staff its public schools.

English on the rise

Spanish isn’t the only immigrant language that has struggled to keep a foothold in the U.S. Germans, Italians, Poles and Swedes went through similar language shifts in the 19th and 20th centuries. These languages, too, were sometimes seen as a threat to American identity in their time.

Then as now, American anxiety about the role of English in U.S. society was totally unfounded. In the roughly 150,000-year history of human language, there has never been a more secure tongue than English.

More people worldwide do speak Mandarin and Spanish as their first language. But with some 400 million first language speakers and more than 500 million adoptive English speakers, English has a global standing enjoyed by none of the roughly 6,000 other languages spoken worldwide. It has been that way for about half a century.

If Latino immigration declines markedly in the U.S., language shift may actually lead Spanish to disappear across America. English, on the other hand, isn’t going anywhere fast.

via Spanish use is steady or dropping in US despite high Latino immigration

Why Indigenous Languages Should Be Taught Alongside French and English

Chelsea Vowel makes the case (the practicalities will be a challenge):

There are constitutional protections and billions of dollars of funding for Canada’s two official languages, but what of the languages of the original peoples on these lands? I’m not suggesting that all 70 Indigenous languages be made mandatory and offered in every corner of this country. Instead, we need to be looking at supporting these languages where they exist, on the lands whence they originate. In Iqaluit, that would be Inuktitut, while in Halifax it would be Mi’kmaq. Each province and territory should pass an Official Languages Act recognizing the Indigenous languages that originate in those areas, and bolster this recognition with funding to ensure language transmission continues in schools, workplaces, and government. Incentivizing second-language learning in an Indigenous language could be done by hiring speakers in daycares, schools, and public service positions.

It often feels as though we are being asked to justify the continuing existence of our languages to a Canadian audience who may not value them. I believe we need to remind Canada that Indigenous languages are an Aboriginal right, enshrined in section 35 of the Constitution, as well as an inherent right — to speak and pass on our languages — that is recognized internationally by the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which Canada has officially adopted. What we need now is an implementation of those rights, supported with adequate funding.

Everyone stands to gain. Embedded within our languages are cultural concepts that have the potential to give all Canadians a deeper understanding of our place in relation to the world around us. Our languages have been systematically devalued for generations out of a misplaced sense of their inferiority. Yet many of the concepts currently being explored by Western medicine, environmentalism, and the humanities are foundational within Indigenous cultures and languages. Holistic health and teachings, understandings of interconnectedness with human and non-human beings, and ways of being in good relation with one another are all described in our various Indigenous languages.

Public perception has a powerful impact on policy, and when Canadians are told that Indigenous languages are on the rise, this obscures just how desperate the situation is. Twenty-four of the Indigenous languages listed in the census have less than 200 speakers each, and if what we truly need are highly fluent speakers, then even these numbers are likely inflated. Even among the so-called robust languages — Cree, Inuktitut, and Ojibway — language loss is speeding up.

We can and must start planning to offer these languages alongside English and French throughout the country. Don’t let a rosy reading of the statistics lull you into a false sense of security. In 10 years, we will once again count the number of speakers of Indigenous languages in Canada. Without immediate, robust, and heartfelt intervention, language decline will be irreversible. As someone who has fought hard to access and reclaim her own Cree language, I am asking Canadians to recognize that we are at a tipping point. Please, support us, and come learn with us.

via Why Indigenous Languages Should Be Taught Alongside French and English – Chatelaine

Erreur dans le recensement linguistique: Statistique Canada s’explique

Not an easy time before parliamentarians:

Statistique Canada avait «détecté certains changements» dans les données sur la langue à l’étape de la validation, mais «n’a pas, à ce moment-là, capté» qu’il aurait fallu procéder à une révision avant de diffuser les données linguistiques qui ont provoqué un tollé au Québec.

«Je sais ce qui s’est produit. Mais comment on a manqué cette erreur-là, c’est cette partie que je ne sais pas encore», a lâché devant les députés du comité permanent sur les langues officielles Marc Hamel, directeur général du programme du recensement.

L’agence fédérale avait déjà fait son mea culpa en août dernier, expliquant que l’erreur avait été causée par le logiciel de compilation de données. Celui-ci a inversé les réponses dans des formulaires en français d’environ 61 000 personnes, dont environ 57 000 au Québec.

La bourde avait eu pour conséquence de surestimer la croissance de l’anglais dans la province et dans certaines de ses régions, tant pour la langue maternelle que pour la langue parlée à la maison, ce qui avait inquiété politiciens et défenseurs de la langue française.

«Ce n’est pas le système qui n’a pas détecté (l’erreur). Ce sont les gens qui ont testé le système qui n’ont pas détecté que le système ne lisait pas le questionnaire de façon conforme», a spécifié Marc Hamel aux élus.

Le député conservateur Alupa Clarke lui a demandé si des têtes allaient rouler chez Statistique Canada, déplorant que «de plus en plus, aujourd’hui, on vit dans une société où on ne met jamais au banc des accusés les responsables».

«Dans un cas comme celui-là, on ne parle pas des individus, on parle des processus. Si à chaque fois que quelqu’un faisait une erreur, il était congédié, on en congédierait peut-être plusieurs. Les erreurs sont rares», lui a répondu M. Hamel.

«On a fait les correctifs appropriés pour éviter que ce genre de situation comme ça se reproduise encore. Est-ce que je peux vous dire aujourd’hui que dans les 100 prochaines années, ça n’arrivera pas encore? Absolument pas. L’erreur est humaine», a-t-il ajouté.

Au haut fonctionnaire, qui s’est défendu de «prêcher par nonchalance», Alupe Clarke a suggéré d’envoyer une «lettre diplomate» aux 5000 employés de l’agence pour leur dire de faire gaffe à l’avenir, établissant un parallèle avec son expérience dans les Forces armées.

«Moi, j’ai fait l’armée, puis nous, ça ne niaise pas, là. Il y a une discipline (…) puis quand on fait la guerre, ça marche», a-t-il lâché.

Un peu plus tôt, son collègue néo-démocrate François Choquette s’était étonné que l’agence ait diffusé les données linguistiques alors que certaines d’entre elles, en particulier dans certaines villes à forte majorité francophone, étaient clairement suspectes.

«Attendez que je comprenne comme il faut: 164 pour cent d’augmentation de la population anglophone à Rimouski, 115 à Saguenay, 110 à Drummondville. Vous avez eu ces chiffres-là, qui n’étaient pas normaux, et vous avez quand même décidé de les sortir?», a-t-il questionné.

Le directeur adjoint de la division de la statistique sociale, Jean-Pierre Corbeil, a répondu que ce n’était «pas aussi simple» et qu’il «fallait être prudent quand on faisait des comparaisons historiques», surtout compte tenu des changements survenus sous les conservateurs en 2011.

Ces données contenues dans la livraison initiale de données du 2 août dernier étaient passées sous le radar jusqu’à ce que le président de l’Association d’études canadiennes, Jack Jedwab, lève un drapeau rouge après avoir passé les chiffres au peigne fin.

Les données revues et corrigées publiées quelques jours après ont confirmé que le français avait effectivement perdu du terrain au Québec, mais moins qu’annoncé initialement, et que l’anglais n’avait pas progressé, mais plutôt reculé, dans la province.

En présentant les nouveaux chiffres, l’agence fédérale avait fait acte de contrition et reconnu que cette erreur était d’autant plus regrettable qu’elle concernait un enjeu fort délicat au Québec.

«Nous sommes très conscients de l’aspect très sensible de cette question, de ces enjeux, et Statistique Canada va corriger le tir, simplement», affirmait Jean-Pierre Corbeil, directeur adjoint de la division de la statistique sociale et autochtone, qui était aussi au comité, mardi.

Source: Erreur dans le recensement linguistique: Statistique Canada s’explique | Mélanie Marquis | National

New figures show just how big Canada’s immigrant wage gap is

One of the first deeper looks at Census data, looking at immigrant status, language and income by Arvind Magesan of U of Calgary. The November release of language at work, education etc will further enrich this analysis:

The first thing that surprised me is the gap has not changed much over the past 10 years. Census data from 2006 showed, at a national level, first-generation immigrants earned wages 12.6 per cent less than the average wage of native Canadians. In 2011, the gap dropped slightly to 10 per cent, but the new census data shows it’s climbed significantly to 16 per cent.

wagegap1

Importantly, the gap is a countrywide phenomenon. Looking at the three of the most popular destinations for immigrants in the past decade — Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary — the gap in 2016 sits at 25, 17 and 23 per cent respectively.

Interestingly, the gap doesn’t only exist for first-generation immigrants, but also for the children of immigrants (second generation, i.e. Canadians born to immigrant parents). The new data shows at the national level, second-generation immigrants earn 5.4 per cent less than natives.

Understanding the wage gap

The obvious question that follows then is: What is the source of these gaps?

Canada is an especially interesting case given the “points” system used to screen potential immigrants, where language, education and job skills are key determinants. And for the first time, the census has reported that about six out 10 new immigrants came here under the so-called economic admission category, meaning they have the skills “to enhance and promote economic development.”

Given the way immigrants are screened before entry, one would expect relatively quick integration into the Canadian economy and a convergence in wages. But this is clearly not the case.

The reasons put forward to explain the wage gap range from employer difficulty in assessing immigrant education credentials to outright discrimination. Economists refer to two types of “discrimination” in the labour market context, “statistical discrimination” and “taste-based discrimination.”

In the former, employers use observable traits (such as race) to make inferences about something like productivity. For example, an employer sees a job applicant with brown skin. The employer isn’t prejudiced towards brown people, but is worried (stereotypically) the employee is going to want to take trips “home” to Sri Lanka and would need a lot of vacation time. So the employer hires someone else equally qualified. Taste-based discrimination is more what we think of as prejudice — not wanting to hire someone purely because of skin colour.

Identifying causal factors that explain the wage gap is a difficult task – individuals who immigrate to Canada do so by choice. These choices are a function of a host of factors that could potentially jointly explain the decision to immigrate and labour market outcomes, including personal characteristics, job experience and education, to name just a few. Identifying discrimination in the labour market, and separating between taste-based and statistical discrimination, is even harder.

However, a 2011 study by University of Toronto economist Phil Oreopolous takes an important step in this direction.

In the study, thousands of computer-generated resumes were mailed out to companies that had posted ads searching for employees. The resumes were randomly assigned either a foreign or a “white” sounding last name, and were otherwise identical. The result: The resumes where the applicant had a foreign-sounding last name were less likely to receive a call back than identical looking resumes with a “white” last name.

When the author followed up with some of the recruiters, the overwhelming reason given for overlooking resumes with a foreign-sounding name was that they anticipated difficulty with language. Specifically, recruiters expected a lack of fluency in English, problems with communicating at work and difficulty for customers and co-workers in understanding a foreign accent. In other words, recruiters were statistically discriminating between job candidates based on their names.

Can language proficiency close the gap?

The census presents an opportunity to study the importance of English proficiency for the gap in labour market earnings between immigrants and native Canadians in 2016. The census provides information on wages, immigrant (and generation) status, as well as the language most commonly spoken at home.

Specifically, guided by the findings in Oreopolous’s study, I looked at how the gap in average wages changes when English is spoken at home. (For the purpose of this study, I looked at communities outside of Quebec, where French is the dominant language.) In 2016, 63 per cent of new immigrants living outside of Quebec most often spoke a language other than English or French while at home.

The latest census data says the native-first generation immigrant wage gap is 16 per cent at the national level. Once we examine whether immigrants speak English at home, things change — the wage difference is just 5.8 per cent. But for first-generation immigrants who don’t speak English at home, the gap jumps to 27.3 per cent.

For second-generation immigrants, there is barely any gap for those who speak English at home (0.7 per cent) but it’s still a significant gap for those who don’t speak English at home (a whopping 45.7 per cent).

This pattern also holds in the major metropolitan centres in the English-speaking parts of the country, which attract the most immigrants.

Interestingly, at almost 25 per cent, Toronto has one of the largest city level wage gaps in the country, explained at least in part by the fact that new immigrants tend to land in Toronto first and are more likely to be unemployed for a period of time. The three largest cities in English-speaking Canada, which also attract the most immigrants, also have gaps larger than the national average.

In Ottawa, immigrants of either generation who speak English at home actually earn more than natives on average. While it may be tempting to attribute the major differences across the cities to differences in culture, they are more likely due to regional differences in industrial composition and attendant labour demand.

The wage gap for immigrants who don’t speak English at home is very large. In Toronto and Calgary, first-generation immigrants who don’t speak English at home can expect to earn 37 per cent less than natives. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the gap across all cities for is larger for second generation immigrants who don’t speak English at home.

wagegap2

Though these patterns are striking, they should not be interpreted as causal – immigrants can’t necessarily start speaking English at home and expect to see their future earnings increase. There are unobserved qualities of individuals that may correlate both with the tendency to speak English at home as well as with labour market earnings potential. Without holding these fixed in some way, we can’t say whether there is a causal relationship between English skills and the gap in labour market outcomes.

But supposing that the findings here are suggestive of a causal relationship, why does speaking English at home matter so much?

One obvious answer is that individuals who speak English at home speak better English in general — and this would mean better communication at work. This would be consistent with the worries that the recruiters in Oreopolous’s study had when deciding who to call back. Or perhaps individuals of foreign descent that speak English at home tend to have other important skills on average.

The ConversationBut another possibility is the labour market discriminates against individuals with weaker English skills even when English is not important for productivity. Sorting between these different explanations (and others) will require more data and a deeper look.

Source: New figures show just how big Canada’s immigrant wage gap is – Macleans.ca

Douglas Todd: Chinese languages gain ground in Metro Vancouver

Further to the StatsCan release (see An increasingly diverse linguistic profile: Corrected data from the 2016 Census Text), Todd delves more deeply into Vancouver data and issues (the Canadian approach has been based upon integration, rather than assimilation, enunciated as early as 1959 – maintaining mother tongues, while knowing one of the official languages, reflects that approach):

Chinese languages are becoming more predominant in Metro Vancouver and across Canada, according to newly released 2016 census figures.

The proportion of Metro Vancouver residents who speak Chinese dialects continues to rise and is now more than double those who speak Punjabi.

With almost one third of new arrivals to Metro Vancouver since 2011 speaking a Chinese language, the total number of residents who have Mandarin or Cantonese as their mother tongue has swelled to 373,000.

That dwarfs the 163,000 residents whose mother tongue is Punjabi, which Statistics Canada says is the second largest “immigrant language” in Metro Vancouver.

An analysis of data released last week from the 2016 Canadian census shows the country’s major cities are developing different characters based on languages spoken — Arabic is the leading immigrant language in Montreal, Tagalog (Filipino) leads in Calgary, and Chinese leads in Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

Of Canada’s major cities, Metro Vancouver has the biggest proportion of residents — 25 per cent — who speak neither English nor French in their homes, with the largest group of them speaking a Chinese “immigrant language,” a term that Statistics Canada uses to distinguishes them from English or French, the languages of the early settlers who established Canada’s public institutions.

Across Canada more than 1.2 million people have either Mandarin or Cantonese as their mother tongue (an increase of 18 per cent in five years), while 543,000 have Punjabi, 510,000 have Tagalog, 495,000 have Spanish and 486,000 have Arabic.

The 13 per cent overall increase in the use of immigrant languages across Canada — to the point where 7.7 million people (22 per cent) speak a language other than English or French in their homes — illustrates how public officials are moving away from expecting immigrants to “assimilate,” says Vancouver statistician Jens Von Bergmann.

“Parents are being encouraged to pass on their mother tongue to their children. Generally, it’s considered great to have a language other than English or French,” said Von Bergmann, who speaks to his young child in his native tongue of German, while his wife talks with their son in her native Mandarin.

Von Bergmann, who has created interactive online maps based on census language data, says that immigrants are more likely to hold onto their mother tongues if they live in places such as Vancouver or Toronto, where large numbers of people speak the same language.

The 2016 census data shows that 1.1 million out of Metro Vancouver’s population of 2.44 million (44 per cent) have a mother tongue other than English or French, though most are able to communicate in English.

However, Metro Vancouver also has the highest proportion of residents who acknowledge they cannot carry on a conversation in either English or French (5.6 per cent of the region’s population, or 138,000 people).

The proportion who can’t speak English or French rises to 11.2 per cent in the City of Richmond, which is the highest ratio of any municipality in the country.

Richmond has for years been the centre of controversy over the expansion of Chinese-language signs, as well as over Chinese-language condo meetings.

While University of B.C. linguist Bonny Norton says Canadians value multilingualism, she cautions that people who do not learn one of Canada’s two official languages are unable to take part in important public “conversations.”

In addition, studies by Canada’s immigration department found that newcomers who cannot speak English or French struggle, with one-third lower earnings than other Canadians.

A Statistics Canada study by Edward Ng also discovered that immigrants with poor skills in English or French are three times more likely to report poor health.

Source: Douglas Todd: Chinese languages gain ground in Metro Vancouver | Vancouver Sun

When words become weapons, repression follows: Paris

Good column by Erna Paris – words matter:

It appears we can become accustomed to anything, provided it’s repeated often enough. What may have appalled us last year, or the year before, eventually loses its edge and is rendered normal. Think of the way highway speeding ratchets up as drivers accelerate to maintain the faster flow of traffic.

Something similar happens with language. Words accelerate. Without thoughtful restraint, they are like speeding cars, prone to accident.

Before Sept. 11, 2001, there existed a tacit consensus in Western pluralist societies that generalizations about race and religion might be destructive to the public good: the living memory of 20th-century atrocities largely sufficed to keep the most extreme animosities in check. These unspoken taboos were frequently breached, but racist speech was ordinarily frowned upon and usually did not sink deep roots. When the protective umbrella of taboo failed, as in the former Yugoslavia after the death of Josip Tito, for example, predictable violence ensued. Words matter, especially when they emanate from people in high places.

Since 9/11 and the advent of “the war on terror,” open, or dog-whistle, anti-Muslim rhetoric has increased exponentially as taboos have loosened. In the immediate aftermath, governments in Russia, China and elsewhere were happy to label their troublesome minorities “terrorists,” thus whitewashing repression. It became common to hear insinuating generalizations about Muslims.

Just last month, Statistics Canada reported that hate crimes against Muslims rose 60 per cent in 2015, alone. This is not surprising. That year encompassed Stephen Harper’s niqab and “barbaric cultural practices” initiatives. It was also the year of the failed Quebec Charter of Values that directly targeted Muslims.

With his darkly nativist rhetoric, U.S. President Donald Trump has upped the ante. He need not attack directly; in order to communicate his discriminatory message, he need only exact a travel ban on people from six predominately Muslim countries, or make atavistic speeches about the decline of Western civilization, as he recently did in Poland. We don’t yet know where his unfettered rhetoric will lead. What we do know is that he has opened Pandora’s Box – the place where we have historically guarded our protective taboos. From his White House perch, he has liberated people who used to keep their prejudices to themselves, if only for fear of social reprobation.

Citizens in liberal democracies expect their leaders to wield power responsibly and – excepting the rhetorical opportunism of Mr. Harper and others, such as Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch – Canadians in high places usually do. That’s why it was particularly troubling to see Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard fall into a trap last month when he said, with regard to a terrorist act perpetrated by a Quebecois: “Unfortunately, you cannot disconnect this type of event – terrorism – from Islam in general.” Since Mr. Couillard is said to be a history buff, it is odd that he did not understand the import of language that conflated the entirety of Islam with the acts of a few. Wouldn’t he have known that the biblical texts of all three Mosaic religions contain writings in support of both war and peace, depending on one’s preference? It is not a defence of violence to note that, across history, all three religions have traversed periods of extremism, such as the Spanish Inquisition (Christianity) and, more recently, the fanatic Jewish settlers in Israel’s Occupied Territories whose religious claims to the land eschew the rights of others.

Mr. Couillard claimed to be echoing a speech made by French President Emmanuel Macron, but the situation in France is not comparable. France has miles to go before there is trust enough to enable co-operation between its Muslim population and the country’s political leadership, while in Canada, mutual co-operation already exists to a high degree. When Mr. Couillard held Islam and the Muslim community responsible for the acts of some of its members, he accelerated the traffic on the rhetorical highway, encouraging bigotry.

My husband, Tom, likes to rail about the damage that’s been done across time by the little word “all” – as in “all Muslims are ‘X’” or “all Jews are ‘Y.’” He’s right; words are not innocent. We are each responsible for maintaining the civility of public discourse, but people in positions of leadership hold a special trust. They set the rhetorical standard. And they must be held accountable.

Source: When words become weapons, repression follows – The Globe and Mail

Mississauga woman’s demand for English-speaking doctor spoke volumes: Paradkar 

Interesting reflections on perceived micro-agressions following the open aggression displayed by the woman asking for a white doctor at a clinic.

My mother bristled at the same question – “where do you come from” – given her slight Russian accent.

Since them, I have been particularly sensitive in not asking that question whenever being served by medical professionals, despite my curiosity in terms of how easy or how hard it was for them to become certified and practice in Canada:

The woman’s behaviour comes as a surprise to some because it shatters the delicate veneer of equality that surrounds the idea of multiculturalism.

While her demand for a “white doctor” has received the most attention, it’s her insistence on one who speaks English — in a clinic where everybody clearly speaks it — that interests me because it sheds light on a language-specific “micro aggression”— a term used to describe seemingly inconsequential offences that stem from deeply biased attitudes.

The most commonly known micro aggression is the otherization implicit in “Where do you come from,” invariably asked to people of colour.

Another — and this one also raises the hackles of some white people — takes the form of a compliment: “How articulate you are. How well-spoken.”

So colonized was I that it took me a while to comprehend the offensiveness behind what I thought was essentially a handshake between two equals.

It was also slow to dawn on me because — confession alert — I was busy turning up my nose at the grammar deficiencies of spoken Canadian English, with dropped g’s and h’s, or mispronunciations; “pome,” for poem, airplane for “aeroplane,” all-timers for “Alzheimers,” or missing prepositions; “He wrote me” as opposed to “He wrote to me” or mistaken tenses; “I wrote him” instead of “I have written to him,” among countless others.

How fuddy-duddy of me, you say?

Very.

Urban Indians, who speak English with varying degrees of fluency, are brought up being constantly upbraided on the “proper” way to speak it. The ultimate authority of “propah” were the old men from the upper ranks of the army, navy and air force. Men who would say things like “brolleh” for umbrella, and whose penchant for propriety would have made the Mississauga woman feel considerably provincial.

While I love the English language and try not to see evolution as transgressions, I see the condescension now, and how it cuts across colonial and class lines.

I understand now that when people tell me, “How well you speak!” it’s an expression of surprise at how fluent I am in the Queen’s language, despite my accent, despite where I come from.

My colleague, feature writer Jim Coyle, has experienced this micro-aggression, too.

“As a son of immigrants whose own parents didn’t go past Grade 7, I have an acute ear for the veiled slurs of my betters,” he once told me. “As I moved up in social class, it was often remarked on with surprise how “well-spoken” I was. As if this was remarkable in an Irish Catholic from the wrong side of the tracks.”

It’s a way of patting you on the head for aspiring towards a benchmark modelled on upper-class English ideals.

The establishment of a narrow expression of English as the standard has come at the cost of suppression and erasure of native languages across this land and world over.

The English spoken in the Mississauga clinic wasn’t the woman’s kind of English. Ergo, it was faulty and invited contempt.

The ranter said what many unconsciously feel but don’t express.

When we judge as unintellectual or uneducated someone who speaks differently, we give meritocracy a sucker punch and place mediocrity with the “right” voice above brilliance with the alternative one.

Linguistic bias blinds us to great ideas, gifted stories and scientific advances. It further marginalizes and silences women who, having faced barriers to English education, are now rejected from the simplest of jobs. This hurts our productivity and leaves us culturally impoverished.

In the end, it leaves us well beneath the promise of the potential true multiculturalism holds.

Source: Mississauga woman’s demand for English-speaking doctor spoke volumes: Paradkar | Toronto Star

To Honor Canadian Natives, a Lawmaker Speaks in Mohawk – The New York Times

Nice:

Cultural appropriation is a touchy topic in Canada these days, with the recent controversy in Canadian media over whether it is appropriate for nonindigenous writers to take on a native voice for artistic expression. But Marc Miller, a member of Canada’s Parliament, decided he was on solid ground in giving a speech in Kanyen’kéha, the language of the Mohawks, in the House of Commons on Thursday.

“Language is one of those things that, if you apply the appropriation rule, would die faster,” Mr. Miller said in a telephone interview. He said he was inspired to learn the language because the district he represents in Quebec covers traditional Mohawk land.

“I stand here to honor the Mohawk language, and I pay my respects to their people,” Mr. Miller said in Kanyen’kéha to mark the beginning of Canada’s National Aboriginal History Month. He said in the short speech that he hoped to hear the language more often in Parliament, and that more Canadians would “be proud to use it to speak to one another.”

Marc Miller delivers a statement in Kanyen’kéha, the language of the Mohawks. Video by CBC News

Indigenous languages are dying in Canada, as they are in much of the industrialized world, largely as a consequence of past government efforts to stamp out their use and force assimilation into the larger population. In Canada, that was accomplished through residential boarding schools where indigenous students were forbidden to speak their native tongues.

The government has tried to make amends for this history in recent years, after a wrenching Truth and Reconciliation Commission laid bare the amount of abuse some 150,000 indigenous students experienced at the government-financed schools over more than a century. The former prime minister, Stephen Harper, apologized on behalf of the government. His successor, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, followed up with a vow to adopt all 94 recommendations from the commission, known in Canada as calls to action.

The government has promised to spend about $90 million Canadian (in United States currency, about $67 million) over the next three years to support indigenous languages and culture, including $69 million Canadian for such things as classes to keep alive native languages.

It has also committed to work with the indigenous population to codevelop an Indigenous Languages Act that will help ensure the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages.

Fewer than 600 people in Canada cited Kanyen’kéha as their mother tongue in the country’s 2011 census. All but a few of the 60 indigenous languages that still exist in the country are expected to disappear within the next generation.