French-speaking Canadians hid fluency in English: agency

31st May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Thousands of French-speaking Canadians living outside of Quebec province likely lied in the latest 2006 census about their ability to also speak English, a government agency said Monday.

The aim of the seemingly coordinated deceit was to secure federal funding for services in French nationwide, said Statistics Canada, which posted a warning on its website to users of the data on bilingualism rates.

The agency said an email widely circulated one month prior to the 2006 census encouraged Francophones to say in the questionnaire that they could not speak English, even if they could.

The email "urged bilingual Francophones not to report... that they knew both official languages, purportedly to ensure that the federal government would not cut services to Francophones," said the warning.

"Francophones were encouraged to say that they knew French but not English."

Statistics Canada reported Anglophone populations' knowledge of French increased slightly between 2001 and 2006.

The proportion of Francophones outside of Quebec who reported being bilingual, however, was slightly lower in 2006 than in 2001, after previously rising year after year.

For example, the proportion of Francophones in Ontario who reported being bilingual was 89.4 percent in 2001, up from 88.4 percent in 1996, but it fell back to 88.4 percent in 2006, according to the census.

"In view of the data, it seems plausible that the email influenced some Francophones in their responses to the question on knowledge of official languages," Statistics Canada said.

"The figures are probably low for the 'English and French' category and high for the 'French only' category, particularly for Francophones but also for the population in general," it said.

"Users should therefore exercise caution in interpreting those data."

© 2010 AFP

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