At first glance, language in Canada may appear unchanging. Federal and provincial laws continue to safeguard English and French language rights. For the foreseeable future, English remains the majority language with a profound influence on other Canadian languages.
However, when you look closer, Canada’s linguistic landscape continues to shift.
Immigrants and new arrivals are introducing new languages and dialects to Canada. In turn, other heritage language speakers may choose to speak English or French as their only language.
The number of Canadians that can speak a heritage language is rising. More Canadians are able to speak multiple languages. Canadians’ homes and work environments are gradually becoming more bilingual.
Some of biggest changes will involve the role of Indigenous languages in Canada. First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations continue to advocate for national recognition of Indigenous languages and for legislation to protect them.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its Summary Report. Among its Calls to Action, items 13-17 address the need for national recognition, support, and preservation of Indigenous languages:
Canada is a country of many, ever-changing languages. Language is an important part of Canada’s national mosaic and a crucial part of identity and culture. The future of Canada’s languages is bound to see growth and change, but it is vital that measures are taken to preserve the complexity and variety of all languages spoken in Canada.
There is still much to be done in the effort to preserve all of Canada’s languages. Although people across Canada are working together to help language education and retention, for many, the struggle continues for national recognition and support. However, positive change is possible. With strong support, Canadian voices will continue be heard.