MONTREAL – Statistics Canada confirmed Thursday it will look into concerns by the head of a think-tank who is questioning the accuracy of census data indicating a significant increase in Quebec’s anglophone population.
If the 2016 numbers are correct, “anglophones are moving to Quebec cities they’ve never heard of,” said Jack Jedwab of the Association for Canadian Studies.
The data on language released last week indicated roughly one-half of the 57,325 increase in the number of anglophones in the province over five years was reported outside Montreal.
It is improbable cities with strong francophone majorities such as Rimouski, Saguenay, Trois-Rivieres and Shawinigan saw a significant increase of anglophones, Jedwab said in an interview.
He said the numbers didn’t add up when he looked at immigration data and other publicly available figures.
Small communities such as Riviere-du-Loup and Dolbeau-Mistassini saw their population with English as a mother tongue increase between 2011 and 2016 by 166 per cent and 207 per cent, respectively, Jedwab said.
“I’m running out of explanations and that’s why I think Statistics Canada should look into this quickly,” he said.
The 2016 census data revealed the percentage of Quebecers whose first official language spoken is English increased to 14.4 per cent from 13.5 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
English as a mother tongue increased in Quebec to 9.6 per cent last year from nine per cent in 2011, while English as a language spoken at home rose to 19.8 per cent from 18.3 per cent over the same period.
The data also indicated the percentage of people who listed French as a mother tongue decreased to 78.4 per cent in 2016 from 79.7 per cent in 2011.
Francophone politicians and pundits expressed fear and trepidation after the results were released, claiming Quebec’s culture and identity were being threatened.
Canada’s official statistics agency said it will review its data.
“Statistics Canada will look into this question,” a spokesperson said in an email, referring to Jedwab’s claims.
“Statistics Canada takes the accuracy and quality of its data very seriously and uses recognized statistical methods and data verification standards in all its programs, including the census.
“When concerns are raised, we take the necessary steps to thoroughly examine and respond to them.”
Jedwab said language numbers in Canada are important because they serve to determine the types of government-subsidized services given to linguistic communities across the country.
Moreover, he said the data, such as unemployment figures on the basis of language in communities across Quebec, are now suspect.
“I called Statistics Canada in a spirit of amity and respect,” Jedwab said. “We need to get to the bottom of this.”