By Sunil Narula

The number of Punjabis who make Vancouver area their home is increasing every year. So it is hardly surprising that the newest census figures show Punjabi as the dominant immigrant language spoken in Metro Vancouver homes.

While it was a known fact all along, now there are solid numbers from a census to support this.

Of the 712,000 people who reported speaking an immigrant language most often at home, nearly 18 per cent reported speaking Punjabi.

Chinese languages—Cantonese and Mandarin—follow close behind. Again even this is not surprising given the number of Chinese who come to Canada every year.

With Punjabi and Chinese emerging as the dominant immigrant languages spoken in Canada, the English language has taken a hit.

The census found the proportion of the population that reported speaking only English at home continued to decline, from 65 per cent in 2001 to 58 per cent in 2011 — 1,328,780 people.

Burnaby resident and prominent Punjabi author Sadhu Binning feels this is a very significant development for the Punjabi community in Canada. Speaking with The Voice, Binning said, “the government takes most of its decisions about social services based on numbers and now that these numbers have come out in a census these facts cannot be ignored. This will give tremendous confidence to the Punjabi people and it is also a matter of pride for them. This will also create more jobs for people of the community. This can also go some way in paving the way for Punjabi to be taught in schools etc.”

As for the English language, the total number of people who speak some English at home, with or without another language, is now about 83 per cent, dropping only about one per cent since 2001.

The census figures show Punjabi and the Chinese groups accounted for more than half — 57.7 per cent — of the overall population speaking an immigrant language most often at home in the Metro Vancouver census area.

Vancouver’s immigrant languages

  • Punjabi – 126,000 – 17.7%.
  • Cantonese – 113,610 – 16.0%.
  • Chinese – unspecified – 86,580 – 12.2%.
  • Mandarin – 83, 832 – 11.8%.
  • Tagalog – 47,640 – 6.7%.
  • Korean – 38,870 – 5.5%.
  • Persian (Farsi) – 28,970 – 4.1%.
  • Spanish – 22,505 – 3.2%.
  • Hindi – 18,325 – 2.6%.
  • Vietnamese – 18,225 – 2.6%.
  • Russian – 11,765 – 1.7%.
  • Japanese – 9,920 – 1.4%.
  • Others – 105,140 – 14.8%.
  • Total – 711,515 – 100%.

The census also found a sizable increase in the number of people who reported speaking both English and an ‘other’ language at home, from 18 per cent in 2001 to 24 per cent in 2011 — 549,950 people.

In Greater Vancouver, the number of people who only speak something other than French or English at home has remained roughly the same since 2001, and is now about 16 per cent — 369,350 people.

English at home has remained roughly the same since 2001, and is now about 16 per cent — 369,350 people.

The total number of people who speak some English at home, with or without another language, is now about 83 per cent, dropping only about one per cent since 2001.