Skepticism, ‘shock’ surrounds 2016 census language findings in Quebec

Click to play video: 'Is the 2016 Census wrong about language?' Is the 2016 Census wrong about language?
Watch: The 2016 Statistics Canada census revealed that English language is booming in Quebec, but some community groups are questioning the accuracy of the figures. Global's Sarah Volstad reports – Aug 10, 2017

More results from the 2016 census were released last week, and some are finding the Quebec language results hard to believe.

One of them is Jack Jedwab, executive vice-president for the Association for Canadian Studies.

Jedwab wasn’t surprised to see a 10 per cent increase in the number of mother tongue anglophones in Quebec over the past five years.

The shock came, however, when he dug deeper into where those people were said to be living, and found booms of anglophones outside of metropolitan Montreal.

“A lot of increase in the 100 per cent to 200 per cent, in places that anglophones have never even heard of,” said Jedwab.

According to census results, the number of people speaking English at home has jumped significantly in smaller cities across Quebec, with a 335 per cent increase in Rivière-du-Loup, a 259 per cent increase in Baie Comeau, and a 283 per cent increase in Rimouski.

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“I can’t see how there would have been such a dramatic increase in the number,” Rimouski Mayor Marc Parent told Global News. “Either it was wrong before, or it’s wrong now. But to me, the increase, nothing can justify that.”

Now, Parent and others are questioning the accuracy of the census’ language results in Quebec.

The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) says it hasn’t seen an influx of students in English schools in Quebec City, contrary to what the census would suggest.

QCGN director general Sylvia Martin-Laforge says it’s important to get these figures right for policy and planning purposes.

“If it is true that there are all of these new people coming in, that will require more resources from the province, especially in health and social services, to reply to this demand,” said Martin-Laforge. “So it’s important for us to know what’s happening.”

Statistics Canada says it’s looking into this issue, releasing the following statement: “Statistics Canada takes data accuracy and quality very seriously. When issues of concern are raised, we take the necessary measures to review them thoroughly and respond to them.”

“The possibility that it’s a miscalculation, while I wouldn’t rule it out completely, doesn’t seem to be plausible because, in speaking to StatsCan, all of the input into the census is automated,” said Jedwab.

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Statistics Canada says it will get back to Global News with answers, once they have them.

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