By Balwant Sanghera
VANCOUVER: The 2011 census figures are great news for the Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) Canada and the entire Punjabi community as Punjabi has now jumped from its sixth place in 2006 to the third most spoken language in Canada.
Over 460,000 Punjabi speakers are now spread out throughout Canada.
British Columbia continues to lead with 182,715 Punjabi speakers. This province is followed by Ontario with 173,975 and Alberta with 49,940 lovers of this language. In Metro Vancouver the number is 139,230 including 93,785 in Surrey. The City of Vancouver with 24,660 Punjabi speakers leads Abbotsford with 15,235.
Toronto and Brampton are the mirror image of Vancouver and Surrey. Whereas Toronto has 23,000 Punjabi speakers, Brampton has the honour of being the city with the most Punjabi speakers – 91,345 in Ontario. Surrey and Brampton have now become the hubs of Punjabi language and culture at both ends of the country.
The PLEA Canada has been working very hard for close to 20 years in promoting Punjabi in this country. It is a matter of great pride and satisfaction for this organization to see such recognition for this language.
However, the Indo-Canadian media also played a major role in this regard. The same goes for a lot of other organizations.
On behalf of PLEA Canada, I would like to congratulate and thank them all for their dedication in this regard. Furthermore, I would like to urge them to continue to work hard in promoting Punjabi at every level. Let’s create more pride about Punjabi, especially among our young people. They are our future and they are the ones who will play a major role in the growth and development of this language.
It is interesting to note that more than 200 languages are spoken in Canada. Ironically, only 22 of them have more than 100,000 speakers. The largest, Punjabi, at 460,000 speakers, was followed by Chinese with 441,000 speakers, Spanish 439, 000, Italian 438,000, German 430, 000, Tagalog 384,000 and Arabic 374,000. There were 60 Aboriginal languages identified with 213,000 speakers. Here it may be appropriate to mention that the Chinese languages are a combination of Cantonese, Mandarin and other non-specified languages. Their numbers were: Cantonese 389,000, Mandarin 255,000 and unspecified: 441,000.
Like the Punjabi community, the Chinese community also continues to grow at a fairly good rate. For example, Richmond has the highest proportion of people in Metro Vancouver speaking a language other than the two official languages – English and French. About 59 percent of Richmond residents speak a language other than English. Majority of them are of Chinese heritage who speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and other non-specified languages. Nationally, it is interesting to note that 6.8 million Canadians speak a language other than the two official languages at homes. These figures project a fairly good picture of this country’s linguistic diversity.
This doesn’t mean that English and French are losing their touch. On the contrary, 22 million Canadians out of a total population of 33,476,688, speak English at home. Furthermore, 28.4 million citizens of this country have a working knowledge of English. Similarly, seven million Canadians speak French at home and 10 million have a working knowledge of French.
These latest figures present a good snapshot of this country’s multicultural and linguistic landscape. Canada is now home to almost every language group and community from around the globe. This is a matter of great pride for every Canadian.
Recognizing the linguistic identity of a community adds greatly to Canada’s policy of inclusion and tolerance. At the same time, it puts onus on every Canadian to also learn at least one of Canada’s official languages and reach out to those who may be unable to speak or understand our mother language. This is the best way to enhance and promote linguistic and cultural harmony.
In the global context, this new linguistic landscape in Canada bodes well not only for this country but also for the world. It reinforces this country’s level of tolerance. Multilingualism, along with multiculturalism, is a great asset for Canada. It strengthens us as a nation. It is something for all of us to be proud of and celebrate.
(Based in Richmond, BC, Balwant Sanghera is the president of the Punjabi Language Education Association or PLEA)