A telling portrait of the English-speaking community of Laval emerges when the findings regarding population size, age structure and language use from the Census of Canada for 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 are compared.[1]

Laval’s Growing Language Minority

In the period from 1996 to 2011, Laval’s English-speaking population grew from 50,713 to 82,078 individuals. This increased the community’s share of the total Laval population- both the French-speaking majority and English-speaking minority combined- from 15.5% in 1996 to a robust 20.6% today.

The growth of 31,365 individuals between 1996 and 2011 represents an overall 61.8% increase, and notably, the greatest jump in size among all of Quebec’s English-speaking regional communities for the same period along with Nord-du-Quebec.

Equally interesting is the observation that when all the regions of Quebec are compared, the English-speaking communities with the greatest growth rates are located outside of Montreal. The Lanaudiere and Outaouais regions follow Laval to claim the top positions for rate of growth across the 1996-2011 census periods.

Population Growth through the Lens of Age

Knowledge of the characteristics of a growth trend in a regional territory such as Laval is essential to policy and practice that contributes to the quality of life of its residents both today and in the future.

When communities grow, they don’t all grow the same way or for the same reasons. For example, population booms such as those that have historically accompanied the discovery of gold or oil or other major economic developments may not represent an increase in young families in a given territory nor of older adults. They are demographic transitions that may or may not have the stability to endure over the long-term. Growth in some of the world’s largest populations is due almost entirely to birth rates and cannot be explained by migration patterns or the attraction of economic opportunity. Population growth due to high birth rates and growth primarily through in-migration imply two different social realities for those involved.

In the case of Laval when 1996 and 2011 are compared, the distribution of individuals across age categories remains similar despite an increase in overall numbers. This suggests the stability that follows from a consistent pattern of growth over time. When age groups within the English-speaking community are compared the largest group is 25-44 years cohort. When majority and minority language groups are observed across the fifteen years, there is a noted increase in the gap between English-speakers and French-speakers in this age category. In 1996, 36.4% of English-speakers were 25-44 compared to 32.5% of French-speakers. In 2011, some 33.1% of English-speakers were in this age group outweighing the 24.4% of Francophones by a greater margin than observed fifteen years prior. Put simply, the proportion of English-speakers 25-44 - often young workers and young families - has jumped ahead relative to their majority neighbors in Laval.

Language use in Laval, 1996-2011

What do we learn from the census about language use in the growing Laval population? The language being spoken most often at home in Laval is French and the proportion of the population doing so has remained around 80% since 1996. Interestingly, Laval differs from some other regions in that there has been a growing diversity of languages being spoken at home over the last fifteen years. The proportion of Laval residents using English at home has increased and there has been an even greater increase since 1996 among those using a non-official language as their home language. Those who use English along with other languages at home have nearly doubled.

The level of English-French bilingualism in 2011 within the Laval Anglophone community is highest among those aged 15-44. The substantial and growing 25-44 age group noted within the English-speaking community of Laval tends to be much more bilingual than previous generations.

Adding it all up

The English-speaking community of Laval has grown in size in the last fifteen years and in 2011 the percentage of Laval Anglophones aged 25-44 outweighed Francophones the same age. Not only has the English-speaking community increased in size but the increase in non-official language use suggests it has also grown in diversity.

It is not surprising to learn from a survey of English-speaking Laval residents conducted in 2010 (CHSSN-CROP Survey of Community Vitality) that access to services is a number one issue. Of specific concern was the availability of services in English in health and social services, employment and economic development, daycare/preschool and professional programs at the CEGEP level. A substantial 83% of respondents indicated that local English public schools were either extremely or very important to them. This sounds very much like the voice of young working families with children and aging parents looking for quality of life in their community and that of young adults seeking certification and training during important working years.

About the Author

Dr. Joanne Pocock is a sociologist who has devoted much of her academic and research career to the study of Quebec’s English-speaking minority communities. Her experience includes consultation, evaluation, policy analysis and multi-method research techniques. JPocock Research Consulting has been building knowledge for the federal government and for the array of provincial institutions, networks and community organizations that serve English-speaking Quebec for over ten years

[1] Census data for 1996-2006 is drawn from Statistics Canada 20% sample and 2011 is drawn from 100% sample. The language concept used here is First Official language Spoken (FOLS) which defines “English-=speaking” using three census questions: knowledge of official languages, mother tongue, and home language.