ਕੀ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਇਹ ਪਢ਼ ਸਕਦੇ ਹੋ? ਮੇਟ੍ਰੋ ਵੈਨਕੂਵਰ ਦੇ 139,230 ਲੋਕ ਇਹ ਪਢ਼ ਸਕਦੇ ਹਨ.
(Translation: Can you read this? 139,230 people in Metro Vancouver can.)
The Urban Futures Institute
So, can you?
Here in Metro Vancouver, it is more likely than ever that you can. With so much focus on housing in this region, and more specifically on the role that China might, or might not, play in shaping our housing market (ahem—that’s us clearing our throats—we can leave this discussion for another time), the true extent of our demographic diversity is sometimes forgotten. To this end, the most recent Census data revealed something that surprised us: Punjabi is now (as of 2011, to be precise) the predominant non-official mother tongue and language spoken most often at home in Metro Vancouver.
Having happened upon this interesting factoid that you may or may not have already been aware of, we were compelled to dig a little deeper into the recent data to explore trends in mother tongue, language spoken most often at home, religious affiliation, and the countries of origin of recent immigrants.
Mother Tongue & Language Spoken At Home
In 2011, 2.23 million Metro Vancouver residents reported having a single mother tongue. Of these, 59 percent reported one of Canada’s two official languages as being their mother tongue: English (58 percent) and French (one percent). The remaining 41 percent reported one of at least 90 other non-official languages as their mother tongue, the most common being Punjabi (139,230 people), followed by Cantonese (128,110), Mandarin (90,190), Chinese, n.o.s. (111,500), and Tagalog (58,505). While these five languages have been the region’s top five non-official mother tongues since at least 2001, 2011 was the first time that Punjabi surpassed Cantonese, Mandarin, or Chinese n.o.s.
While Punjabi was not the fastest growing mother tongue (a 59 percent increase over the past decade), the absolute increase in the number of people whose mother tongue was Punjabi was greater than for any other language, at 51,470 people, pushing it into the top non-official language position.
As would be expected, data collected on languages most often spoken at home look similar to those for mother tongue. For example, the 2011 Census indicated that after English, Punjabi was the most common language spoken at home in Metro Vancouver. This resulted from a 142 percent increase in the number of residents speaking Punjabi at home between 2001 and 2011 (this compares to a 22 percent increase in the use of English at home).
The growth in the region’s Punjabi speaking population, be it as their mother tongue or language spoken most at home, is consistent with other data, including trends in religious affiliation and growth of the Sikh religion throughout Metro Vancouver.
Of the region’s 2.28 million total residents in 2011, 41 percent indicated that they had no religious affiliation, up from 34 percent in 2001. Comprising the 59 percent of Metro Vancouver’s residents that indicated a religious affiliation, the Christian religion accounted for 42 percent of the total population, followed by Sikh at seven percent. With each of the other religious affiliations accounting for at most three percent of the regional population, Sikh accounted for 40 percent of the non-Christian religions in 2011. Over the past decade the Sikh religious affiliation grew by 58 percent, faster than those indicating no religious affiliation (just under 40 percent growth) and those with any religious affiliation (three percent),.
The pace of change in Punjabi as a mother tongue, spoken as a language most often at home, or Sikh as a religion can be chalked up to the level and composition of immigration the region has seen over the past decade. Census and National Household Survey data on those who moved to Canada over the previous five years (recent immigrants) show that among the top five countries from which Metro Vancouver residents immigrated, only three saw their numbers increase between 2001 and 2011. More specifically, the number of immigrants who recently moved from the Philippines rose by 74 percent between 2001 and 2011 (from 14,330 to 25,005), from India by 31 percent (15,695 to 20,500), and from China by seven percent (34,440 to 36,945). In contrast, the number of immigrants from South Korea and Taiwan declined (by 12 percent and 76 percent, respectively).
Clearly, trends in the composition of recent immigrant flows underpin the changes seen in language and religious affiliation, and focusing on some of these different characteristics of the regional population highlights its growing diversity. While we are still predominantly a region of European, english-speaking, Christians and atheists, we are changing in profound ways. Given immigration will be the predominant driver to population growth nationally and locally over the coming decades, we should only expect our diversity to grow.
 Mother tongue refers to the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the person at the time the data was collected.
 n.o.s.: Not otherwise specified. This category includes all Chinese languages except where Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka, Taiwanese, Chaochow, Fukien, or Shanghainese was reported by the Census questionnaire respondent. It also may include some indeterminate number of actual Cantonese and Manadarin (and other) speakers who may have indicated that their mother tongue was the more generic “Chinese”.