Arabic, Chinese languages most spoken at home here after English
HAS OVERTAKEN Italian as the language most spoken at home after English in the Hamilton area, according to the latest census data.
Last year, 6,345 respondents cited Arabic as the language most often spoken in their household, compared to Italian at 5,100, reflecting a significant change since 2011.
At that time, 4,695 respondents identified Arabic as the predominant language at home, compared to the 6,385 households who cited Italian.
This reflects Hamilton’s changing newcomer landscape.
“The Italian community was a large immigrant group in the ’40s to ’70s in Hamilton,” social planner Sara Mayo noted.
Arabic saw a surge of 60 per cent between 2006 and 2016, Mayo noted. Conversely, Italian dropped by 34 per cent over the same period.
Italians have made a notable mark on Hamilton’s socio-cultural mosaic. Many came here from Racalmuto, Sicily, in the 1950s, providing the city with labour and entrepreneurs.
More recently, however, newcomers from the Middle East and Africa who speak Arabic have settled here. Between late 2015 and early this year, nearly 1,500 Syrian refugees made Hamilton their home.
Statistics Canada released its latest bunch of data from the 2016 census on Wednesday, focusing on families, households, marital status and languages.
Between late 2015 and early this year, nearly 1,500 Syrian refugees made Hamilton their home.
Nationally, Tagalog (Filipino) was the fastest-growing language, increasing by 35 per cent over 2011 figures, followed by Arabic (30 per cent), Farsi (26.7 per cent), Hindi (26.1 per cent) and Urdu (25 per cent).
In the Hamilton CMA, which also includes Burlington and Grimsby, Spanish was most often spoken in 5,825 households, edging Italian at 5,100.
When combined, Chinese languages — mostly Mandarin and Cantonese — are those most often spoken in Hamilton-area homes, with 6,840 respondents, not including English.
In 2011, Italian was the language most spoken in local households after English.
That languages from China have overtaken Italian isn’t so much a product of an increase in their predominance (only four per cent growth from 2006-2016) as Italian’s decline, noted Mayo, who works at the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton (SPRC).
Between 2006 and 2016, Spanish (54 per cent) and French (56 per cent) made significant gains, as well, the SPRC noted.
The SPRC regularly receives requests for information about language trends from agencies to help them plan services, she said.
For example, such information has been of interest to the city’s waste management division to decide what languages to include in recycling guides.
English, however, still reigns as the language spoken most often in most Hamilton households at 444,470.
In fact, it surged by 85 per cent between 2006 and 2016 compared to immigrant languages, Mayo said.
“English is becoming a more common home language.”
This reflects the fact that Hamilton lags behind Ontario in drawing immigrants, Mayo suggested.
Immigrants made up 25 per cent of the local population in 2011 compared to 29 per cent for all of Ontario. From 2006 to 2011, Hamilton’s immigrant population grew by 2.9 per cent compared to Ontario’s increase of four per cent.
“Which is a problem for Hamilton,” Mayo said.
It doesn’t bode well because immigrants have been the bulwark of economic growth in Hamilton, fuelling big industry, she said.
Huzaifa Saeed, policy and research analyst with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, agrees immigration is key to economic growth.
Anecdotally, there are a variety of factors that keep newcomers from settling in certain cities, including the proximity of similar cultures, Saeed said.
“Affordability is very much connected to people of first generations,” he added.
The latest Statistics Canada data show the Hamilton CMA’s population was 536,917 last year compared to 519,949 in 2011, representing a growth of 3.3 per cent.
The average age here was 41.3 with the 15-64 age group the largest at 66.5 per cent.
Most were married or living with a common-law partner (246,910). The average size of a family was 2.9 people.
Syrian refugee children play at Soccer World in Hamilton last year. Between late 2015 and early this year, nearly 1,500 Syrian refugees made Hamilton their home.