Ara­bic, Chi­nese lan­guages most spo­ken at home here af­ter English

2016 CEN­SUS

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - TEVIAH MORO


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.

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