The proportion of non-official languages in the metropolitan regions of Greater Sudbury and Thunder Bay has declined over the last five years, new census data shows — unlike other urban centres in the country where language diversity is growing.

English was identified as the mother tongue for 65.5 per cent of people in Sudbury and 85.7 per cent of people in Thunder Bay, Statistics Canada said Wednesday, as it released new information on languages from the 2011 census.

French, Canada’s other official language, was cited by 27.7 per cent of Sudbury residents and 2.5 per cent of Thunder Bay residents.  

A total of 6.7 per cent of Sudbury’s population and 11.8 per cent of Thunder Bay’s population has a mother tongue other than one of Canada’s official languages — a decrease from the 2006 census by 7.7 per cent and 13.3 per cent, respectively.

According to the 2011 census, the top five non-official languages spoken in Sudbury include Italian (1.8 per cent), Finnish (0.9 per cent), German (0.5 per cent), Ukrainian (0.4 per cent) and Polish (0.3 per cent).

The top five non-official languages spoken in Thunder Bay's metro area include Italian (2.7 per cent), Finnish (1.9 per cent), Polish (0.9 per cent), Ukrainian (0.8 per cent) and German (0.7 per cent). Within the city of Thunder Bay itself, Ojibway was listed as the mother tongue by 0.7% of the population. That's an increase from 0.5% in the previous census. 

In the census metropolitan area of Sudbury, a total of 120 languages were identified. In the census metropolitan area of Thunder Bay, a total of 114 languages were identified. In total, the 2011 census reported 191 different languages as mother tongues among the country’s population. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that counts language in its census.

Stats Can Definitions

Statistics Canada uses the term census metropolitan area to describe any area with a population of at least 100,000, where the urban core of that area has at least 50,000 people. Census metropolitan areas are often different from municipal boundaries and take into account the growing impact of suburban areas on Canada's largest cities.

Statistics Canada defines "mother tongue" as the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood at the time the census was taken in May 2011.