Two-thirds of Inuit can speak Inuktut, largely unchanged since 2011: StatsCan

New data released by Statistics Canada show two-thirds of Inuit can carry on a conversation in Inuktut, while the Inuit population is on the rise.

Half of Inuit kids speak Inuktut as 1st language

An Inuit woman and her child pictured in 2009 in Nunavut. New data released by StatsCan show two-thirds of Inuit across Canada can carry on a conversation in Inuktitut. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Two-thirds of Inuit can converse in Inuktut, according to new data released today by Statistics Canada from the 2016 census.

Inuktut is the term for all Inuit languages, including Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun and Inuvialuktun.

That's largely unchanged since 2011, when two-thirds of Inuit reported the ability to converse in Inuktut, according to 2011's National Household Survey.

Inuktitut was by far the most spoken, with 39,770 Inuit — 56 per cent of all Inuit — reporting that they are able to speak it. The number is down from the 61 per cent of all Inuit who reported they speak Inuktitut in 2011.

Inuinnaqtun is the second-most spoken, with two per cent of all Inuit saying they can speak it in 2016. That's up from the 1 per cent of all Inuit reported speaking Innuinnaqtun in 2011.

Just 0.9 per cent of Inuit reported speaking Inuvialuktun.

Half of Inuit kids speak Inuktut as 1st language

StatsCan also found 55.8 per cent of Inuit children aged 14 and younger reported Inuktut as their mother tongue, while 65.2 per cent said they could carry on a conversation. 

Among Inuit between 15 and 24 years old, 57 per cent reported Inuktut as their mother tongue; 58.3 per cent of Inuit aged 25 to 64 said Inuktut was their mother tongue; and among elders — 65 and older — 60.6 per cent reported Inuktut as their first language.

Language strongest in Nunavik

Nunavik has the strongest population of Inuktut speakers, with 99.2 per cent of Inuit there saying they're fluent. That's a small difference from the 99 per cent who said they could speak it in 2011.

In Nunavut, 89.1 per cent of Inuit can carry on a conversation. In 2011, the number was 89 per cent.

In the Nunatsiavut and Inuvialuit regions for 2016, StatsCan reported only 21.4 and 22 per cent of Inuit could speak Inuktut, respectively.

Across all Inuit Nunangat — the Inuit traditional homelands of Nunavut, Inuvialuit in the N.W.T., Nunatsiavut in Labrador, and Nunavik in Northern Quebec — 83.9 per cent of Inuit were able to speak Inuktut. That number was 82.8 per cent in 2011.

Inuit population on the rise

In 2016, there were 65,025 Inuit in Canada — up 29.1 per cent from 2006 — with 72.8 per cent of all Inuit living in Inuit Nunangat.

Nearly half, 46.4 per cent, of all Inuit live in Nunavut, while 18.1 per cent live in Nunavik, 4.8 per cent in the Inuvialuit region, and 3.5 per cent in Nunatsiavut. About 27 per cent of Inuit live outside Inuit Nunangat.

A breakdown of where Inuit are living across Inuit Nunangat. (StatsCan)