Ottawa

As languages diversify, so should Ottawa's services, says advocate

The Ottawa-Gatineau area is seeing an increase in the number of people who don't speak either official language, according to new census data.

Ottawa-Gatineau sees large increase in people who speak neither official language

Rebecca Fromowitz, director of the Walk-In Counselling Clinic, said services in Ottawa need to be available in more languages than just English and French. (David Corrigan/CBC News)

The Ottawa-Gatineau area is seeing an increase in the number of people who don't speak either official language, according to new census data from Statistics Canada.

The 2016 data, released yesterday, shows that the number of people who speak neither English nor French has grown by 16 per cent since 2011 — almost double the country's average increase. 

One in six people in Ottawa-Gatineau now has a mother tongue other than French or English, according to that data.

With the number of speakers of other languages rising, sometimes services in those languages are overlooked, said Rebecca Fromowitz, director of the Walk-In Counselling Clinic. 

The clinic, which offers free counselling sessions, has recently expanded the number of languages it serves people in. 

"A few years into being here, I recognized very quickly that we were not serving the needs of our community. And those needs have grown and grown over time," said Fromowitz.

"And there is certainly much greater need to be serving the community in a multitude of languages."

Long-term services needed

Fromowitz said many people who are seeing her counsellors speak languages like Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic or Somali.

"They need longer-term services, and there are not the services available in the community," Fromowitz said.

More diverse staff at agencies like hers would go a long way to help the problem, she added. 

The Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization was unable to respond CBC News' request for an interview.

With files from David Corrigan

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