Arabic most common mother tongue in Windsor other than English, French

Arabic is the most common mother tongue other than English and French in Windsor, accounting for nearly five per cent of the population, according to 2016 Census figures released Wednesday morning.

Italian is next most popular, followed by Mandarin and Polish

Badrie Chachada came to Windsor from Lebanon 17 years ago and has watched Wyandotte Street East become a bustling "Arab Village" where it is possible to get by speaking only Arabic. (Meg Roberts/CBC News)

When Badrie Chachada came to Windsor from Lebanon 17 years ago there was a only a solitary Arabic store on Wyandotte Street. Now, she says, it's a bustling and growing "Arab village" where you can get by without English or French.

Chachada, who opened the Badrie Closet clothing store on Wyandotte about five years ago, said she wasn't surprised by the latest Census statistics showing the Arabic language on the rise in Windsor.

"We have a lot of Arabic people coming from Toronto, from outside Canada, from Montreal," said Chachada. "Now, when I come to Wyandotte I come to an Arab village. As an Arab person, it gives me good feelings."

A total of 15,225 respondents, or 4.7 per cent of the total population of Windsor's CMA, listed Arabic as their mother tongue in the 2016 Census — up about 30 per cent from the 11,760 respondents in 2011.

"The increase was quite substantial," said Rene Houle of Statistics Canada."Much higher than any other language."

Chachada said she routinely encounters customers who can only speak Arabic. She said it was possible to conduct business on Wyandotte with only Arabic but that English was still required if you ventured off the strip.

"You need English, of course, we're in Canada," she said. 

Lakhdeep Bains of the Unemployed Help Centre said Arabic speaking students account for about 90 per cent of the students for English classes. She said there has been a big increase over the past few years fuelled by immigration and the influx of Syrian refugees. 

Italian was the next most popular language in the Windsor Census Metropolitan Area — which encompasses Windsor, Tecumseh, Lakeshore, LaSalle and Amherstbug — with 9,340 respondents or 2.9 per cent of the total population, down from 3.3 per cent in 2011.

Mandarin was third with 4,095 people or 1.3 per cent of the total population, up from 1.1 per cent in 2011; followed by Polish with 3,075 respondents or 0.9 per cent of the total population, down from 1.1 per cent in 2011.

From 2011 to 2016, the number of residents with a mother tongue other than English or French hit 79,045 people or 24.2 per cent, up from 73,570 people or 23.2 per cent in 2011.

Out of 326,285 people in 2016, 243,630 or 74.7 per cent listed English as their mother tongue compared to 11,880 people or 3.6 per cent who picked French.

The number of those listing French as their mother tongue declined from four per cent or 12,715 people in 2011. 

Across Canada, Tagalog was the fastest growing language, growing by 35 per cent since 2011. 

Arabic was the second-fastest growing language, growing by 30 per cent. It was followed by Persian/Farsi at 26.7 per cent; Hindi at 26.1 per cent and Urdu at 25 per cent. 

About the Author

Meg Roberts is a video journalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, based in St. John's. Email her at