common english

English-speaking Quebecer

English-speaking Quebecers (also known as Anglo-Quebecers, English Quebecers, or Anglophone Quebecers; in French Anglo-Québécois, Québécois Anglophone, or simply Anglo) refers to the English-speaking (anglophone) minority of the primarily French-speaking (francophone) province of Quebec in Canada. The English-speaking community in Quebec constitutes an official linguistic minority population under Canadian law.

Unlike other minorities, English-speaking Quebecers are not an ethnic group, with large outmigration to other provinces, intermarriage with francophones, and waves of immigration renewing the face of the community every generation. This makes estimating the population difficult. According to the 2006 Canadian census, 575,555 (7.7% of population) in Quebec declare English as their mother tongue, 744,430 (10%) use mostly English as their home language, and 918,955 (12.9%) comprise the Official Language Minority, having English as their First Official language spoken.



The English-speaking community of Montreal is extremely diverse, having always been influenced by successive waves of immigration into the city; even today 36% of anglophones in Quebec were born outside Canada.A large proportion of Quebec's English-speaking population resides in or near Montreal. Most reside on the Island of Montreal, particularly in the West Island and in the western half of Montreal's urban core, where there is a well-established network of English-language educational, social, cultural, economic, and medical institutions. Some suburbs north, south and west of the Island have significant English-speaking populations.

The earliest English-speaking Quebecers arrived in Montreal at the beginning of the British regime in the second half of the 1700s. American merchants, United Empire Loyalists and Anglo-Scot Protestants founded Quebec's public and private English-language institutions and would represent Quebec's elite merchant and financial classes up until the 1960s; the heritage of this era remains in neighbourhoods such as Westmount and the Golden Square Mile.

Irish immigrants established their schools, churches and hospitals in the mid-1800s in tough, working class neighbourhoods such as Point St. Charles and Griffintown. Separate English-language confessional (Protestant and Catholic) school systems emerged and would be guaranteed in the British North America Act in 1867 thanks to D'Arcy McGee, a prominent Irish Montrealer. In 2000, these school boards were merged into English boards. The contribution of these founding communities is recognized along with that of the original French settlers on the flag of Montreal.

An English-speaking African-Canadian community grew in the 1860s with the coming of the railway industry centered in Montreal, settling in Little Burgundy and Saint-Henri.

The early 1900s brought waves of settlers from all over Europe. Jews from Poland and Russia established a large Jewish community, and integrated into the English-speaking "Protestant" schools and businesses. Italian immigrants would adopt the Catholic institutions of either the Irish or French-Canadian community. These and many other immigrant communities would initially settle along Saint Lawrence Boulevard (nicknamed "The Main"), before moving on to more prosperous suburbs such as Cote-Saint-Luc and Saint-Leonard.

Ethnic Origins of Montreal Anglophones
Ethnicity Population Percent
Total 734,928 100%
Italian 112,490 15.3%
English 102,998 14.0%
Irish 78,175 10.6%
Scottish 64,770 8.8%
French 63,218 8.6%
Jewish 61,933 8.4%

In the 1950s, more immigration from Europe again changed the face of Montreal. Immigrants flocked to Montreal from all across Europe, bolstering the numbers of established cultural communities, with a Greek community planting strong roots in the English-speaking community.

Immigrants of today come from all over the world and are largely more secular than members of the established English-speaking communities. Also, a larger proportion are French-speaking than before. However, immigrants from English-speaking countries such as Britain, the United States, and Jamaica usually come with a knowledge of English; Asians account for the fastest growing segment of the population, with over 26,000 Asians coming to Quebec between 1996 and 2001 and having English as their first official language spoken in 2001; as a result, over a quarter of anglophones now come from visible minority groups. Some First nation peoples such as the Mohawk, the Cree, and Inuit also use English in their day-to-day lives and use English-language health services based in Montreal. These groups blend in easily in a community that defines itself increasingly as multicultural and bilingual. Its dwindling numbers, its large diversity, its mobility and access to mainstream North American society means that most anglophones in Quebec will identify themselves as Canadian or by their cultural group, and identify as "anglophone" only in the context of Quebec's French-speaking majority.

Elsewhere in Quebec

All English-speaking communities outside the Montreal metropolitan area have been in decline for over a century, except for aboriginal communities in the North. However, communities near Montreal, Ontario and the American border are still large enough to constitute a sizeable yet shrinking minority in these regions.

In the late 1700s and the early 1800s, the Eastern Townships and the Chateauguay Valley were pioneered by English-speaking settlers who moved north from the United States; the first were Loyalists (Tories in the U.S.) wishing to remain British subjects after The American Revolution. Very few of these Loyalists were allowed to stay in the Eastern Townships and were in fact forced by the British to move from the lands that they were squatting on because the British desired to keep the Eastern Townships as an unpopulated buffer zone between the French Canadians and the Americans. By the end of the 1790s, American homesteaders were allowed to come northward to settle lands across the border. Immigrants from England, Scotland, and Ireland would further settle these regions in the mid 1800s, and pioneer the Outaouais region (Gatineau and Pontiac region) and many Laurentian communities. By the end of the nineteenth century, many grew into thriving small cities: Shawville, Hull, Lachute, Huntingdon, St. Johns (now St-Jean-sur-Richelieu), Granby, St. Hyacinthe, Victoriaville, Drummondville, Magog, Sherbrooke, Sawyerville. Migration to and larger cities in Canada (including Montreal) has since reduced the English-speaking population in these regions.

Many American and Anglo-Scot merchants settled in Quebec City in the nineteenth century, but the majority of anglophones were working-class Irish immigrants. In the 1860s, the proportion of English-speakers reached a historic high of 40%. The population gradually dwindled as Montreal replaced Quebec City as a center of commerce and industry. English-speakers now represent 1.9% of the total population in the Quebec metropolitan area.

There has been English-speaking settlement or immigration to some degree in almost all areas of Quebec at one time or another. What remains today in many regions is only symbolic as anglophones have moved away or assimilated into the French-speaking community. English-speaking communities in the Gaspé Peninsula and the Lower North Shore remain.


Number of English-Speaking Quebecers
Criteria Quebec Montreal
Mother tongue
Official 591,379 (8.3%) 401,183 (10.5%)
Eng only 557,040 379,570
Eng + Fr 50,060
Eng + Other 15,040
Total 622,140 424,355
Home language
Official 746,895 (10.5%) 552,610 (19.7%)
Eng only 480,400 376,720
Mostly 220,850 175,990
Equally 95,970 74,350
Regularly 393,575 202,465
Total 1,190,435 886,050
First official language
Off lang minority 918,955 (12.9%) 699,203 (25%)
Eng only 828,730 619,790
Eng + Fr 180,450 158,885
Total 1,009,180 778,645
Knowledge of English 3,234,740 2,047,520
Total Population 7,125,580 2,796,390
English-language population in Quebec
Year Mother tongue Home language 1st official language
1951 558,256 (13.8%) No data No data
1961 697,402 (13.3%) No data No data
1971 788,830 (13.1%) 887,875 (14.7%) No data
1981 693,600 (10.9%) 806,785 (12.7%) No data
1991 626,200 (9.2%) 761,810 (11.2%) 904,305
1996 621,863 762,457 925,830
2001 591,365 (8.3%) 746,895 (10.5%) 918,955(12.9)
Interprovincial migration between Quebec and other provinces by Mother Tongue
Year French English Other
1971–1976 −4,100 −52,200 −5,700
1976–1981 −18,000 −106,300 −17,400
1981–1986 −12,900 −41,600 −8,700
1986–1991 5,200 −22,200 −8,600
1991–1996 1,200 −24,500 −14,100
1996–2001 −8,900 −29,200 −19,100
Total −37,500 −276,000 −73,600

Statistics Canada uses census data to keep track of minority language communities in Canada. It has recorded mother tongue (the first language learned as a child and still spoken) since 1921, home language (language spoken at home) since 1971, and first official language learned (English or French) since 1991. In addition, conversational knowledge of English and French is documented.

A considerable number of census respondents in each category cite equal proficiency, knowledge, and use of different languages. In this case, census respondents are divided evenly among the language groups involved.

As allophone immigrants (mother tongue other than English or French) generally arrive with knowledge of either English or French and eventually integrate into these two linguistic groups, first official language learned is used to determine the Official Language minority population. It is used by the federal government and Quebec anglophone community organizations to determine the demand for minority language services. Specifically, it classifies members of immigrant groups who learn English before French as English-speaking. Half of the people equally proficient since childhood in both English and French are placed into each linguistic community.

The English-speaking population has shown an accelerated decline in population in the last three decades. Between 1971 and 2001, the number of mother tongue anglophones has decreased from 788,830 to 591,365 representing a drop in its share of the Quebec population from 13.1% to 8.3%. This is attributed partially to migration to other provinces and a low birth rate. Immigration from other countries and integration of allophones has partially offsets this trend. One in three immigrants to Quebec is English-speaking and settle in Montreal. This makes the decrease in home-language anglophones less pronounced, particularly in the Montreal area.. This situation is rapidly changing as the vast majority of immigrants now adopt French as their first language: three quarters of linguistic transfers of allophones arriving between 2001 and 2006 allophones arriving have been towards French instead of English..

Outmigration is the biggest challenge facing the survival of English-language communities in Quebec, particularly outside Montreal. English-speakers account for half the out-migrants from Quebec as they are extremely mobile compared to their francophone neighbours because they share a language and cultural identity with most other Canadians and North Americans. English-speaking Quebecers cite limited economic prospects and politics (Quebec's language policies and the Quebec independence) as primary reasons for leaving. These political factors have also led to fewer Canadians from other provinces settling in Quebec.

Anglophones are also less likely to migrate within the province. This is due to a strong sense of belonging among those in the Montreal area, the relative lack of English-language services and institutions outside Montreal, and a weak sense of identification with Quebec.

Despite a lull in this outflux during an economic boom and break from separatist governments in 2003, this outmigration had returned to established levels by 2006 and is projected to continue at these rates over the next five years. It is predicted to lead to the continued long term decline of the community..


English culture in Quebec tends to blend in seamlessly with the Canadian and North American mainstream. Unlike their francophone neighbours who identify culturally with Quebec, English-speaking Quebecers typically identify culturally as Canadian. As a result, English-speaking Quebecers look outward from Quebec to support their cultural identity. The result is limited assimilation into mainstream Quebec cultural institutions.

In the Montreal area, Quebecers have access to a wide range of English-language cultural activities and outlets (record stores, bookstores, cinemas, museums, concerts) concentrated in Downtown Montreal and the West Island. Outside Montreal, resources are much less common. English-speaking Montrealers have played a large role in Canadian and North American culture, and have included prominent writers and poets such as Mordecai Richler, Irving Layton and Leonard Cohen; internationally-known philosophers Mario Bunge and Charles Taylor; dancer Margie Gillis; and members of the seminal Canadian painters group the Group of Seven. English Montreal also supports an unusually strong local alternative music industry considering the small size of the population. Artists such as Martha Wainwright, Sam Roberts, Patrick Watson and the musical acts Bran Van 3000 and Arcade Fire manage to prosper internationally while remaining in Montreal.

There are several amateur and professional theatre companies, notably the Centaur Theatre. Since 1989, the Quebec Drama Federation has represented the English-language milieu in Quebec.

Since 1998, the Quebec Writers' Federation has represented the interests of English-language writers in Quebec and distributes the QWF awards. The federation grew out of the Quebec Society for the Promotion of English Language Literature and the Federation of English Writers of Quebec.


English-language media tend to come from outside the province. Most local English-language media are based in the Montreal area.


The province's English-language television stations are CBMT (CBC), CFCF (CTV), CKMI (Global) and CJNT (E!). CKMI is officially licensed to Quebec City, with a rebroadcaster in Montreal; however, its actual operations are in Montreal. CJNT airs multilingual programming in addition to the E! prime time schedule. These stations are available on cable throughout the province. Anglophones in the Outaouais region are served by English stations from Ottawa. Southern Quebec is also served by American network affiliates from Vermont and New York's North Country who actually depend on the Montreal market for most of their revenue. The Burlington, VT stations are WCAX (CBS), WVNY (ABC), WFFF-TV (Fox), and Vermont Public Television (PBS). The Plattsburgh, NY stations are WPTZ (NBC) and WCFE (PBS). These stations are carried on Montreal-area cable networks, along with other English and French language cable stations. (See Multichannel television in Canada. Western Montreal carries more English-language programming to better serve the large English-speaking market.


English-language radio stations in Montreal include AM stations CKGM (sports), CJAD (news/talk) and CINW (940 Montreal), and FM outlets CBME (CBC Radio One), CKUT (campus radio from McGill University), CFQR (Q92, adult contemporary), CJFM (Mix96, hot AC/pop), CBM (CBC Radio Two) and CHOM (rock). Listeners in Sherbrooke, Lennoxville and the Eastern Townships are served by CBC Radio One and CBC Radio Two, a CJAD rebroadcast transmitter, and the Bishop's University station CJMQ. CBC Radio One is also available in many other Quebec communities. Parts of the province also receive English-language signals from Ontario, New Brunswick, New York or New England. However, no community in the province besides Montreal has an English commercial station.

Newspapers and periodicals

Quebec has two English-language daily newspapers: the large Montreal Gazette, and the small Sherbrooke Record, a local newspaper for the Eastern Townships. Many smaller communities in Quebec also have English-language weekly papers, including The Equity in Shawville, the Stanstead Journal in Stanstead, The First Informer in the Magdalen Islands, The Gleaner in Huntingdon, the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph in Quebec City, SPEC in the Gaspé region, the West Quebec Post in Buckingham, the Aylmer Bulletin in Aylmer, the Townships Sun in Lennoxville, the Suburban and the Chronicle in the West Island of Montreal and The LowDown to Hull and Back News in La Pêche. Montreal also has two English alternative weeklies, Hour and Mirror. Maisonneuve is a culturally literate bimonthly general-interest English-language magazine published in Montreal.


Cultural festivals in Montreal tend to be multilingual and multicultural, attracting both English and French-speaking Quebecers. Large festivals such as the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Nuits d'Afrique attract both English- and French-speaking artists and spectators of various nationalities. The Montreal Irish community organizes a popular Saint Patrick's Day parade and attracts huge numbers of anglophones every March . The Just for Laughs international Comedy festival runs English language shows that feature top international stars parallel to French language shows. Pop Montreal highlights local Montreal talent in the independent music scene . Fringe Theater festivals originated at English-language universities and also tend to cater to English-speaking audiences and tastes. The multi-cultural and multi-lingual Infringement Festival was born in Montreal, created by anglophone Donovan King.

Outside Montreal, several country festivals in areas originally settled by English-speakers such as the Brome Fair, the Shawville Fair, and Ormstown Fair are organized and run by rural anglophones.


The politics of language has always played against issues of Quebec nationalism and Quebec separatism. English-speaking Quebecers maintain a strong Canadian identity, with about 90% opposing Quebec sovereignty in 1980 and 1995 referendums. Having no distinct political representation in Quebec, they tend to vote for the federalist Liberal Party of Canada federally and for the Liberal Party of Quebec at the provincial level. In 2001, English-speaking Quebecers viewed provincial language legislation as the principal challenge facing their community and more generally look to the federal government to protect their individual and collective rights from provincial government limits on access to English education, health care, government services, and visibility on public signs. The Canadian constitution protects the language rights of English-speaking communities and individuals in Quebec. Since 1867, Quebec had full jurisdiction over schools, with only Section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 guaranteeing Protestant confessional boards the right to administer most English schools. Section 133 still allows French and English to be used in the Parliament of Canada and the Legislature of Quebec and makes both languages mandatory for the laws, records, and journals of those houses. It also gives any person the right to plead in either English or French in any of the Courts of Quebec. In 1982, Section 23 of the Constitution Act, 1982 guaranteed the right of Canadian citizens educated in English in Canada to attend English schools. This paved the way for the Constitutional Amendment, 1999 (Québec) passed unanimously by Parliament and the National Assembly of Quebec that transformed Protestant confessional into English linguistic school boards. The federal government also maintains the Official Languages Act of 1988 that ensures equality between English and French in the federal civil service, that official minority language groups in Canada receive service in their language where numbers warrant, and that supports the development of communities of speakers of official languages when they constitute a minority in a province or territory.

Provincial legislation has also delimited the language rights of English-speaking Quebecers and the role of their institutions since the Quiet Revolution as French-speaking Québécois sought to improve their economic prospects, assimilate immigrants into their community to maintain their population, and establish French as a language of business. Bill 63, introduced by the Union Nationale government in 1969, required that English schools provide all students with a working knowledge of French. In 1974 the Liberal government of Robert Bourassa passed Bill 22 and restricted access to English schools to children who could pass a language test. In 1977, the separatist Parti Québécois passed the more comprehensive Charter of the French Language (Bill 101). The law made French the language of the civil service and of business in private workplaces with over 50 employees, establishing the rights of all Quebecers to work in the official language of the province; it also favored a demographic shift towards more francophones in Quebec. The Charter was and still is seen as emancipatory and a protector of culture, and is immensely popular among francophone Quebecers.

Other Charter provisions, though, deeply alienated English-speaking Quebecers. The Charter cut off access to English schools to all but children who had a parent who had received their education in English in Quebec. The Charter also eliminated the Constitutional guarantee to English legal proceedings, eliminated English translations of Quebec laws, and banned the use of languages other than French from commercial signs. The law has therefore polarized Quebec along linguistic lines to this day. Legal challenges by English-speaking Quebecers using provisions of the Canadian constitution and international law overturned these provisions, forcing the Quebec government to blunt these Charter provisions many times.

The Charter coupled with the looming 1980 Referendum on Sovereignty triggered an unexpected exodus of English-speaking Quebecers between 1976 and 1980, exacerbating the already existing demographic decline. Head offices that employed anglophones moved mostly to Toronto, taking their employees with them. Structural unemployment in the private sector with the mass hiring of francophones in an expanding civil service limited the economic opportunities of especially young non-bilingual anglophones in Quebec leading them to search for work elsewhere. Young highly educated anglophones, despite high rates of bilingualism and increased contact and openness to francophones, cite limited economic prospects caused by perceived linguistic discrimination and an unsatisfactory political climate as the major factors in their departure. By 2001, 50% of mother-tongue anglophones had left the province.

Faced with increasing marginalization from the political process in Quebec, English-speaking community groups across the province banded together to form Alliance Quebec, a provincial lobby group that would advocate for English-language education, health, and social services. It was supported by the federal Commissioner of Official Languages and members worked with provincial administrations to maintain and increase access to English government services across the province.

Sign laws governing language are a particular irritant to English-speaking Quebecers. When the original Charter provision requiring French only on commercial signs and from trade names was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988, the Liberal government of Robert Bourrassa passed Bill 178 that made French the only language that could be used on outdoor commercial signs only. This required invoking the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Constitution, which overrode the Supreme Court decision. Discontent with the Liberals led anglophones in Western Montreal to form the Equality Party in protest, which surprised many by electing 4 candidates in the 1989 provincial election. Anglophone Quebecers would take the case to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, which in 1993 found that the laws banning the commercial display of languages other than French constituted a violation of the right to freedom of expression. As the sign law would have to be renewed in 1993, the Liberal government passed a law that mandated French on signs. As recommended by the Supreme Court, this law allowed other languages on the sign, as long as French was predominant. Although this law stands up to Supreme Court challenges, many anglophones continue to find sign law regulations petty and irritating, wryly referring to the inspectorate that enforces the law as "tongue troopers" and "language cops".

Regardless of legally recognized rights, the practice in long-established institutions has often been to provide more service than what rights alone would dictate. On the other hand, a long-term trend toward providing even less service than what rights call for has been observed, especially in cases when the service-providing entity is newly created; the only recourse being to sue for redress.

In addition to the rights guaranteed by the constitution of Canada, the various regulations outside the Charter recognize other linguistic rights of Quebec anglophones. Quebecers have the right to receive services in English from all public health care and social service institutions in Quebec, although there is considerable controversy as to whether this is in fact the case. The charter also permits bilingual status to cities, but only those with a majority of English mother-tongue residents; other cities are not required to provide services in English but usually do if a significant minority of the population is English-speaking. Ninety-three municipalities offer bilingual services in Quebec.

In 2002, Quebec's French Language Charter was amended with Bill 104, which aims to prevent education received in fully-private English schools or through temporary certificates from producing constitutional education rights. Several court cases are still pending.


In 2001, Quebec had 340 primary and secondary English-language schools administered by nine English-language school boards. As in French-language schools, elementary education goes from Kindergarten to Elementary 6 (K-6), while high school goes from Secondary 1 to 5 (grades 7-11). The curriculum is strictly controlled by the Ministère d'Education, Quebec's provincial education ministry, and is generally identical to that offered in the French-language public school system.

The exception is language education. French is taught as a second language in English schools from Grade 1 onwards, and English is taught as a second in French schools from grade 3 onwards. English schools in the Montreal area were pioneers in French immersion and bilingual education starting in the late 1960s. As a result, they offer a range of established bilingual and short- and long-immersion programs. Programs offering both French and English curricula as a first language have recently been approved by the Ministère d'Education and are increasingly popular. English immersion programs are not common in French-language public schools.

Some English-speaking Quebecers also opt to send their children to French-language schools. As a result, programs to integrate English-speaking children into a French-speaking milieu (particularly in English-speaking areas on the West Island) are increasingly popular in French school boards, and have used in French-language private school for years.

In an addition to the public system, many private schools provide instruction in English, including schools serving religious and cultural communities. Quebec subsidizes a large portion of the tuition on the condition that they teach the provincial curriculum; almost all private schools accept these conditions and the accompanying subsidy.

Access to English-language public and semi-private education is restricted by provincial law to children who have at least one parent educated in English in Canada. Temporary residents of Quebec and English-speaking immigrants whose children have special learning needs may apply to the Ministère d'Education for permission to enter these schools. (see Charter of the French Language). Access to private schools is open to anyone who can afford the tuition.

CEGEPs provide 3-year career certification programs or 2-year pre-University curricula following Grade 11 (Secondary 5) high school. Most CEGEPs are tuition-free; a few are subsidized private institutions. Core courses in English literature, humanities, and French represent about 25% of the curriculum. There are eight English-language CEGEPs, open to all Quebec residents.

English is also the language of instruction at three Quebec universities (McGill University, Concordia University and Bishop's University) that offer 3-year undergraduate programs for Quebec students graduating from CEGEP. They also offer standard 4-year programs to students from all over Canada, North America, and the world. For Quebec residents, 85% of tuition is subsidized by the provincial government. Canadian students pay differential tuition fees based on the Canadian average. Foreign students pay the full cost of their tuition, although Quebec has signed reciprocal agreements with some jurisdictions such as France, Belgium, Bavaria, and Catalonia allowing students to pay local Quebec tuition rates. Concordia offers instruction in French, and exams and assignments may be done in French at all universities.

Health Care

Montreal has several English-language hospitals that offer multilingual services, including service in French:

Outside Montreal, some hospitals also provide services in English.

See also




Statistics Canada Language Composition of Canada. Statistics Canada. Retrieved on 2006-11-10.. Politics

External links

English-speaking community organizations in Quebec:

Other Links

  • Bill 199 Bill Charter of the French and English Languages (1992)

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