Aboriginal Languages in Urban Canada: A Decade in Review, 1996 to 2006


  • Mary Jane Norris Consultant




Canada’s Indigenous languages and cultures are generally associated with Aboriginal communities and reserves outside of cities. Yet in both the 1996 and the 2006 Censuses, close to one in five persons who reported an Aboriginal mother tongue lived within the boundaries of a major Canadian city. This article explores the situation of Aboriginal languages within Canada’s urban areas in general. It presents for the first time a demographic analysis of urban trends and changes in Aboriginal languages over the decade between 1996 and 2006. Results yield useful insights into how Aboriginal languages have been faring within Canadian cities, with respect to size and viability; language use, transmission and learning; and first and second language speakers. The implications of these findings for language prospects of Aboriginal peoples in Canada’s cities suggest continued challenges, needs and requirements for support in maintaining their traditional languages within an urban environment.