Canadian census shows drop in Latvian use

Slightly more than 7,000 people in Canada report Latvian is their mother tongue, according to 2006 census figures released earlier this month. Of those, less than 2,000 regularly speak Latvian at home.

The number represents a 13 percent decrease from the 2001 census, when 8,230 persons reported Latvian as their mother tongue. In 2001, a total of 2,540 persons regularly spoke Latvian at home.

Language use data from the 2006 Canada census were released Dec. 4 by Statistics Canada. The data are based on a 20 percent sample from the 2006 census.

A total of 7,150 people reported Latvian as their mother tongue, with 150 of those saying they have at least one other mother tongue. The greatest number live in Ontario province, a total of 5,310. Within Ontario, a total of 2,975 live in Toronto, 520 in Hamilton, 285 in Ottawa, 175 in London, 155 in St. Catherines, 105 in Barrie and the rest in other locations.

Other provinces with persons whose mother tongue is Latvian are British Columbia (615), Québec (475), Alberta (365), Manitoba (235), Nova Scotia (45), Saskatchewan (40), New Brunswick (25), and Newfoundland and Labrador (10). A total of 10 persons each in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory also reported Latvian as their mother tongue.

Of the total whose mother tongue is Latvian, 3,165 (44 percent) are men and 3,980 (56 percent) are women.

In all, the census estimated 8,025 Latvian speakers can be found in Canada. Forty-four percent of those, a total of 3,520 individuals, are age 65 or older. In 2001, the census found 9,540 speakers of Latvian.

The 2001 census estimated 22,610 persons had at least some Latvian ancestry. Detailed statistics from the 2006 census about the ethnic makeup of Canada will be released in April.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

2 thoughts on “Canadian census shows drop in Latvian use

  1. Yes it is true there are less people who speak Latvian in Canada. My Relatives have passed on and I am sure the next generation does not speak Latvian at home because so many married into non Latvian families.Is it News? Is it a suprise? Not really. The New York state University System does not recognise it as a language. They say it is a “Dead” language. Ko tu teici?

  2. I wish that I spoke better Latvian but isn’t this inevitable? Impaired in learning the Latvian language from the start (Mother was German), we still had Latvian art, music, food and a close circle of Latvian friends and acquaintances that passed on the history, traditions and love for Latvia. Regardless of the ethnic group, the official language of the country becomes the norm. Who can ever forget those Latvian song festivals? Never!

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