Five per cent of Toronto’s residents can’t speak English or French, report says
One of Canada’s most diverse cities is experiencing a communication problem, a new report finds.
The Social Planning Toronto study, entitled “Talking Access & Equity: A Profile of City of Toronto Residents Who Speak Neither Official Language,” found the inability among almost five per cent of the city’s residents can’t speak either official language which creates barriers in their ability to receive social services.
— Matthew Kellway (@MatthewKellway) July 10, 2018
The non-profit organization found although Toronto is home to a population that speaks more than 200 languages, 4.9 per cent of the city’s population are unable to have a conversation in English or French.
“Many Toronto residents who do not speak English experience significant barriers to participating in community and civic life, accessing public and community services, finding employment, and achieving a decent standard of living,” the study said.
“As a result, our communities and city are deprived of the full social, cultural and economic contributions of these residents,” it said.
1 in every 20 residents of #Toronto can’t speak English or French — elderly immigrant women are particularly affected by this & face heightened barriers when accessing public services. Important report released today by @planningtoronto. #TOpoli https://t.co/4V3E5bahGo
— YWCA Toronto (@YWCAToronto) July 9, 2018
A socio-demographic profile of Toronto generated using the 2016 census revealed multiple factors why these language barriers were present.
These factors included age, ethnicity, participating in community and civil life and accessing community services such as healthcare.
“According to a scoping research review, health care professionals and policymakers recognize language barriers as a significant obstacle to self-advocacy, which they described as a necessary skill for navigating Canada’ health care system,” the study found.
Making my way through @planningtoronto report looking at the demographics of 130k Torontonians who speak neither English or French. Those between 20-54 yrs make up 72% of the total population of Toronto & represent 43.6% of the population that speak neither official languages. pic.twitter.com/KJq8GUnl1T
— Tenzin (@tenzinster) July 9, 2018
Andrew Furegato, a language and translation instructor at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, says basic communication in any country’s official languages is vital.
“Diversity in language, especially in a city that prides itself in diversity, is critical because it doesn’t reflect well on us when a new study or report like this comes out,” Furegato said. “That’s why it’s important for everyone to know at least some basic English or French because it not only helps them at the end of the day but the city at large.”
In order to lessen the burden of official language instruction, the report states a one-size-fits-all approach cannot meet the diverse needs of the city. Federal and provincial governments must both have a role in meeting the unique needs of adults and children, the study said.
Federal governments should engage with academic institutions and community organizations in reviewing its official language instruction programs, the study found.
Clearly access to funded education plays a big role here. Just looking quickly at these numbers, it seems like Toronto either needs more free language education programs for adults or better information about what is already available.
— Sarah Naumes (@somesarahbot) July 9, 2018
In addition, the study says the Ontario government should examine the support systems these programs offer. Including transportation and child care supports would help facilitate access to these programs and reduce gaps in families learning official languages, the study found.
“We recommend that the city of Toronto ensure that linguistic and cultural needs of residents are addressed in the development, implementation, and evaluation of its plans and strategies in order to promote social inclusion and reduce inequities for residents with language barriers,” the study said.