There was a time in our history when French Canadians perceived themselves as condemned to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. They had a saying, “Nous sommes nés pour un petit pain,” we are born for a small crust of bread. But those days are now folklore.
When the Parti Québécois, back in 1977, announced in a white paper the radical Charter of the French Language, it justified the restrictions to be imposed on English in part by the relative poverty of French-speaking Quebecers. The white paper declared: “One must remember that a study for the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission put the francophones at the bottom of the income ladder, with the Italians and the Indians.”
That dismal, even disparaging, description was obsolete even then. With the Quiet Revolution, the gap since time immemorial in incomes between French and English speakers had almost closed by 1977, as studies by the Economic Council of Canada soon demonstrated.
But now, four decades later, how are French-speaking Canadians really faring?
I obtained Wednesday from Statistics Canada data as yet unpublished from the 2016 census of Canada that establish the relation between language and income in 2015 in all parts of Canada. The results are intriguing.
StatsCan uses three measures of language: mother tongue, language most often spoken at home and first official language spoken. Though some differences appear, depending on which measure is chosen, the same picture emerges with all three: French speakers earn more than English speakers almost everywhere. For brevity, I’ll consider only the language most often spoken at home, excluding results for those who report speaking more than one language at home. And for simplicity, I will consider only employment income.
In all parts of Canada except New Brunswick, Alberta and the Yukon, French speakers earned more than the province or territory’s median employment income and more than the incomes of the province’s or territory’s English…