November 29th, 2020

Diversity continues to grow across Canada, Medicine Hat included

By Collin Gallant on August 4, 2017.

Michelle Solon, right, serves customers at the Grace International Market in the Ross Glen Business Park on Thursday. Speakers of Filipino languages are among the fastest growing demographic in Medicine Hat, as well as Canada, according to the recent census. -- NEWS PHOTO COLLIN GALLANT

English and German still top the list of languages most spoken in Medicine Hat, with Spanish challenging to overtake French for No. 3, but with Tagalog coming in a strong fifth.

That dialect, from the Philippines, is noted as the mother tongue of one of the fastest growing demographics in Canada, according to census results released this week.

All combined, those who grew up speaking Filipino languages, are now the fourth largest such group in Medicine Hat, counting more than those from elsewhere in the far east, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, or any single European nation other than England, Germany or France.

Michelle Solon, 18, has been in Canada for about a year after emigrating from the Philippines southern region of Cebu.

“(Canada) is a place where you can have a start,” said Solon, while working the register at the Grace International Market in Ross Glen Business Park.

She is bilingual in English and her regional dialect Cebuano, not Tagalog, and quickly switches back and forth while at the shop, partly owned by here parents, which caters to Filipino shoppers.

Overall, she’s just happy to be in Canada while maintaining a sense of community.

“A lot of teenagers would like to live in big cities, but Medicine Hat is good. The people are nice.”

The Filipino-Canadian Association of Medicine Hat aims to offer a sense of community to those leaving in Medicine Hat has been gaining strength.

In two recent Stampede Parades they marched en masse downtown with colourful costumes and an award winning float.

Administrators with local adult literacy and English as a second language programs say the results are due to economic migration.

Shalla Shayharyar coordinates the English and a second language programs at Medicine Hat College.

“We’ve seen an increase in diversity, absolutely,” said Shayharyar, who estimates six or seven ethnic groups will be well-represented in fall classes.

“It’s changed over time. We’re seeing a much, much more diverse group.”

She notes influx to the classroom of groups of Thai- and Spanish-speakers from Columbia who first began arriving under the temporary worker program to staff green houses. Those who came in early waves have since gained permanent residency.

Speakers of Somali Oromo and Sudanese languages arrived as refugees, mainly in Brooks, but are now migrating to Medicine Hat after more than a decade.

Similar economic migration led to an increase to 75 speakers of Afrikaans. That South African language — which has German, Dutch and French roots, is likely spoken by an influx of medical professionals from that country.

More than 67,300 southeastern Albertans consider English their first language, and 720 French, according to the census.

About 3.7 per cent of the total is bilingual in both official languages, while out of 75,000 residents, only 410, spoke neither.

Residents who claim German as a mother tongue counted 2,400, likely due to Hutterite colonies and immigration in the last century.

Spanish speakers totalled 585.

Tagalog and Cebuano are part of the Austronesian language group (610 speakers), which was also represented locally by speakers of Fijian, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Waray and Pampangan.

Specific to Medicine Hat:

— Arabic also showed an local increase to 375 speakers in the 2016 census, due partly to the settlement of Syrian refugee claimants;

— Among aboriginal languages Cree, Plains Cree, Ojibway and Dene were registered responses, with about 5 to ten in each category;

— Among Eastern European languages, Ukrainian led the responses with 125, ahead of Polish, Bosnian, Russian, Croatian, Serbian or Serbo-Croatian (each with between 35 and 80).

— Among romance language, behind Spanish were Italian (70), Portuguese (40), and Romanian (35);

— Among other Germanic languages, Dutch totalled 220, Danish 20, Norwegian 15, with Swedish, Flemish and Frisian each counting five.

— Speakers of Greek (considered its own separate language group) counted 30.

— From South Asia, speakers of Panjabi, Nepali, Urdu, Gujarti, Hindi totalled 100, and Dravidian language speakers of Malayalam and Tamil totalled 85.

— That is equal to the combined number of Korean and Japanese, while speakers of Sino-Tibetan languages, including the Chinese dialects, were counted at 360.

— A total of 10 people had a mother tongue of Scottish Gaelic or Welsh, a number equal to Creole, popular in Haiti.

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