Economic factors could explain the rise in Anglophone immigration, says researcher

Recently released census data shows that the number of English speakers has increased in Quebec from 2016 to 2021. It’s a significant figure, representing the first time in half a century that more English-speakers moved to Quebec than left.

Over the five years between 2016 and 2021, just over 6,400 people left Quebec. In that same period, the province gained roughly 2,600 people whose mother tongue is English.

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, said the shift is especially surprising after recent dissatisfaction among anglophones with the Quebec government’s French-language charter overhaul.

While anxiety around Bill 96 was present prior to its royal assent, the statistics were compiled before the bill became law, meaning the full effects of the legislation on English-speaking migration within Canada are still unclear.

He added the Coalition Avenir Québec’s (CAQ) flagship legislation on secularism, Bill 21 — which bars some civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job — has faced opposition among English speakers.

The counterweight, according to Jedwab, is financial. The cost of living is generally more affordable in Quebec than in other provinces with large urban centers.

While the cost of living has risen across the country, Quebec’s consumer price index saw a slightly gentler increase (6.5 per cent) than in other provinces.

“I think in general when it comes to decisions about leaving for somewhere else, economy is the driving factor,” said Jedwab.

“Economy and family issues can be the main considerations that people will weigh when making such a decision,” he added. “The political issues, while irritating, I do indeed think are not as important as the economic ones.”

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