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Contents

The Erosion of the Hungarian Linguistic Presence in Canada - Nandor Dreisziger

Hungarians in Canada - 2001 Census

Canada’s Hungarians as Reflected in the 2006 Census

Canada’s 2006 Census: A portrait of the foreign-born population

Book Review of Leslie László's Church and State in Hungary, 1919-1945

Dr Emoke Szathmary on Hungarians in Manitoba

Our Home in Montreal - George Pandi

How to be a Landed Immigrant - Magda Zalan

Hungarica Canadiana -A Summary of Archival Sources - John Miska

The Hungarian Exodus Exhibit

How 'the 56ers' changed Canada

Migration of Hungarian Roma to Canada and Back - Paul St.Clair

Revolution Revisited - Events of the 1956 Revolution -
Judy Stoffman


 

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Introduction     History     Recollections    

History

 

The Erosion of the Hungarian Linguistic Presence
in Canada, 1991-2001

 

Nándor Dreisziger

 

Hungarians have been arriving in Canada in substantial numbers since the end of the nineteenth century and their numbers have climbed in Canadian census figures throughout most of the twentieth. These figures — whether identified as "Canadian residents born in Hungary," or "Cana­dians of Hungarian descent," or "Canadians with Magyar as their mo­ther‑tongue," or "Canadians speaking Hungarian in the home" — have tended to grow, though not necessarily in a steady, even manner. There have been periods of slow increases as well as dramatic jumps, such as between the censuses of 1951 and 1961, when the arrival of thousands of the Hungarians who had been displaced by World War II during the early 1950s was compounded by the coming of nearly forty thousand refugees after the Soviets suppressed the Hungarian Revolution in the fall of 1956.      One figure that has kept climbing and increased even in recent times is the number of Hungarians who claim Hungarian as their ancestry.  People who designated "Hungarian" as one of their ethnic backgrounds, that is persons of mixed ancestry that includes Hungarian, have in­creased in number from ca. 210,000 in the partial census of 1986 to nearly 270,000 in the (full) census of 2001.1 

 

Other recent census figures, however, suggest a decline of the Hungarian‑Canadian community; more precisely, an erosion of its cultural identity and distinctiveness.  There has been a decline even in the num­bers of those who reported Hungarian as their only ancestry, from over 100,000 in 1986 to fewer than 92,000 in the latest census.  Of course, neither the figures with people with multiple ancestries which includes Hungarian, nor those for persons with Hungarian as the only ethnic background indicate the vitality of Hungarian community life in Canada.  These figures include second, third, and fourth (and even some fifth) generation Hungarian‑Canadians, most of whom have little knowledge of, or affinity with, things Hungarian.  A much better indicator of an ethnic community's cultural strength and vigour are the data regarding language use. Most of these data, unfortunately, suggest an unmista­kable trend toward cultural decline in most parts of Canada where Hungarians have settled over the last one hundred years.

 

Magyar Language Use in Canadian Census Statistics

Canada's linguistic make‑up is constantly evolving. The 2001 census data, for example, reveal that the proportion of both English‑ and Fren­ch‑speaking Canadians has declined somewhat between 1996 and 2001. Speakers of English, for example, decreased from 59.8 percent to 59.1 percent of the total population. At the same time, the proportion of people reporting neither of Canada's official languages as their mother tongue has increased. For example, the number of people listing Chinese as their language has grown almost by 18 percent. In fact, the Chinese have become the third largest linguistic group in Canada.  In the past, that "honour" had usually gone to the Germans or the Italians.2

 

Hungarians have never constituted a major linguistic group in Canada, though they had been such a group at times in the past in municipalities such as Welland, Ontario and Kipling, Saskatchewan.  As far as provincial distribution is concerned, in the 2001 census by far the most Canadian citizens who claimed Hungarian as their mother tongue resided in Ontario, 45,275 to be precise. In the second place was British Columbia with 10,775; and in the third was Quebec with 7,315.  Alberta was a not too distant fourth, with 6,980.  Saskatchewan, which used to be the centre of Hungarian life in Canada three generations ago, reported only 2,700 people with Hungarian as their mother tongue.3 

 

These figures might well be compared with the data that had been obtained in the partial census of Canada of 1996.  The following table illustrates the evolution of Canada's "Hungarian by mother tongue (single responses)" population from 1996 to 2001 (some jurisdictions with very small numbers are omitted):

 

 


Province:

1996

2001

Nova Scotia

310

325

New Brunswick

150

140

Quebec

8,655

 7,315

Ontario

44,060

45,275

Manitoba

1,975

1,840

Saskatchewan

3,045

2,700

Alberta

7,575

6,980

British Columbia

11,225

10,775

 

 

The above data demonstrate conclusively that Hungarian linguistic presence in almost all regions of Canada is in decline. The exception is the Province of Ontario which had experienced a modest increase in the half‑decade under review.4

 

The 2001 census results also tell how many people in Canada and its various provinces speak Hungarian. The numbers given are larger than those found under mother tongue (single responses). These statistics, along with the relevant data from the 1996 census, are revealed in the following table (from which provinces and territories with fewer than 100 Hungarian speakers are omitted):

 

 

Province

1996

2001

change

Nova Scotia

350

390

+40

New Brunswick

190

170

‑20

Quebec

11,465  

9,810

‑1,655

Ontario

53,910

53,275

‑635

Manitoba

2,435

2,035

‑400

Saskatchewan

3,295

2,990

‑305

Alberta

8,895

8,125

‑770

British Columbia

12,885  

12,205

‑680

 

 

The decline from 1996 to 2001 in the number of people who speak Hungarian is especially remarkable in the Province of Quebec which lost 1,655 such individuals in half a decade. The prairie provinces collectively, experienced a similar decline (1,475 persons).

 

Hungarian as a Language of the Home

One of the best indicators of language maintenance by a linguistic cultural group is the category known as "language spoken at home." In fact, this category is a better measure of cultural persistence than "language spo­ken," or "mother tongue," because language spoken at home indicates a long‑term commitment to culture maintenance. Further, it is a predictor of language transmission to the next generation. The 2001 census has valuable information on the use of Hungarian in the home by members of Canada's Hungarian community.

 

The census reveals that in 2001, 44,590 people in Canada used Hungarian as a language of the home.  Out of this number, 11,575 used Hungarian as the only language of communication at home, while the rest used it in combination with another language or languages. 17,265 people used it "regularly" but not exclusively.

 

The distribution of the individuals who in 2001 used Hungarian as the only language of the home is as follows: Quebec 1,225; Ontario 7,885; Alberta 760; and British Columbia 1,375.  Elsewhere the numbers were negligible.  Only five years earlier, the situation had been somewhat better. In 1996 Ontario still had 15,710 people who reported that they used Hungarian only as the language of the home. 

 

The sad data revealed by the 2001 census, might well be com­pared with the data from the 1971 census which probably represents the time when the Hungarian community in Canada was at the zenith of its cultural vitality.  The following table compares the relevant data regarding the category "Hungarian by mother tongue":

 

Province:

1971

2001

Newfoundland

75

55

Nova Scotia

315

325

New Brunswick

235

140

Quebec

12,605

7,315

Ontario

46,370

45,275

Manitoba

3,035

1,840

Saskatchewan

6,270

2,700

Alberta

8,890

6,980

British Columbia

8,885

10,775

 

 

As we can see, these statistics show meaningful increase only for British Columbia, steep declines for Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and smaller shrinkage for Alberta and Ontario.

For the "language spoken at home" category, the greatest de­creases came in the Western provinces, as the following table illustrates:

 

Province

1971

1981

2001

Manitoba

1,765

835

150

Sask.

1,945

830

120

Alberta

4,545

3,130

760

British Columbia

4,320

3,100

1,375

 

Remarkable in this story is the decline of the Hungarian linguistic presence in Saskatchewan. From 1,945 in 1971, we witness a decline to 830 in 1981, to 360 by the time of the 1991 census, and to 120 in 2001.5  Should this trend continue, the census of 2011 might find only a handful of people, or perhaps even no one, who uses Hungarian as the only language of the home in that province. Elsewhere in the country, in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, the Hungarian linguistic presence might persist for a few more decades. 

 

Only a new large influx of Hungarian newcomers could avert the eventual decline of Hungarian language use in Canada to complete insig­nificance.  In the past, there had been a number of such mass arrivals.  Alas, these mass arrivals were invariably the result of calamities in Hun­gary — economic and social crises, wars and foreign occupations — and we can not wish that our mother country should experience one of these again.

divider

NOTES.

An earlier version of this paper had appeared in the Yearbook of the Hungarian Community of Friends, ed. A. Luda­nyi (Portland, OR, 2004), pp. 58-62.

 

1 There has also been a slight increase in this same period in the number of people reporting Hungarian as their mother tongue: from ca. 73,000 to over 75,000. Census data relating to Hungarians can be found on the website of the Hungarian‑Canadian Cultural Centre: www.­hccc.org.

 

2 The numbers speak for themselves.  In the 2001 census, 17,352,315 Canadians reported English as their mother tongue; 6,703,325 reported French, and over half a million listed other, non‑official languages as "mother tongue." Among the latter were close to 200,000 people who designated one or another of the aboriginal tongues spoken in Canada as their first language. The census statistics on "mother tongue" revealed a continued Hungarian presence in Canada as well. The 2001 census listed 75,555 persons who declared Hungarian as their mother tongue.  Individuals who listed more than one "mother tongue" were not included in this figure by the staff of Statistics Canada.

 

3 Information on how to purchase the results of the 2001 census can be obtained at the website of Statistics Canada: www.statcan.ca.  I had been able to access some of the results of the census through the University of Toronto, whose libraries subscribe to the electronic information services provided by Statistics Canada.

 

4 Some people have given multiple responses to the census takers, that is they had designated more than one language as their mother tongues.  No doubt many people of Hungarian background had done so. If these people would have been counted, the data on Hungarians would show somewhat larger numbers.

 

5 The decline shown is probably accentuated by the varying definitions of the term "language spoken at home" used in the four censuses. The figures for 2001 indicate the number of people who use Hungarian as the "only language of the home" whereas figures for previous censuses may include people who used Hungarian as well as other languages in the home.

 

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