Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

From Affirmed Privilege to Experiences of Discrimination: Majority Anglophones' Perceptions of Linguistic Majority-Minority Dynamics in Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

From Affirmed Privilege to Experiences of Discrimination: Majority Anglophones' Perceptions of Linguistic Majority-Minority Dynamics in Canada

Article excerpt


This paper explores the rarely addressed subject of linguistic majority in the context of Canadian society, through a qualitative analysis of 20 semi-directed interviews with majority Anglophone participants. It was found that while participants acknowledged a certain form of privilege related to their majority status within Canadian society, it was also common for them to experience situations in which they felt overlooked, marginalized and even discriminated against. "Linguistic privilege" has not been the subject of more studies because it is often seen as a "default", taken-for-granted status in Canadian society. However, studying this form of privilege and its intersections with other dimensions of identity such as gender, class and race could lead to new insights on language, power and group identity. Moreover, studies on "the majority" are especially pertinent in a context where "silent majorities" are becoming increasingly vocal in stating their dissatisfaction and feelings of discrimination. This article can provide pathways to a better understanding of this emergent issue.


Le <> est un concept peu exploite dans la litterature scientifique, puisqu'etre anglophone en situation majoritaire constitue le statu quo de l'identite canadienne. Pourtant, l'etude de cette forme possible de privilege et de ses intersections avec d'autres categories sociales telles que la classe, le genre et la race s'avere un terreau tres fertile pour l'analyse des liens entre la langue, le pouvoir et l'identite de groupe. Cet article s'interesse au sujet peu documente de la majorite linguistique au Canada a l'aide d'une analyse qualitative de 20 entretiens semi-diriges realises aupres d'individus anglophones en situation majoritaire. Nos resultats montrent que bien que les participants reconnaissaient leur statut privilegie au sein de la societe canadienne, ces derniers pouvaient egalement vivre des situations dans lesquelles ils se sentaient invisibles et marginalises, voire discrimines. De plus, les etudes <> sont particulierement pertinentes dans le contexte sociopolitique actuel ou les <> prennent parole pour denoncer leur insatisfaction et leurs sentiments d'injustice.

Introduction: O, Canada! Cultural and Linguistic Context

Canada is a bilingual country: its two official languages are French and English. The vast majority of Francophones are located in the province of Quebec (totalling 6,102,210 French-speaking individuals and 599,950 unilingual English-speaking individuals) (Statistics Canada 2012). The "Rest of Canada" (RoC) is mostly comprised of 18,259,475 Anglophones represented across all provinces and territories, as well as of individuals whose first language is one other than French or English (6,567,685) (Statistics Canada 2012). Although federal policies were created in order to promote both languages in the country (1), some issues remain between Francophone and Anglophone populations. In fact, these two linguistic communities (albeit internally diverse) are often referred to as the "two solitudes" (2)--a term that illustrates their relative autonomy from each other. For instance, only 5.8 million Canadians speak both English and French (Statistics Canada 2012).

However, the Francophone presence in the RoC is not to be neglected: nearly a million Francophone individuals live outside of Quebec and are generally referred to as "minority Francophones". Ontario is home to half of the Francophones and is followed by New Brunswick (236,270) and Manitoba (45,520) (Statistics Canada 2012). While there is a large corpus of studies on minority Francophones, the literature on majority Anglophones is extremely scarce. In general, "minority" groups are the subject of empirical studies, while "majority" groups are taken as the "default" group of any given society and thus their group identity is rarely a subject of study in itself (Pease 2010). …

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