Talking Access & Equity

The city of Toronto is home to a large and diverse population speaking more than 200 different languages. According to the 2016 census, over 130,000 individuals living in Toronto are unable to have a conversation in English or French. Toronto residents without official-language skills make up 4.9% of the city’s population.

Talking Access & Equity: A Profile of City of Toronto Residents Who Speak Neither Official Language delves into the demographics of this population, considers policy and program implications and makes recommendations to support the social, cultural and economic inclusion of these residents. It is the third report in Social Planning Toronto’s census research series.


Residents without official-language skills enter Canada through three main immigration classes: as individuals sponsored by family members who are Canadian citizens, as partners or children of immigrants who are admitted under the economic class (where the principal applicant meets admission criteria related to their education and employment qualifications and usually speaks one of the official languages), and as Convention Refugees fleeing situations of violence and persecution in their country of origin.

In Toronto, residents who do not speak English experience significant barriers to participating in community and civic life, accessing public and community services, finding employment, and achieving a decent standard of living.

This report draws upon census data from the past twenty years, including extensive use of the most recent census conducted in 2016 to create a socio-demographic profile of city of Toronto residents who speak neither official language.

Key Findings

  • Toronto is home to a diverse group of residents who speak neither official language
  • Women and seniors are significant subgroups of this population
  • Residents with a Chinese mother tongue make up a significant subgroup of this population
  • Residents who do not speak either official language tend to live in areas where their mother tongue is commonly spoken
  • Residents who do not speak either official language have a high poverty rate
  • Residents who do not speak either official language have a high unemployment rate, and most of those with paid employment lack full-time, full-year work

This report examines barriers that residents face in accessing English as a Second Language instruction, linguistically- and culturally-appropriate services, and professional interpretation services.


Our recommendations focus on:

  • Improving access to appropriate & effective language instruction
  • Reducing barriers to community and public service access
  • Meeting the needs of linguistically-diverse seniors
  • Ensuring that city plans and strategies address the cultural and linguistic needs of residents who do not speak English
  • Conducting further research to better understand the diverse needs of this population


Read the "Talking Access & Equity" report »

Check out a visual summary of the report »


Explore the "Toronto Language Map" »

The Toronto Language Map is an interactive resource that allows users to explore Toronto’s evolving linguistic diversity over the past decade.

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