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Although census records show that French is declining in the region, Indigenous languages are making a comeback. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) The latest numbers from the census show that English is becoming more of a dominant language in northern Ontario.

But while French is declining in the region, Indigenous languages are making a comeback.

Although Sudbury’s population has increased slightly since the last census in 2011, the number of people who speak French as a mother tongue dropped to 40,930, down from 42,805.

In Greater Sudbury, the number of bilingual people — 61,855 — is about the same as it was five years ago, but about 3,000 fewer people speak French at home, down from 23,500.

The number of unilingual Francophones has also declined sharply, with now only a few thousand in the region speaking only French.

Notably, Timmins has seen the number of unilingual francophones drop by about half in the last decade, from 1,525 to 800.

It’s a similar story for the languages immigrants brought to the north last century — Italian, Finnish, German, Polish — all steadily decreasing.

Finnish is still spoken as a mother tongue by about 1,440 Sudbury people, while Italian is spoken as a mother tongue by 2,745 in the Nickel City and 3,180 in Sault Ste. Marie.

Some new languages are on the rise — most notably Arabic, Cantonese and Mandarin — but still with only a few hundred speakers in major cities like Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.

This census is one of the first to show a big comeback for Indigenous languages, with more people speaking Cree and Ojibwe on reserves and in northern cities.

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