French Canadian

French Canadian

Infobox Ethnic group
group = French Canadian

Émile NelliganLa BolducMaurice Richard
René LévesqueWilfrid Laurier GAROU

poptime = 10,421,365
popplace = Canada, especially Quebec and New Brunswick, smaller populations in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Southern Manitoba, New England, New York and Louisiana.
religions = Primarily Roman Catholic
langs = French, English|related = French, Québécois, Acadians, Cajun, Metis, French-speaking Quebecer, Franco-Ontarian, Franco-Manitoban, French American, Brayon

French Canadian ("Canadien" or "Canadien français" in French) refers to a nation or ethnic group of French descent that originated in Canada during the period of French colonization beginning in the 17th century. They constitute the main French-speaking population of Canada. The term may also refer to people living in Canada of any ethnic origin who are native speakers of French.

Most French Canadians currently reside in the province of Quebec and call themselves Québécois or Quebecers. During the mid-18th century, settlers born in French Canada colonized other parts of North America, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, the Windsor-Detroit region and the Canadian prairies (primarily Southern Manitoba).

Between the 1840s and the 1930s, some 900,000 French Canadians emigrated to New England, settling mainly in cities such as Fall River and New Bedford. Those who stayed in the United States (including Acadians) eventually became a large portion of the Franco-American community. During the same period of time, numerous French Canadians also moved to Eastern and Northern Ontario. Their descendants constitute the bulk of today's Franco-Ontarian community.

They are the second largest ethnic group in Canada, after the English Canadians and before the Scottish Canadians (not included is people who identified "Canadian" as their ethnicity on the census).


The French Canadians get their name from "Canada", the most developed and densely populated region of New France during the period French colonization in the 17th and 18th century. The original use of the term "Canada" referred to the land area along the St. Lawrence River, divided in three districts (Québec, Trois-Rivières, and Montréal), as well as to the "Pays d'en Haut" (Upper Countries), a vast and thinly settled territorial dependence north and west of Montreal which covered the whole of the Great Lakes area.

At the end of the 17th century, the French word "Canadien" became an ethnonym distinguishing the inhabitants of Canada from those of France. From 1535 to the 1690s, however, it referred to the Amerindians the French had encountered in the St. Lawrence River valley at Stadacona and Hochelaga. [ [ Gervais Carpin, Histoire d'un mot. "L'ethnonyme Canadien de 1535 à 1691"] ] Those Amerindians are today called the St. Lawrence Iroquoians by anthropologists who try to understand the reason for their disappearance.



French Canadians living in Canada express their cultural identity using a number of terms. The "Ethnic Diversity Survey" of the 2001 Canadian census cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Ethnic Diversity Survey
date = 2003 | work = The Daily
publisher = Statistics Canada
url =
format = html
accessdate = 2008-03-17
] cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Ethnic Diversity Survey: portrait of a multicultural society
date = 2003
publisher = Statistics Canada
isbn = 0-662-35031-6
url =
format = pdf
accessdate = 2008-04-25
] cite web
author = Statistics Canada
title = Ethnic Diversity Survey: Questionaire
publisher = Department of Canadian Heritage
date = April 2002
url =
format = pdf
accessdate = 2008-04-25
quote = The survey, based on interviews, asked the following questions: "1) I would now like to ask you about your ethnic ancestry, heritage or background. What were the ethnic or cultural origins of your ancestors? 2) In addition to “Canadian”, what were the other ethnic or cultural origins of your ancestors on first coming to North America?
] found that French-speaking Canadians identified their ethnicity most often as French, "Canadien", "Québécois", or French Canadian. The latter three were grouped together by Jantzen (2005) as “French New World” ancestries because they originate in Canada cite web
last = Jantzen
first = Lorna
title = The Advantages of analyzing ethnic attitudes across generations - Results from the Ethnic Diversity Survey
publisher = Department of Canadian Heritage
date = 2005
url =
format = html
accessdate = 2008-03-17
] [ Jantzen (2005) Footnote 9: "These will be called “French New World” ancestries since the majority of respondents in these ethnic categories are Francophones." ] .

Jantzen (2005) distinguishes the English "Canadian", meaning "someone whose family has been in Canada for multiple generations", and the French "Canadien", used to refer to descendants of the original settlers of New France in the 17th and 18th centuries [ Jantzen (2005) Footnote 5: "Note that Canadian and Canadien have been separated since the two terms mean different things. In English, it usually means someone whose family has been in Canada for multiple generations. In French it is referring to "Les Habitants", settlers of New France during the 17th and 18th centuries who earned their living primarily from agricultural labour." ] .

Those reporting “French New World” ancestries overwhelmingly had ancestors that went back at least four generations in Canada [ Jantzen (2005): "The reporting of French New World ancestries (Canadien, Québécois, and French-Canadian) is concentrated in the 4th+ generations; 79% of French- Canadian, 88% of Canadien and 90% of Québécois are in the 4th+generations category."] . Fourth generation Canadiens and Québécois showed considerable attachment to their ethno-cultural group, with 70% and 61%, respectively, reporting a strong sense of belonging [ Jantzen (2005): "According to Table 3, the 4th+ generations are highest because of a strong sense of belonging to their ethnic or cultural group among those respondents reporting the New World ancestries of Canadien and Québécois."] .

The generational profile and strength of identity of French New World ancestries contrast with those of British or Canadian ancestries, which represent the largest ethnic identities in Canada. [ Jantzen (2005): "For respondents of French and New World ancestries the pattern is different. Where generational data is available, it is possible to see that not all respondents reporting these ancestries report a high sense of belonging to their ethnic or cultural group. The high proportions are focused among those respondents that are in the 4th+ generations, and unlike with the British Isles example, the difference between the 2nd and 3rd generations to the 4th+ generation is more pronounced. Since these ancestries are concentrated in the 4th+ generations, their high proportions of sense of belonging to ethnic or cultural group push up the 4th+ generational results."] Although deeply rooted Canadians express a deep attachment to their ethnic identity, most English-speaking Canadians of British or Canadian ancestry generally cannot trace their ancestry as far back in Canada as French-speakers. [ Jantzen (2005): "As shown on Graph 3, over 30% of respondents reporting Canadian, British Isles or French ancestries are distributed across all four generational categories."] As a result, their identification with their ethnicity is weaker: for example, only 50% of third generation "Canadians" strongly identify as such, bringing down the overall average [ Jantzen (2005): "Table 3: Percentage of Selected Ancestries Reporting that Respondents have aStrong* Sense of Belonging to the Ethnic and Cultural Groups, by Generational Status,2002 EDS"] . The survey report notes that 80% of Canadians whose families had been in Canada for three or more generations reported "Canadian and provincial or regional ethnic identities". These identities include French New World ancestries such as "Québécois" (37% of Quebec population), "Acadian" (6% of Atlantic provinces) [See p. 14 of the [ report] ] .


Since the 1960s, French Canadians in Quebec have generally used "Québécois" (masculine) or "Québécoise" (feminine) to express their cultural and national identity, rather than "Canadien français". Francophones who self-identify as Québécois and do not have French Canadian ancestry may not identify as "French Canadian" ("Canadien" or "Canadien français"). Those who do have French or French Canadian ancestry, but who support Quebec sovereignty, often find "Canadien français" to be archaic or even pejorative. This is a reflection of the strong social, cultural, and political ties that most Quebeckers of French-Canadian origin, who constitute a majority of francophone Quebeckers, maintain within Quebec. It has given Québécois an ambiguous meaning [cite book
last = Bédard
first = Guy
authorlink =
coauthors = Adrienne Shadd and Carl E. James, Editors
year = 2001
chapter = Québécitude: An Ambiguous Identity
title = Talking about Identity: Encounters in Race, Ethnicity and Language
pages = pp.28-32
publisher = Between the Lines
location = Toronto
url =,M1
doi =
id =
isbn = 1896357369
] which has often played out in political issues [cite web | url = | title = House passes motion recognizing Québécois as nation | publisher = Canadian Broadcasting Corporation | date = 2006-11-27 | accessdate = 2006-12-21] , as all public institutions attached to the provincial government refer to all Quebec citizens, regardless of their language or their cultural heritage, as Québécois.

Elsewhere in Canada

The emphasis on the French language and Quebec autonomy means that French-speakers across Canada may now self-identify as "québécoise", "acadienne", or "franco-canadienne", or as provincial linguistic minorities such as "franco-manitobaine", "franco-ontarienne" or "fransaskoise" [cite web
last = Churchill
first = Stacy
authorlink =
coauthors =
publisher = Council of Europe, Language Policy Division
year = 2003
chapter = Linguistic and Cultural Identities in Canada
title = Language Education, Canadian Civic Identity, and the Identity of Canadians
location =
pages = pp. 8-11
url =
doi =
id =
isbn =
quote = French speakers usually refer to their ownidentities with adjectives such as québécoise, acadienne, or franco-canadienne,or by some term referring to a provincial linguistic minority such as francomanitobaine,franco-ontarienne or fransaskoise.
] . Education, health and social services are provided by provincial institutions, so that provincial identities are often used to identify French-language institutions:

*Franco-Terreneuvians, province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
*Franco-Ontarians, province of Ontario.
*Franco-Manitobans, province of Manitoba.
*Fransaskois, province of Saskatchewan.
*Franco-Albertans, province of Alberta.
*Franco-Columbians, province of British Columbia mostly live in the Vancouver metro area.
*Franco-Yukonnais, territory of Yukon.
*Franco-Ténois, territory of Northwest Territories.
*Franco-Nunavois, territory of Nunavut.

Acadians, residing in the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, are not considered French Canadians, but represent a distinct francophone culture. Brayons in Madawaska County, New Brunswick and Aroostook County, Maine may be identified with either the Acadians or the Québécois, or considered a distinct group in their own right, by different sources.

French Canadians outside Quebec are more likely to self-identify as "French Canadian". Identification with provincial groupings varies from province to province, with Franco-Ontarians, for example, using their provincial label far more frequently than Franco-Columbians do. Some identify "only" with the provincial groupings, explicitly rejecting "French Canadian" as an identity label.

United States

thumb|right|200px|Distribution of French Americans in U.S. ]

During the mid-18th century, French explorers and "Canadiens" born in French Canada colonized other parts of North America in that are today Louisiana (called "Louisianais"), Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Vincennes, Indiana, and around Detroitcite web
last1 = Balesi
first1 = Charles J.
title = French and French Canadians
work = The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago
publisher = Chicago Historical Society.
url =
format = html
date = 2005
accessdate = 2008-05-05
] . French Canadians emigrated massively from Quebec to the United States between the 1840s and the 1930s in search of economic opportunities in border communities and industrialized portions New England. cite web
last1 = Belanger
first1 = Damien-Claude
last2 = Belanger
first2 = Claude
title = French Canadian Emigration to the United States, 1840-1930
work = Quebec History
publisher = Marianapolis College CEGEP
url =
format = html
date = 2000-08-23
accessdate = 2008-05-05
] . French Canadian communities remain along the Quebec border in northern Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire as well as further south in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern New Hampshire. The wealth of Catholic churches named after St. Louis throughout New England is indicative of the French immigration to the area.They came to identify as Franco-American, especially those who were born American.

Distinctions between French Canadian, natives of France, and other New World French identities is more blurred in the U.S. than in Quebec. In "L'avenir du français aux États-Unis", Calvin Veltman finds that since the French language has been so widely abandoned in the United States, the term "French Canadian" is there understood in ethnic rather than linguistic terms.

The largest population of French Canadians in the United States today can be found in Broward County, Florida.


People who today claim some French Canadian ancestry or heritage number some 7 million in Canada and 2.4 million people in the United States. (An additional 8.4 million Americans claim French ancestry; they are treated as a separate ethnic group by the U.S. Census Bureau.)

In Canada, 85% of French Canadians reside in Quebec where they constitute the majority of the population in all regions except the far North. Most cities and villages in this province were built and settled by the French or French Canadians during the French colonial rule.

There are various urban and small centres in Canada outside of Quebec that have long-standing populations of French Canadians, going back to the late 19th century. Eastern and Northern Ontario have large populations of francophones in communities such as Ottawa, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Sudbury, Welland, Timmins and Windsor. Many also pioneered the Canadian Prairies in the late 18th century, founding the towns of Saint Boniface, Manitoba and in Alberta's Peace Country, including the region of Grande Prairie.

In the United States, many cities were founded as colonial outposts of New France by French or French Canadian explorers. They include New Orleans, Louisiana; Mobile, Alabama; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; Belleville, Illinois; Dubuque, Iowa; Detroit, Michigan; Biloxi, Mississippi; St. Louis, Missouri; Creve Coeur, Missouri and Provo, Utah.

The majority of the French Canadian population in the United States is found in the New England area. Quebec and Acadian emigrants settled in industrial cities like Fitchburg, Waltham, Lowell, Lawrence, and New Bedford in Massachusetts; Woonsocket in Rhode Island; Manchester and Nashua in New Hampshire; Bristol in Connecticut; throughout the state of Vermont, particularly in Burlington, St. Albans, and Barre; and Biddeford and Lewiston in Maine. Smaller groups of French Canadians settled in the Midwest, notably in the states of Michigan and Minnesota.


The varieties of French spoken by Francophone Canadians are called Québécois (Quebec French), Acadian French, Brayon French, and Newfoundland French. The French of Ontario, the Canadian West, and New England all originate from Quebec French and do not constitute distinct varieties from it, unlike Acadian French and Newfoundland French. French Canadians may also speak either Canadian English or American English.

In Quebec, about six million French Canadians are native French speakers. One million are English-speaking, i.e. Anglophones or English-speaking Quebecers, and others are Allophones (literally "other-speakers", meaning, in practice, immigrants who speak neither French nor English at home). In the United States, assimilation to the English language was more significant and very few Americans of French Canadian ancestry or heritage speak French today.

Six million of Canada's native French speakers, of all origins, are found in the province of Quebec, where they constitute the majority language group, and another one million are distributed throughout the rest of Canada. Roughly 31% of Canadian citizens are French-speaking and 25% are of French-Canadian descent. Not all French speakers are of French descent, and not all people of French-Canadian heritage are exclusively or primarily French-speaking.

Francophones living in Canadian provinces other than Quebec have enjoyed minority language rights under Canadian law since at least 1969, with the Official Languages Act, and under the Canadian Constitution since 1982, protecting them from provincial governments that have historically been indifferent or downright hostile towards their presence.


The pre-revolutionary kingdom of France forbade non-Catholic settlement in New France from 1629 onward and almost all French settlers of Canada were Roman Catholic. In the United States, some French Catholics have converted to Protestantism. Until the 1960s, religion was a central component of French Canadian national identity. The Church parish was the focal point of civic life in French Canadian society, and monastic orders ran French Canadian schools, hospitals and orphanages and were very controlling of every day life in general. During the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, however, the practice of Catholicism dropped drastically. Church attendance in Quebec currently remains low. Rates of religious observance among French Canadians outside Quebec tend to vary by region, and by age. In general, however, those in Quebec are the least observant, while those in the United States of America and other places away from Quebec tend to be the most observant. There are also French Canadians, those are people who have Canadian citizenship and whose mother tongue is French whose families arrived in Canada over the last 75 years and who are not Christian. There are many people from France, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and other countries whose mother tongue is French and are either Muslim or Jewish.


The French were the first Europeans to permanently colonize what is now Quebec, parts of Ontario, Acadia, and select areas of Western Canada, all in Canada (See French colonization of the Americas.) Their colonies of New France (also commonly called Canada) stretched across what today are the Maritime provinces, southern Quebec and Ontario, as well as the entire Mississippi River Valley.

The first permanent European settlements in Canada were at Port Royal in 1605 and Quebec City in 1608 as fur trading posts. The territories of New France were Canada, Acadia, and Louisiana. The inhabitants of Canada called themselves the "Canadiens", and came mostly from northwestern France. [ [ G. E. Marquis, Louis Allen, The French Canadians in the Province of Quebec] ] The early inhabitants of Acadia, or "Acadiens", came mostly but not exclusively from the Southwestern region of France. "Canadien" explorers and fur traders would come to be known as "coureurs des bois" or "voyageurs", while those who settled on farms in Canada would come to be known as "habitants". Many French Canadians are the descendants of the King's Daughters of this era.

During the mid-18th century, French explorers and "Canadiens" born in French Canada colonized other parts of North America in what are today the states of Louisiana (called "Louisianais"), Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Vincennes, Indiana, the Windsor-Detroit region and the Canadian prairies (primarily Southern Manitoba).After the 1760 British conquest of New France in the French and Indian War(known as the Seven Years War in Europe), the French-Canadian population remained important in the life of the colonies.

The British gained Acadia by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and in 1755, the beginning of the French and Indian War, deported 75% of the Acadian population to other British colonies and France itself. The French Canadians escaped this fate in part because of the capitulation act that made them British subjects.Fact|date=February 2007 It took the 1774 Quebec Act for them to regain the French civil law system, and in 1791 French Canadians in Lower Canada were introduced to the British parliamentary system when an elected Legislative Assembly was created.

The Legislative Assembly having no real power, the political situation degenerated into the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837–1838, after which Lower Canada and Upper Canada were unified. Some of the motivations for the union was to limit French Canadian political power and at the same time transfert a large part of the Upper Canada dept to the dept free Lower Canada. After many decades of British immigration, the "Canadiens" became a minority in the Province of Canada in the 1850s.

French-Canadian contributions were essential in securing responsible government for The Canadas and in undertaking Canadian Confederation. However, over the course of the late 19th and 20th centuries, French Canadians' discontent grew with their place in Canada because of many events (Louis Riel execution and elimination of Manitoba official bilinguism status, the second Boer war and Canada participation, regulation 17 in Ontario against french schools, first & second world war conscription crisis.

Between the 1840s and the 1930s, some 900 000 French Canadians emigrated to the New England region. About half of them returned home. The generations born in the United States would eventually come to see themselves as Franco-Americans. During the same period of time, numerous French Canadians also emigrated and settled in Eastern and Northern Ontario. The descendants of those Quebec immigrants constitute the bulk of today's Franco-Ontarian community.

Since 1968, French has been one of Canada's two official languages. It is the sole official language of Quebec and one of the official languages of New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The province of Ontario has no official languages defined in law, although the provincial government provides French language services in many parts of the province under the French Language Services Act.

The dialects of French spoken in Canada are quite distinct from those of France. See French language in Canada.

Modern usage

In English usage, the terms for provincial subgroups, if used at all, are usually defined solely by province of residence, with all of the terms being strictly interchangeable with French Canadian. Although this remains the more common usage in English, it is considered outdated to many Canadians of French descent, especially in Quebec. Most francophone Canadians who use the provincial labels identify with their province of "origin", even if it isn't the province in which they currently reside; for example, a Québécois who moved to Manitoba would "not" change their own self-identification to Franco-Manitoban.

Increasingly, provincial labels are used to stress the linguistic and cultural as opposed to ethnic and religious nature of French-speaking institutions and organizations. The term "French Canadian" is still used in historical and cultural contexts, or when it is necessary to refer to Canadians of French-Canadian collectively, such as in the name and mandate of a national organizations which serve minority francophone communities across Canada. Francophone Canadians of non-French-Canadian origin such as immigrants from francophone countries are not usually designed by the term "French Canadian"Fact|date=February 2008; the more general term "francophones" is used for French-speaking Canadians across all ethnic origins.



* [ Fédération culturelle canadienne-française (French Canadian Cultural Federation)]
* [ Association canadienne-française pour l'avancement des sciences (French Canadian Association for the Advancement of Sciences)]
* [ Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française (French Canadian Youth Federation)]

French-Canadian flags

ee also

*Speak White
*French (ethnicity)
*French in the United States
*French American
*Pur laine
*Quebec diaspora



* [ "Map displaying the percentage of the US population claiming French Canadian ancestry by county"] , United States Census Bureau, Census 2000

* cite book
last = Allan
first = Greer
coauthors =
title = The People of New France. (Themes in Canadian History Series)
publisher = University of Toronto Press
date= 1997
pages = 137 pages
month =
isbn = 0-8020-7816-8

* cite journal
last = Marquis
first = G. E.
authorlink =
coauthors = Louis Allen
title = The French Canadians in the Province of Quebec
journal = Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
volume = 107
issue = Social and Economic Conditions in The Dominion of Canada
pages = 7–12
date= May, 1923
publisher =
url =
format =
id =
accessdate =
doi = 10.1177/000271622310700103

* cite book
last = Brault
first = Gerard J.
coauthors =
title = The French-Canadian Heritage in New England
publisher = University Press of New England
date= March 15, 1986
pages = 312 pages
month =
isbn = 0874513596

* cite book
last = Doty
first = C. Stewart
coauthors =
title = The First Franco-Americans: New England Life Histories from the Federal Writers' Project, 1938-1939
publisher = University of Maine at Orono Press
date= 1985
pages =
month =
isbn =

* cite book
last = Parker
first = James Hill
coauthors =
title = Ethnic Identity: The Case of the French Americans
publisher = University Press of America
date= 1983
pages =
month =
isbn =

* cite book
last = Louder
first = Dean R.
coauthors = Eric Waddell, translated by Franklin Philip
title = French America: Mobility, Identity, and Minority Experience across the Continent
publisher = Louisiana State University Press
date= 1993
pages =
month =
isbn =

External links

* [ Online edition of the "Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes"] , 1871 genealogy dictionary concerning New France by abbot Cyprien Tanguay
* [ Online edition of the "Dictionnaire des auteurs de langue française en Amérique du Nord"] , 1989 dictionary of North America's French language authors by Réginald Hamel, John Hare et Paul Wyczynski

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