French Canadians - Orientation

Identification. French Canadian is a generic term applied to all descendants of French settlers in Canada. They form two groups: Québecois in the province of Quebec, and Francophones outside of Quebec. The former identify themselves as a distinct society and culture. The latter form a diaspora having a minority status, namely, Acadians in the Maritime Provinces and French Canadian communities in Ontario and the western provinces.

Location. Quebec Province is bounded by Hudson Bay and Ontario on the west, New Brunswick on the east, Labrador and the Arctic Ocean on the north, and New York on the south. Its area is 1,540,680 square kilometers. Geographically, the St. Lawrence lowlands separate the Canadian Plateau from the Appalachians. An Arctic climate, vegetation, and fauna are found in the north; subarctic climate in the center; and continental humid with mixed forest and a growing season of 60 to 160 days in the south.

Demography. The total population is about 6.4 million persons in Quebec and 500,000 outside Quebec. Francophones form 90 percent and Anglophones 10 percent of the population of Quebec. The Francophone population is now mainly urban, living in Montreal and Quebec City metropolitan areas. The remainder of the population of Quebec is sparsely distributed in regional cities of less than 10,000 Persons and in rural areas. Francophones outside Quebec live in small localities and rural areas, but some have migrated Recently to cities.

Linguistic Affiliation. French has been the official Language of Quebec Province since 1974. In the 1970s the status of the French language became an important political issue: Quebec governments adopted linguistic laws. In other Provinces, French Canadian communities must struggle to have their own institutions in order to preserve their language and culture and avoid assimilation. In New Brunswick and Ontario they now have access to French-language governmental services, education, and radio and television. The language spoken in Quebec differs from that in France in its vocabulary and pronunciation. The Quebec government decided in 1979 to translate English technical terms and promote Frenchification of all enterprises in Quebec so that French would be predominant. A special effort was also made to introduce immigrants to the language in order to protect the French character of the province.

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