French Canadians

PRONUNCIATION: frEHnch cuh-NAY-dee-uhns

ALTERNATE NAMES: Cajuns (in the United States)

LOCATION: Canada (mainly Quebec); United States (mainly Louisiana and New England)

POPULATION: 6.5 million in Canada; 2–5 million in the United States


RELIGION: Roman Catholicism


French Canadians are descendants of Canada's colonial-era French settlers. Most live in the province of Quebec, where they form a majority of the population. The past thirty-five years have seen a strong rebirth of the French Canadians' sense of cultural identity. It has been accompanied by a political separatist movement with far-reaching implications not only for Quebec, but for all of Canada.

The French presence in Canada began in 1534, but permanent settlement did not begin until Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec City in 1608. The French eventually carved out an enormous territory stretching as far east as the Maritime provinces and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

After France's defeat in the French and Indian Wars, Britain won control of New France, formalized by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Under British rule, the French Canadians remained a distinct cultural group. The preservation of their cultural identity was aided by the influence of the Catholic Church, the tendency to marry within their own community, and the tradition of having large families. When the Dominion of Canada was established in 1867, French Canadians accounted for one-third of the new country's population.

After World War II, there were growing demands for political autonomy (self-rule) in Quebec. French was recognized as Quebec's official language in 1974. The separatist Parti Québécois came to power in the province in 1976. A proposal for political independence from the rest of Canada was defeated at the polls in 1980. However, French Canadian separatism has remained a contentious issue for both the province and the nation as a whole.


The 6.5 million French Canadians living in Canada represent about a quarter of the country's total population. The majority—5.1 million—live in the province of Quebec. There are also French Canadians—known as Acadians—in the Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. They account for about 15 percent of the population in those provinces. There are also French Canadian communities in Ontario and the western provinces, as well as in the United States.


French Canadians are the largest group of Francophones (French speakers) in North America.

The vocabulary and pronunciation of Canadian French differ from those of the French spoken in France. Québécois is based on an older form of French and also contains many English expressions. For example, "to marry" is marier instead of the French term, épouser. Similarly, "appointment" is appointement instead of rendezvous , and "ignore" is ignorer instead of négliger.

The Acadians speak a distinctive form of French characterized by many old-fashioned expressions preserved from the seventeenth-century dialects of western France. In Moncton, New Brunswick, contact with English speakers has produced a French-English called Chiac.


The French-Canadian folklore tradition was strengthened by colonial laws that made it crucial for French Canadians to transmit their culture orally across the generations. Popular characters in French Canadian folklore include a hero figure named Ti-Jean (short for petit Jean , or Little John) and a hunter named Dalbec.


The majority of French Canadians are Roman Catholic. Until the 1960s, the church was central to French Canadian life. Since that time, however, the French Canadian community has become more secular. Church attendance has declined, and the influence of the church on daily life has decreased.


French Canadians celebrate Dollard Day on the Monday preceding May 25. The day honors a seventeenth-century French war hero. On that same day, the rest of Canada celebrates Victoria Day in honor of Britain's Queen Victoria. The most important religious holidays for French Canadians are Christmas and Easter. Many—especially those in rural areas—still observe the traditional Christmas celebration. It includes a large midnight supper ( Réveillon ) of tourtières (meat pies), ragaut (stew), and other dishes. On St. Jean Baptiste Day (24 June), the Québécois celebrate their patron saint with parties, bonfires, and fireworks. The Acadians' patron saint is Our Lady of the Assumption, and Assumption Day (August 15) is their day of celebration.


Most French Canadians observe the major life cycle events, such as birth, marriage, and death, within the traditions of the Roman Catholic church. The government of Quebec, the home of Canada's largest French-speaking population, recognizes common-law marriage in cases where couples have lived together for two years.


Like their English-speaking neighbors, French Canadians are hospitable, friendly, and polite. It is common for men to open doors for women or give up a seat if a woman is standing. French Canadians use the common greeting of Bonjour (Good day) for "Hello" and Au revoir for "Goodbye." Adults use first names and informal forms of address (such as tu rather than vous ) only with people they know well, such as close friends or relatives. Both men and women may exchange kisses on both cheeks in a European-style greeting. Close women friends often greet each other by embracing.


Housing in Canada varies by region, depending on the local availability of building materials. Two out of every three Canadians own their own homes. Single homes are the most common type of dwelling although the current trend is toward greater numbers of multifamily structures. The homes of the Acadians, like most of those in the Maritime provinces, are mostly built of wood.


Until the 1960s, the family lives of French Canadians were heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Large families were the norm. Today the average couple has only two children. The French Canadian divorce rate is comparable to that among other groups in North America. Roughly half of all newly married couples eventually divorce. The increased divorce rate has raised the number of single-parent families.




  • 1½ to 2 pounds pork, ground or finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • double 9-inch pie crust


  1. Mix the water, pork, and seasonings in a saucepan.
  2. Cook over a low flame for 20 to 25 minutes and then cool. (Optional: ¼ cup dry bread crumbs may be added at this point.)
  3. Cover the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with bottom layer of pie dough, add pork filling, and cover with top layer of dough.
  4. Seal the crust by pinching the edges together. Preheat oven to 350° F . Bake pie about 35 minutes, or until browned.

Since the 1970s, educational and employment opportunities for Canadian women have expanded. They have entered the professions and other traditionally male areas of the economy in increasing numbers. The government of Quebec established a program to encourage employment opportunities for women in the early 1980s.


French Canadians wear modern Western-style clothing. The traditional costume of the Acadians is still worn on special occasions. Women wear white bonnets and blouses, black skirts, and white aprons. Men wear white shirts, black vests, and knee-length black pants. White stockings and black shoes are worn by both men and women.

12 • FOOD

Quebec has a rich, distinctive French-Canadian cuisine. Popular dishes include tourtière (a meat pie), and ragoût de boulettes et de pattes do cochon (a stew made from meatballs and pigs' feet). Other favorites include French onion soup, pea soup, and poutine , a traditional dish made with French fries or grated potatoes. Quebec is also known for its maple syrup. Children enjoy eating tourquettes , a natural candy made by pouring boiling maple syrup onto fresh snow.


Education in Canada is administered by each province individually. In all cases school attendance is compulsory from the age of about six to sixteen. Quebec has two parallel systems, one of which is specifically for French-speaking, Catholic students. The Acadian populations of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are legally guaranteed access to French-language schools in predominantly French-speaking areas.

Most higher education in Canada is government-funded. Laval University in Quebec is Canada's oldest university, and McGill in Montreal is one of its most prestigious.


French Canadian radio stations must allot 75 percent of their programming to music by French recording artists. Folk and country music are especially popular with Acadians.

Leading contemporary French Canadian authors include playwright Michel Tremblay (1942–) and short-story writer Mavis Gallant (1922–). Perhaps the most renowned French Canadian author of the twentieth century was Gabrielle Roy (1909–83). Her first novel, The Tin Flute (1945), drew a stark portrait of Quebec's urban poor.


Before the 1980s, management positions in Quebec tended to be dominated by English speakers. However, after the separatist Parti Québécois came to power in 1976, many English speakers left the province. Since then the gap between the two groups has narrowed substantially. Today the French Canadian middle class occupies a prominent position in industry, finance, and other key economic areas. French Canadians work in government and the professions and own small businesses. There is still a French-speaking working class in both unionized and nonunionized fields. Many Quebecois have performed hazardous work in the province's asbestos mines.

Before the twentieth century, the French-speaking Acadians in the Maritime provinces engaged in farming, fishing, and forestry. Today many engage in commercial farming and fishing.


Hockey, the Canadian national sport, is popular among French Canadians. Every team in the National Hockey League (NHL) includes French Canadians. Quebec has had five professional teams since the NHL began in 1917—three in Montreal (Canadiens, 1917–present; Wanderers, 1917–18; and Maroons, 1924–38) and two in Quebec City (Bulldogs, 1919–20; and Nordiques, 1979–95). The Montreal Canadiens—popularly known as the "Habitants" or "Habs"—have won the Stanley Cup, which is awarded to League champions, more than twenty times.


The Canadian Broadcasting System (CBC) broadcasts French-language news programs, dramas, films, and sports events. Quebec also has a large audience for English-language television and radio programming and magazines. Le Journal de Montréal and La Presse are the most widely read French-language newspapers.

Like Canadians of all backgrounds, French Canadians enjoy the beautiful scenery of their native land on vacation trips. Many families own small cottages in the country, which they visit on weekends and during vacations. Others travel to distant parts of the country for camping or other outdoor activities.

A time-honored pastime among French Canadian families in Quebec is "sugaring off." Early in the spring, they head for the woods to tap maple trees for sap that is then boiled down in cabines à sucre ("sugar shacks") to make maple syrup and maple sugar.


Traditional crafts among the Acadians include knitting and weaving. Colorful hooked rugs are a specialty.


The social status of French Canadians has historically been lower than that of the English-speaking majority. Traditionally, they have not been as well educated and have suffered widespread discrimination.

A major concern of French Canadians today is the preservation of their culture and language against the threat of assimilation into English-speaking North America. In both Quebec and the Maritimes, the drain of resources caused by emigration to other parts of Canada and to the United States is also a concern.


Lemco, Jonathan. Turmoil in the Peaceable Kingdom: The Quebec Sovereignty Movement and Its Implications for Canada and the United States. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.

Richler, Mordecai. Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! Requiem for a Divided Country. New York: Knopf, 1992.

Wartik, Nancy. The French Canadians. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.


Canada. [Online] Available , 1997.

Canadian Tourism Commission. Canada. [Online] Available http:// , 1998.

Embassy of Canada, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available , 1998.

World Travel Guide. Canada. [Online] Available http://www/ , 1998.

User Contributions:

I really enjoied reading this and it helped me a lot with my sociology research report for school.
Good job, whoever wrote this--i'm French-Canadian, and i can tell you this is a pretty accurate description... kudos for mentioning the Habs :)
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Natalia Harris
Thank you for giving me info on this it helped me on my france project
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Thanks so much! This information was very helpful especially the part on family life as I needed it to know the rate of divorce in french canada for an assignment on divorce.

God bless you and thanks again!
I'm French-Canadian, and I never heard of anybody saying "appointement" instead of "Rendez-vous". The latter is used. Both "négliger" and "épouser" are used (in addition to "marrier" and "ignorer" -- the latter two expressions don't replace the former two). We do use "dispendieux" instead of "onéreux", which is not particularly common in Quebec. Also, I think McGill is the oldest University, followed by Universite Laval.
Just a note for commenter number 10 : I too am French Canadienne and have ALWAYS used the words, "appointement" "marier" and "ignorer".
I think the writer of this site had done a pretty accurate job.
WOW! THIS IS A GREAT WEBSITE! I am not a french Canadian but this really helped with a social project! Thank you so much!!
Thank you so much! This really helped with my history comparison paper. Great site. :)
Interesting article. Looking at the last paragraph,section 19, I think it is counter-productive to preserve language and culture at the expense of assimilating into english speaking North America. Not to mention the cost of bilingualism, which leaves a very small few able to communicate only with eachother. Let the french keep their language in their homes and out of the government's wallet and let the rest of Canada(non french speaking people) enjoy the surplus of money from eliminating french services that are not needed in Canada. Things have changed so much since the 70's. Isn't it time for an overhaul? Maybe the french should only live in quebec, where the services are geared to them, insteas of forcing 9 out of 10 provinces to withstand an official second language that, if given the oportunity, would abolish. Thank you.
i like all of the info that you gave us thank you so much
I like the infomation because it made me learn alot about stuff that i didnt know
To discuss French Canada's foods one must mention the gormet cheeses and foie gras of the Québec region of Charlevoix. The chese '1608' or le Ciel Bleu are to make one believe the heritage from France although over 400 years oold has never died.
Well written material and in reading this, it makes me "homesick" as I now reside in Calgary, Alta. But how much do I miss you dear Quebec...?"
Thank you so much for the information feed in this website.I enjoy reading it and at the same time I learned so many things.I got married to a French Canadian and he currently lived in Quebec.Hopefully I can be with him.I'm gonna prepare the recipe when he gonna visit me here in Philippines this coming February.So he gonna be surprise that I know how to prepare it.
Gary Gerken
I great grandmother was french canadian. I believe she was born in or near Monteral. My late mother said that part of the family was "Dark French" but I have never found anyone who can define the term. I would appricaite an e-mail to enlight me. She was a beautiful woman, my grandmother, mother, sister, daughter and two cousin, and my granddaughter look a lot like her!

Gary Gerken
12530 E. Bryce Circle
Cerritos CA 90703 USA
Z girl
Thanks helped a lot for my social project and I thinking might get bonus for extra info that I'm gonna put into my research off of here.
I am French and the word "marier" is used in France too. Moreover the english word "married" come from the french as you can read on the The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Good article but Check your sources !
this really helped during a project in class and helped me understand new things from Canada which makes it intersting
Thanks for this article it really helped me alot for a project i have in class. All i need is in this article THANKS SO MUCH
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Thanks! this realy helped on my Canadian Community's Project.
Marie-Claude Harton
I really enjoyed reading about French-Canadian since I am one of them. That is why I wanted to point out some tiny language mistakes. During spring, we do enjoy "le temps des sucres" and we visit "cabanes à sucre" not "cabines". The food served at a cabane à sucre may seem quite simple but it is the one that was served when traditionaly, a group of people would come and help out the owner of the "érablière" during that time of the year. On the table, you always find ham, scrambled eggs, coleslaw, sausages, potatoes, "oreilles de christ", milk and of course maple syrup that is eaten not only on pancakes and deserts but with main dishes also.

The syrup that is poured on snow and that we eagerly eat on a wooden stick is commonly called "tire sur la neige". I have never in my whole life heard of "tourquette".
this is amazing it really helped on my project

Michael Beaulieu
I enjoyed all the above articles. My mother is of a different heritage. I would be living in Quebec if my mother were not ill. I miss Quebec and the Francophone way of life. I am trying to retain my culture.
Cassidy Peterosn
I really liked this website it helped me A LOT on my school project of my heiratages culture.
I loved the way this projected our culture. I am Canadian and still required help with a school paper on Canadian duality and culture obtained from Britain and France. This was a massive help and the writer(s) did a very accurate and intriguing job of the article. :-)
A Proud Canadian
WOW! I loved reading this and this really helped me with my Social Studies project on immigrants and I turned up to get French immigrants. Thanks SO MUCH for this good website. XD
Thanks this really helped =) I even enjoyed reading for once :) lol
As a 56-year-old francophile guy from the Indian ocean island of Sri Lanka, I found this website very interesting, educative, informative and insightful. Indeed, I was very impressed by the way Canada manages her ethnic, cultural and linguistic relations between her anglophone and francophone communities. In my island home too, we have a great dispute between our majority Sinhalese community (76%) - to which I belong - and our minority Tamil-speaking communities 9Tamil and Muslim). And as a small nation, we can learn many lessons from Canada. Incidentally, as a Sinhalese by ethnicity, I feel that it would be great, if I could find, through this website, an Acadian person to correspond with, in both French and English. Incidentally, though we are a majority in the nation state of Sri Lanka, we happen to be a minority community in the Indian subcontinent. In the circumstances, it is natural that there is a deeply entrenched fear in the collective consciousness of the Sinhalese majority community, that one day, the regional rulers of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu will bifurcate Sri Lanka, through the consistent practice of a policy of irredentism, towards themselves. So, reading your webpage indeed prompted me to psychologically identify myself with Canada’s Acadian community, and to go ahead and request of you to kindly help me to find a friend from that community, the idea being to exchange views with him/her from an anthropological/cultural perspective.
For anyone interested, my email address is: and I go in Facebook as Bandula Idamegama.
Thank you very much.
Bandula Idamegama
John doe
Helped me so much on my French project! GO EVERYCULTURE!
this website is really useful.thank you so much(i need it for my project.)
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Being a French Canadian born male, I have found that as a youngster,people were very critical of F/C & since then It has disappeared,although many Canadians do not like the two language system. All in I believe we have become much more accepting of the 2 language system.
I really liked the materials because there was a lot of details that I needed in my research. Also because there are many people that want this stuff and need the research like I did.
thanks helped so much with my French project im going there soon
I looked up this site because my Father is French Canadian, although he was born in Massachusetts. They say all of his children, including me, look French Canadian, and I have always wondered what French Canadian people look like, for the most part. We all are a little bit darker complected, more of a yellow color, with big brown eyes. My Grandmother was a LaBelle, she was more fair, but spoke fluent French. We have high cheekbones, and a defined jaw line, is this French Canadian?
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n girl
I LIKED READING ABOUT IT BECAUSE it help with the project I'm doing at my school
Great reading..I am in Montreal right now as I write this and is now able to connect more with the influence of French on display in every aspect of life..
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love the work. I am french candian as well so this was realy useful for the project I had to create based on my culture.
i like this website because it is good for studying early community's in Canada
Danny Dubois Qi
You forgot to mention us (Quebecois) as a specific self-claimed ethnic group. We don't think of ourselves as Canadians and neither being ethnically French. Important to mention. Also, you forgot to mention about our accent, how different it is from the French accent. Same comparison with the American and British accent.
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Timothy Wannemacher
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Madame Tessier
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This web site is so good for sosial studeys. Hello good grades
This really helped me complete my assignment :) I also got to know a lot about French-Canadians :)

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