Quebec HistoryMarianopolis College
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Events, Issues and Concepts of Quebec History


Last revised:
23 August 2000


Claude Bélanger,
Department of History,
Marianopolis College

Francophone is a term used in Quebec, and in the rest of Canada, to describe French speaking individuals. A discussion of the accuracy of the data, of the means to measure language use since 1766, and of the methodological difficulties involved in assessing the number of francophones in Quebec will be found under the heading of anglophone at the site; reference should be made to it in evaluating the data provided here. In general, the margin of error in determining the number of French speakers in the past should be smaller than for anglophones, at least in the case of Quebec, as nearly all those who listed their ethnic origin as French were likely French speaking, and few of them would have been assimilated to anglophones in Quebec. There would also be relatively few individuals who were francophones that would not be of French origins. Until 1931, when the introduction of the question on mother tongue permitted to clarify the situation, those that were francophones, and were not of French origins, were usually Irish Catholics adopted by French families or who had intermarried with francophones.

The proportion of the population of Quebec that is francophone has been remarkably stable since 1851. Between 76% and 82% of the population of Quebec has been of French origin since the middle of the XIXth century. This stability was achieved despite the massive emigration to the United States of close to 1,000,000 French Catholics from the province in the period of 1830-1930. It must be attributed to the high rate of natural increase that characterised the province until the Quiet Revolution, as well as to the significant out-migration of anglophones from Quebec since the middle of the XIXth century. This stability of the francophone population of Quebec is confirmed by the data on mother tongue and language used at home. However, it is probable that this stability would have been upset, to the advantage of English, if legislative measures to bolster the position of French had not been taken since 1969. In the recent past, the focus has been on Montreal [‘so goes Montreal, so goes Quebec’] where much of the dynamic part of the economy is located, and the only place where francophones, anglophones and allophones live together in significant numbers. The language bills, and the rise of the language issue in the recent past, are discussed elsewhere at the site.

© 1999 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College