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Because it has represented different realities at different times, the term French Canada can be interpreted in different ways. Roughly chronologically they are:
Canada, New France
Canada, New France, was the historic homeland of the original Canadians (les Canadiens), the St. Lawrence River valley, in the time of New France. It corresponds to the southern part of modern Quebec excluding the Eastern Townships. Later, it was renamed the Province of Quebec (1763), Lower Canada (1791), Canada East (1840), and finally the Province of Quebec (1867) again.
All the communities where French Canadians have settled in North America may be interpreted as French Canada. In this interpretation; Ottawa, Ontario; Falher, Alberta; Bonnyville, Alberta; Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan; St. Boniface, Manitoba; Hawkesbury, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Edmundston, New Brunswick are part of French Canada, while Pontiac, Stanstead, and most First Nations in Quebec are not. French Canadian communities in the United States were called "Little Canadas".
Francophone regions of Canada are those areas with large concentrations of French-speaking residents. In this sense, Quebec, parts of New Brunswick, Eastern Ontario, Northern Ontario, southern Manitoba, and smaller communities elsewhere fall under this category.
This can also represent the collection of all francophones in Canada, whether or not they live in communities with significant francophone populations. "Francophone" here may mean those who speak French natively, or it may alternatively include those allophones in Canada who, in various ways, are sometimes associated with French Canadian society more closely than with English Canadian society.
These Canadian francophones refer to themselves as Québécois in Quebec, Acadiens in the Maritime provinces, Fransaskois in Saskatchewan, Franco-Manitobains in Manitoba, Franco-Ontariens in Ontario, Franco-Albertains in Alberta, Franco-Colombiens in British Columbia, Franco-Terreneuviens in Newfoundland and Labrador, Franco-Yukonnais in the Yukon and Franco-Ténois in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. With the exception of the Acadians who have a different history altogether, most French Canadians trace their origins to Quebec, although there are numerous more recent immigrants from various francophone colonies around the world (e.g. Haitians).
Culture and national identity
The idea of a unified French Canada is somewhat problematic. Any conceived national identity is largely a product of imagination and self-interpretation, and the conceptualization of French Canada as a single identity poses the same ambiguities as a unified English Canada. Though French is the official language of Quebec, throughout the rest of Canada where significant Franco-Canadian populations live there is a bilingual system in place.
Quebec, though not entirely equatable with French Canada, is still considered its heartland, and due to the concentration of French Canadians in this province it is the region where a distinctly French Canada exists. Because of its French roots, the majority of the population have much in common with France and French culture, while still maintaining a close relationship to Anglophone Canada. One of its most popular traditions is Carnivale, which is related to the celebration of Mardi Gras in Louisiana, also a former French territory.
In 2006, the House of Commons officially recognized that "the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada." There have been referendums on the secession of Quebec from Canada which have failed in the past, but Québécois still maintain an identity distinct from the rest of the country due to traditions, language, and history.
- Quebec nationalism
- Quebec sovereignty movement
- French language in Canada
- French colonization of the Americas