Geography

The Francophone and Acadian communities consist of a total population of 1,053,810 persons with French as their first official language, living in nine provinces and three territories. These communities account for 14% of the total number of Canadians with French as their first official language spoken.

The Francophone and Acadian communities form a collective whole that is scattered over an immense area, with no obvious links to one another, even though they draw broadly from a common linguistic and cultural, even socio-economic, heritage. Francophones live in a range of vastly different settings. Some of these settings are relatively homogeneous: the proportion of Francophones is high, French-language institutions are numerous, and daily life is conducted in French. These are found in New Brunswick, Ontario and Southwestern Nova Scotia, and in various communities located in other parts of the country, which also constitute environments were people can live in French. This original culture is often rural, although some towns and cities, such as Saint-Boniface in Manitoba or Vanier in Ontario are geographic and historic crossroads of Francophone life. Other Francophones live in situations that do not offer them any real spatial roots, except for access to certain institutions such as schools, cultural centres, churches, a number of community organizations and, less frequently, radio and newspapers. This reality is more characteristic of cities and large metropolitan areas, which results in a largely minority status for these settings. However, it is worth noting that the influx of Francophones coming from other parts of the country or from abroad has, over the past several years, led to the gradual establishment of French-speaking environments in cities such as Edmonton and Toronto.

The presence of Francophones varies from one region to another. In instances where a large number of more rural regions are relatively successful in maintaining their cultural and linguistic traditions, they are, on the other hand, faced with serious economic and labour-market challenges. In most urban areas, Francophones are highly integrated into the economic sphere and are quite capable of managing their personal advancement. However, their challenge lies in being able to maintain French in environments where that language is very much in a minority position. This profile provides an analysis of the vitality trends for Francophone and Acadian communities, which will illustrate this fact.

This distinction between the various settings in which people are able to live in French is fundamental when measuring the vitality of the Canadian Francophonie. However, one should not disregard the fact that the ties binding Francophones living in various regions, beyond distance and provincial and territorial boundaries, are both numerous and strong. These ties play a key role in the ability to live in French in Canada, as does the ever-increasing access to the new information and communications technologies.

For the past several decades, attention has been focused separately on each of the Francophone and Acadian communities in the provinces and territories. The characteristics that make them distinctive were highlighted by emphasizing their specificity. It is now appropriate to present them as a unique system spanning the country, through kinship and migration, the circulation of information, cultural exchanges, the sharing of educational resources, the cooperative movement and the ramifications of a dense and wide-ranging associative fabric. As a legacy of the past, the ties that unite Acadians and Francophones from all parts of Canada still play a central role in the daily lives of the communities, in addition to providing them with the means to enrich their futures.