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Discover who are the 100 000 French people living in Canada

Léo Trespeuch

Professor in Management Science

Co-founder of the Observatoire de la philanthropie

University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR)

David Pavot

University of Sherbrooke

Élisabeth Robinot* (photo)

Professor in marketing ESG UQAM, Co-founder of the Observatoire de la Philanthropie

University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM)

*Faculty member of the Business Science Institute.


Article originally published on The Conversation France.

Canada is attracting more and more French people. The French language associated with the North American culture and the need for manpower are undeniable assets to attract French people in search of new professional or personal perspectives.

Consequently, the first community of French citizens living abroad (outside of Europe), is in Canada and more precisely in Quebec. However, the days when Canada, as seen from France, was limited to Quebec are over: the official bilingualism in New Brunswick or the economic and technological developments in Halifax, also attract a growing number of French people.

But who are the French living in Canada and how is their integration going?

As French professors attached to various Canadian universities, we wanted to answer this question by analyzing data from the consular list and by interviewing 700 French people living in Canada between March 28 and April 5, 2021.

More than you might think

According to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 98,894 French citizens are registered on the consular lists in Canada, including 61,074 in the electoral district of Montreal, 14,268 in Quebec City, 13,370 in the electoral district of Toronto, 10,182 in Vancouver and 804 in Moncton.

Due to the voluntary nature of consular registration, these figures would be underestimated. According to the latest issue of "S'installer au Canada" of the newspaper L'Express, two thirds of French Canadians live in Montreal, including 28% in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, 18.5% in Côte-des-Neiges and 16% in Rosemont-la-Petite-Patrie.

The consular list informs us that 13% of these French citizens were born abroad, 12% were born in Canada and 75% were born in France. The average age of these expatriates is 44 years old and, according to the survey conducted for this study, 65% are salaried employees, 13% are retired, 12% are self-employed and 10% are students or have another status.

In short, the most common profile of the Frenchman living in Canada is a forty-year-old, born in France, who works and lives in Quebec, more precisely in Montreal!

The difficulties of integration

Beyond the administrative part (VISA, Working Holiday Program, work permit, permanent residence), French immigrants encounter a number of difficulties in integrating into this new life. Our qualitative survey revealed two major difficulties.

The first concerns human relations. The distance from the family in France and the difficulty of creating links is a challenge for integration. The pandemic and the French government's measures (prohibiting return to France in the midst of a pandemic) have accentuated this perception of distance.

Since most Quebecers, Acadians, and Canadians already have their circles of friends before arriving, French immigrants find it more difficult to create links, as one respondent testifies: "It is more difficult to get in touch with pure wool families. Most of my friends are immigrants, children of immigrants, or in couples with immigrants or children of immigrants."

Health and education

The second challenge that emerged from our survey was, as another respondent stated, "accessing the health care system in a timely manner." Understanding the health care system, the difficulty of having a family doctor and the costs associated with care push many French people to return to France for treatment. According to the Observatoire de l'expatriation, 57% of French expatriates prefer to be treated in France rather than in their host country.

As for education, when asked "If you had children or if you had children, would you prefer to send them to...", 44% of French people living in Canada answered the French-speaking Quebec education system, 36% the French school and 20% the English-speaking Quebec school.

Francophone education remains a priority for these French people living abroad, with a preference for the Quebec system. It should be noted that according to the PISA international ranking of education systems, published every three years by the OECD, Quebec is ahead of France.

The equivalence of diplomas is also a key issue that emerged from this survey. Many similar courses and diplomas are still not recognized on either side of the Atlantic. This is a concern in both directions - for the French who come here, but also for young people who would like to continue their studies in France.

Being respected and thriving

According to the seminal research of Rokeach in the United States and Valette-Florence in France, values are enduring beliefs that determine whether one behavior is preferable to another. According to these same works, values are both stable and dynamic.

Our research focused on the values of French people living in Canada. The results show that "being respected" is the most important value for them. This value reflects the fact that the individual seeks recognition from others, for example by buying a nice car. The difficulty in achieving fulfillment when this value is put forward is related to the need for approval from others. It is in contrast with the value of "respecting oneself", which appears in third place in our survey. The latter is more focused on the individual and his or her personal development.

The second most important value for French people living in Canada is "fulfillment". This result is consistent with the Observatoire de l'expatriation study, which indicates that 90% are satisfied and recommend the experience. In comparison, the main values put forward by the French in France are "fulfillment" and "warm relationships".

More to the left

Politically, the French living in Canada are slightly to the left on a scale (extreme left, left, center, right, extreme right). A generational phenomenon, the shift to the left represents a considerable change from the past. In fact, in the first round of the 2017 legislative elections, the center party (En Marche!) received 50.5% of the votes in the Montreal electoral district.

The latest measures, including the ban on returning to France at a certain point in the pandemic, have definitely played a role in the loss of momentum of the presidential majority. We can also think that a rather "social-democratic" and multicultural Canadian society, in which secular institutions and a certain communitarianism coexist, is not unrelated to a view less marked by partisan opposition.

It should be noted that 24% do not fall on this continuum and therefore do not feel represented by the ideas of the traditional political parties in France. Inevitably, for many, local issues will be of greater concern than political issues or debates purely related to France.

Regarding the environment, French people living in Eastern Canada show a [high environmental sensitivity]. How could one live in Canada without feeling close to an immense and omnipresent nature? The French abroad are embarrassed by the pollution associated with their return trips to France. Yet these trips, to visit relatives in France, are essential in their eyes.

The beret and the baguette

The old-fashioned image of the Frenchman on a bicycle with a beret and a baguette seems to have been replaced by that of young professionals, both men and women.

Despite its long-standing relationship with Canada and its Aboriginal peoples going back more than five centuries, France is clearly asserting its presence today throughout Eastern Canada. This is largely reflected in the involvement of French citizens in the life of Quebec and Acadian communities.

The French abroad have an important role in the future evolution of both modern France and this Turtle Island, as some indigenous peoples refer to the North American continent, on which we live.

The authors wish to thank Mr. Henri Paratte, retired professor at Acadia University, who contributed greatly to the writing of this article.

Article translated from French with


To discover...

Élisabeth Robinot's articles on The Conversation France.

Élisabeth Robinot's articles & books via CAIRN.Info.


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