UBC Theses and Dissertations
An areal analysis of French-Canadian settlement and linguistic assimilation in the Prairie provinces Wise, Mark
a) Basic Problem The main question posed in this research was as follows; where exactly, and in what types of locality have those of French ethnic origin living in the Prairie provinces been most (or least) successful in preserving a distinctive French-Canadian culture. b) Method of Investigation i) The production of detailed population distribution maps showed where, and to what extent, French-Canadians were areally concentrated into distinct group settlements. It is only in such group settlement that such a sub-culture can hope to survive. ii) The varying degree of ethnic homogeneity within the various group settlements was analysed. This study confirmed that the more French Canadians were intermixed with other groups the more susceptible they would be to anglicisation and assimilation. iii) The varying strength of the French-Canadian position was measured by calculating the proportion of French Canadians in each group settlement belonging to a French-language parish - an institution which has played a great role in the cultural survival of the French-speaking minorities. iv) The areally varying strength of French-language education in the Prairie provinces was studied. v) The areally varying degree of access to a French-language newspapers, radio and television was analysed; vi) Population increases and/or decreases among this ethnic group were studied. The extent of these increases and decreases, in both rural and urban areas, affects the strength of this sub-culture. vii) A cartographic description, using the most detailed census data available, was made of those of French ethnic origin who have retained French as their mother-tongue. The retention of French among this group was taken as the key index of assimilation, not least because they have always fervently regarded such linguistic fidelity as the essential basis of their distinctive cultural survival. b) Conclusions i) Neither the province of Quebec, nor the French-Canadian people have ever shown great interest in settling western Canada. ii) A considerable and increasing proportion of French Canadians in the Prairie provinces has become completely assimilated into the English-speaking community. However, within the group settlements the degree to which French has been retained is often high. iii) By far the strongest French-speaking community is situated in south-eastern Manitoba where three large rural groups focus on the unique urban group of St. Boniface. The cultural survival of French-Canadian communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan is much more threatened, either by their cultural isolation from other French-speaking groups, or by the extent to which they have been intermixed with non-French-speaking groups. iv) The key socio-geographic factor in the linguistic assimilation of western French Canadians seems to be the degree to which they are physically intermixed with other groups. This factor emerged as much more important than other considerations such as situation in an urban or rural area, or group settlement size. v) The western French Canadian sub-culture is an extremely "localised" phenomenon. Immediately beyond the "core" areas of the group settlements assimilation becomes very marked, even if a considerable number of French Canadians can still be found. Evidence of assimilation can be found even within the "cores" of some groups. vi) The future survival of this sub-culture depends, among other things, on strengthening French Canadian institutions within the group settlements. This applies particularly to the need to develop genuinely bilingual schools. Also a new form of "group settlement" must be developed to maintain and stimulate French-Canadian institutions and culture among the increasing numbers of Francophones who have left their rural communities for the larger urban areas.
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