ARCHIVED - Chapter 1 – New Source Countries: Who Counts as a Francophone?

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The number of Francophones or Anglophones in Canada has traditionally been determined on the basis of a person's mother tongue. For a growing number of newcomers to Canada, however, this is problematic. Many Francophone immigrants have grown up speaking languages such as Arabic, Creole, Lingala, Somali or Tshiluba but were educated in and have worked most of their lives in French. Most of these immigrants do, in fact, consider themselves to be Francophones. The definition of a Francophone that is based solely on a person's mother tongue clearly does not capture today's complex linguistic realities.

A more accurate understanding of the number of Francophones can be obtained by considering the official languages spoken by immigrants. Someone whose mother tongue is Arabic but who speaks French at home would therefore still be counted as Francophone.

Table 1 shows that the number of Francophones from African and Caribbean countries would be severely underestimated if we only considered the mother tongue of immigrants. In the case of Morocco, Algeria and Haiti, for example, there are very few people who speak French as their mother tongue but many who know French or even both official languages.

Table 1 - Francophone Immigrants by Mother Tongue and Knowledge of Official Languages (2001)

Francophone by Choice: An Immigrant in B.C.

“Nous tous un soleil” (One and all) is a small theatre group in Vancouver. The group acts out short plays in Francophone schools in Vancouver as part of an intercultural education program. Each performance is followed by a discussion on issues related to multiculturalism and difference. One member of “Nous tous un soleil” is Shiva, an immigrant from the Middle East. What motivates a young woman of Arabic mother tongue to join a Francophone theatre group? Shiva explains: Before leaving her home country she had studied French at university. Upon arriving in Vancouver, she sought out Francophone services and activities, driven by a desire to meet and socialize with Francophones.

Shiva's first contact with the local Francophone community was through ÉducacentreExternal site where she took a career development course, English language classes and made use of the job database of this Francophone training centre. She found work with a local high-tech company not long after.

While she regrets not being able to make use of French at her workplace, her leisure-time activities and social network provide her with ample opportunities to lead a Francophone life. Apart from performances with “Nous tous un soleil”, she works as a freelance journalist for “The / La Source”, a biweekly bilingual publication that focuses on multicultural topics in Vancouver and she attends events at Vancouver’s “Maison de la francophonie” – all Francophone spaces in which to pursue an important part of her linguistic identity.

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