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Old Posted Oct 9, 2017, 6:53 PM
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How well connected do you think "French-Canadian" descent Americans are to Canada?

There are French descended Americans with Quebecois and Acadian ancestors, but many are pretty assimilated and don't speak French or even pronounce their names as a French speaker would.

There was a large emigration wave to the US in the 19th to early 20th century, especially New England but I wonder if the family ties are still strong enough that cross border visitations are commonly done by communities in either country.

I wonder if the average American with a French Canadian background is especially any more likely to have traveled north of the border, have visited the places their families emigrated from or kept in touch with Canadian relatives, than the average American.

Also things like whether or not "French Canadian" Americans on the whole are especially knowledgeable about Francophone Canadian politics, society or culture in ways an average American or even Anglo Canadian might not be.
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Old Posted Oct 9, 2017, 7:00 PM
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My impression is that these days the vast majority of Americans with French Canadian ancestry are no different than Americans with, say, Italian ancestry. If they have a Francophone parent who was born in Canada then they may have more substantial cultural ties but several generations down the line most people are completely assimilated.

This was less true back in the 1950's and earlier when many French Canadian direct migrants to New England were still alive. One famous example is Jack Kerouac doing interviews in French. He was born in Lowell, MA in 1922. Many of those mill towns were heavily French Canadian at one point.

Even in Canada assimilation can be pretty quick outside of Quebec. For example it's pretty common for a Francophone born in Quebec to raise kids in Ontario or BC who are about on par with Anglophone immersion kids, or worse. Fear of this happening drives some to move back to Quebec. There are several towns and regions in Canada that are much less Francophone today than they used to be.
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Old Posted Oct 9, 2017, 7:22 PM
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My impression is that these days the vast majority of Americans with French Canadian ancestry are no different than Americans with, say, Italian ancestry. If they have a Francophone parent who was born in Canada then they may have more substantial cultural ties but several generations down the line most people are completely assimilated.

This was less true back in the 1950's and earlier when many French Canadian direct migrants to New England were still alive. One famous example is Jack Kerouac doing interviews in French. He was born in Lowell, MA in 1922. Many of those mill towns were heavily French Canadian at one point.

Even in Canada assimilation can be pretty quick outside of Quebec. For example it's pretty common for a Francophone born in Quebec to raise kids in Ontario or BC who are about on par with Anglophone immersion kids, or worse. Fear of this happening drives some to move back to Quebec. There are several towns and regions in Canada that are much less Francophone today than they used to be.
Wouldn't you say though that most Francophones in Anglo-Canada are able to stave off assimilation much more than Franco-Americans just because of the whole institutional framework of support for French federally even if weak especially in western Canada, plus the probably higher rates of visiting other Francophone communities or visiting Quebec itself, even if one doesn't move back there, the option is more available.

In the US, the visits to, or actual face-to-face interactions with others living in an actual Francophone society are diminished as it involves crossing a border or going overseas to France or the international "Francophonie" (which Americans seem to do less as fewer own passports than Canadians, and Americans travel domestically more), plus French is not taught in school the same way or given special institutional treatment. I wonder if Franco-American assimilation would be even faster than Hispanic or Spanish-speaking American language-wise as the latter seems more connected to Latin America than the former is to French Canada (just my impression though).
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Old Posted Oct 9, 2017, 7:38 PM
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Wouldn't you say though that most Francophones in Anglo-Canada are able to stave off assimilation much more than Franco-Americans just because of the whole institutional framework of support for French federally even if weak especially in western Canada, plus the probably higher rates of visiting other Francophone communities or visiting Quebec itself, even if one doesn't move back there, the option is more available.
Cultural and linguistic assimilation in modern countries isn't about people being forced to stop using their mother tongue (which did happen a lot in the past). It is more that people end up in situations where cultural preservation is an uphill battle that requires extra effort so it is abandoned. If French is part of the path of least resistance it survives and if it isn't it slowly disappears. I am highly skeptical of the idea that cultures can be kept relevant through love and enthusiasm alone. A big part of language regulation in Quebec has to do with constructing a society where French is a natural choice for day-to-day life, and that is mostly missing in the rest of Canada outside of a few places.

People who want to move to Quebec can but if you grow up in, say, BC, is that very likely? It is possible but not common enough to be demographically significant.

I think Quebec is a good environment for French culture, NB and Eastern Ontario are marginal, and in most other places there is a high degree of intergenerational assimilation (some offer more French language opportunities than others but none would be viable long term on their own without new Francophones moving in). If you are interested, I think Statistics Canada tracks linguistic assimilation.

It's true that just about anywhere in Canada is better than just about anywhere in the US. But I think this is the case where Quebec is 9/10, NB is 6/10, many other Canadian provinces are a 2/10 or 3/10, and the US is mostly a 1/10. The US is not a useful benchmark for Francophone culture.
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Old Posted Oct 9, 2017, 8:00 PM
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It's true that just about anywhere in Canada is better than just about anywhere in the US. But I think this is the case where Quebec is 9/10, NB is 6/10, many other Canadian provinces are a 2/10 or 3/10, and the US is mostly a 1/10. The US is not a useful benchmark for Francophone culture.
Perhaps Louisiana or Maine are no better off than most Francophone marginal communities in Anglo-Canadian provinces either (would these be 2 or 3/10 too, or higher or lower)?

If I recall correctly these places have French mostly among the elderly and the newer generation not so much, with little migration from Francophones elsewhere (domestically or internationally) which is not good for future survival of the language.

While in Canada, I think immigration or migration between provinces (though again its low in NB, and eastern Ontario is helped by proximity to Quebec) still is able to rejuvenate marginal communities and keep them from assimilating away.
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Old Posted Oct 9, 2017, 8:25 PM
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Madonna has french canadian ancestry on her mothers side, as does ellen degeneres who are both distant relatives to celine dion apparently
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 1:34 AM
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The percentage of the population that speaks French at home in Maine is higher than in all of Canada's provinces except for Quebec and New Brunswick.

Louisiana for all the talk about French down there is actually not that French (francophone) any more.

All of the counties and municipalities in the US with high percentages of French speakers (including a few majority ones) are in NE states like Maine NH and Vermont.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 1:38 AM
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Madonna has french canadian ancestry on her mothers side, as does ellen degeneres who are both distant relatives to celine dion apparently
Madonna's mother was Madonna Louise Fortin.

Hillary Clinton is also of French Canadian descent.

The guy holding the flag on the famous US Marines photo from Iwo Jima was named René Gagnon.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 2:08 AM
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There are French descended Americans with Quebecois and Acadian ancestors, but many are pretty assimilated and don't speak French or even pronounce their names as a French speaker would.

There was a large emigration wave to the US in the 19th to early 20th century, especially New England but I wonder if the family ties are still strong enough that cross border visitations are commonly done by communities in either country.

I wonder if the average American with a French Canadian background is especially any more likely to have traveled north of the border, have visited the places their families emigrated from or kept in touch with Canadian relatives, than the average American.

Also things like whether or not "French Canadian" Americans on the whole are especially knowledgeable about Francophone Canadian politics, society or culture in ways an average American or even Anglo Canadian might not be.
Well I am born of two francophone Acadian parents from the Maritimes. During the period when much of the migration happened (1900-1950 approx.) one side of the family had significant movement to the U.S. During the same period the other side of my family had significant migration from the Maritimes to the Montreal area.

One of my grandfathers actually worked in NYC for a time. He was in the crowd that welcomed Charles Lindbergh home in 1927. He later returned to the Maritimes to settle down and his direct descendants are all Canadian today.

Of that family though several brothers, sisters and cousins also went to the U.S. A few returned home at one point but the majority of them stayed down there.

There are probably a couple dozen people or more down there, but I only know *of* one or two of them, and I've never met any in person. My parents would be able to name more names I guess.

None of them speak French and to my knowledge no one under the age 70-80 probably has any ties whatsoever to Canada. We're a totally foreign country to them AFAIK.

Once there are no longer any older people in Canada left for them to visit, the ties die off really quickly.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 2:31 AM
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On a broader level, into the 1950s many cities in the NE US like Lowell MA, Lewiston ME or Woonsocket RI were on the tour circuit for Québécois artists.

And into the 1970s, I seem to recall that Franco-American contest winners or contestants would sporadically pop up in the Quebec media (magazines, TV shows, etc.)

That all dried up quite some time ago.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 3:13 AM
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So, despite Canada being geographically so close and the barriers to travel so much less (perhaps a road trip of no more than a few hours), the links or ties dry up just as easily as diaspora groups that are geographically much farther away like Italian Americans losing touch with the country of Italy itself?
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 3:36 AM
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I was in Louisville, Ky last week and I came across two fully french conversations in two days. Which is more than I hear in St Boniface in Winnipeg in the same time. With a bit of research I see that there is a French speaking community there, I had no idea.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 4:28 AM
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Once there are no longer any older people in Canada left for them to visit, the ties die off really quickly.
Same with everyone else. The ties that used to exist across borders between Ontario-Michigan or the prairies and the nearby U.S. states are all but gone now. The days when almost everyone had siblings or (later) cousins "across the line". are long past.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 5:38 AM
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The percentage of the population that speaks French at home in Maine is higher than in all of Canada's provinces except for Quebec and New Brunswick.
This is kind of misleading to say without more context though.

I'm not sure there are comparable statistics between Canada and the US. In the US census, about 3.7% of people in Maine claim to speak French. A bunch of Canadian provinces are around 4%, i.e. about the same within the margin of error for these statistics. The census data suggests that if Maine were a Canadian province it would be no more Francophone than other provinces that make up about 70% of Canada's population.

So the most Francophone US state is in the 60-70th percentile in Canada in terms of number of speakers. As far as accommodation goes I am not sure but I wouldn't assume it's better than the least Francophone provinces.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 10:15 AM
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My point wasn't really about the suitability of accommodation for francophones in Maine vs those provinces. Obviously all of the provinces have more than Maine under Canadian laws.

Maine may have more French speakers that many of them today because it has a higher share of French origin people to begin with.

One third French origin down to 4 percent French home speakers as in Maine is a much higher assimilation rate than 8 percent French origin down to 3 percent French home speakers in Ontario. (Approximate figures.)
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 3:55 PM
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I wonder how much of that comes down to the fact that a large percentage of French speakers in Maine are in relatively isolated Aroostook county. Caribou is closer to Quebec City than it is to Portland.

It would have made a lot more sense for that area to end up as part of Canada.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 4:17 PM
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So, despite Canada being geographically so close and the barriers to travel so much less (perhaps a road trip of no more than a few hours), the links or ties dry up just as easily as diaspora groups that are geographically much farther away like Italian Americans losing touch with the country of Italy itself?
Despite initiatives like NAFTA, the Canada-US border has significantly 'hardened' in recent decades.

The groups who ended up on each side tended to stay on their side. Unless families make a conscious effort to stay in touch, the natural 'drift' of families apart through generations is exacerbated.

I don't think there's really much more to it than that.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 4:27 PM
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I wonder how much of that comes down to the fact that a large percentage of French speakers in Maine are in relatively isolated Aroostook county. Caribou is closer to Quebec City than it is to Portland.

It would have made a lot more sense for that area to end up as part of Canada.
It has the most vitality in that area for sure, but French also has some legs in the Waterville-Lewiston-Auburn-Augusta-Biddeford region much further south.

This area was on the "Kennebec" migration route that many people from Quebec followed 100 years ago or more.

According to the stats that are kept on this, quite a few cities and towns in that area are around 15% francophone, whereas the local population that's of French Canadian origin is likely 50% or more in many places.

In northern Aroostook county, many towns are probably over 90% or more French Canadian/Acadian origins, and those same stats would show percentages of French speakers between 40-75% there IIRC.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 4:28 PM
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I was in Louisville, Ky last week and I came across two fully french conversations in two days. Which is more than I hear in St Boniface in Winnipeg in the same time. With a bit of research I see that there is a French speaking community there, I had no idea.
The Frenchness of St-Boniface is sometimes overstated I agree, but this would still be very surprising.
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Old Posted Oct 10, 2017, 8:18 PM
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There are a few communities near the Canadian border in Maine where majorities still speak French, and 15.7% in Aroostook County speak French at home.

https://statisticalatlas.com/state/Maine/Languages
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