Nova Scotia has a population of some 950,000. Of this number, 37,000 people, or 4% of the population, have French as their mother tongue. After declining in the second half of the 1900s, the relative proportion of the French population has tended to stabilize over the past 15 years or so. Furthermore, the number of French speakers (unilingual/bilingual) has doubled since 1951 from 45,000 to nearly 100,000! This remarkable increase is due in part to the large number of young Anglophone Nova Scotians attending French immersion programs.
The Francophone community of Nova Scotia consists of Acadians, French Canadians from other provinces and French-speaking immigrants from around the world, particularly Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Nearly 30% of Nova Scotia’s
Francophones were born outside the province. For the most part, they are
Acadians from the other Atlantic provinces, especially New Brunswick.
Less than 1% of newcomers to Nova Scotia in recent years have had French as their mother tongue. Governments want to raise this number to 4% to ensure the vitality of the Francophone minority communities. Conditions are therefore very favourable for the immigration of Francophones to Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia’s Francophone populace is unique, vibrant and dynamic. Francophones are very active in economic and political life and in the arts and culture sector.
And now for a little history…
The French presence in Nova Scotia dates back to 1604, when a small group of colonists from France settled at Saint Croix Island, on the current border with Maine (United States) and New Brunswick. In spring 1605, the colony moved to Port Royal in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. The colony was named Acadie (Acadia), and its population grew to several thousand people by the end of the century. In 1713, France ceded Acadia to England under the Treaty of Utrecht. In 1755, the English began uprooting the Acadian colonists from their land and deported them to the American colonies. This painful episode in Acadian history was called the Great Upheaval. Under the Treaty of Paris (1763), the English authorities allowed the Acadians to return to Nova Scotia in small isolated groups. They then founded communities where many of their descendants still live today. These communities are indicated by yellow stars on the map of the regions.
The Acadians of Nova Scotia live mainly in two regions – Cape Breton Island and the southwestern peninsula, and in the Halifax Regional Municipality, which boasts the largest contingent of Francophones in the province. These three areas account for more than 80% of French speakers in Nova Scotia.
In Cape Breton, French is the dominant language on Isle Madame. In the northern part of the island, Acadians make up more than 40% of the population in certain areas, and they are the driving force in community organizations in a number of villages, including Chéticamp. French is also spoken by a thousand people in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (Sydney), an industrial centre that has become the main service point on the island.
In the southwestern part of the province, Francophones are a majority in the municipalities of Clare (Baie-Sainte-Marie) and Argyle (Par-en-Bas), where they have developed a diverse network of institutions that contribute to an active cultural and community life.The Halifax Metro region includes some 11,000 people whose first language is French. This urban concentration aside, most Francophones in Nova Scotia live in the province’s rural regions.