Migrants of French Canadian and French Origin in British Columbia, 1871–1931

Françoise Le Jeune (Université de Nantes)

In the absence of studies on British Columbia’s Francophone population before the 1960s, demographic data can provide insight into the establishment of Francophone communities and interactions between cultural groups in a largely English-speaking context. I am undertaking the first systematic study of Francophone migration to British Columbia between 1871 and 1931.

This period of study aligns with important waves of migration to the province. In fact, the year 1871 marked three significant events: British Columbia’s entry into Confederation, the first census of the province’s population, and the start of a period of mass transatlantic migration that would benefit British Columbia and Canada alike. At the other end of the period of study, the 1931 census was conducted amid the beginnings of an economic crisis affecting Europe and North America, one that would give rise to a new wave of migration involving Europeans but especially Canadians.

The study’s originality also lies in its potential to shed light on the emergence (or non-emergence) of French-speaking communities while considering the national origin of Francophone migrants. If such communities existed between 1871 and 1931, were they the result of spontaneous encounters between migrants? Or did the migrants involved pursued strategies of integration and cultural survival based on national origin? If Francophone communities were established in British Columbia in the late nineteenth century, what remained of them in 1931? With these questions in mind, I am filling  a historiographical gap concerning migration in British Columbia by focusing on Francophone migrants to the province.