Despite being taken over by the British in 1763, Québec City’s Francophone culture perseveres.
It is the only
North American city to still have fortress
walls, originally built by the
French in the 17th Century; much of the art and architecture around Québec
City is in the Nouvelle France style; Québec City residents – 95% of whom have French heritage –
speak French as their first language; and many of the menus outside of touristy
Vieux-Québec (Old Québec) are printed only in French.
wandering around the capital of Québec province, visitors may forget that they’re
in North America. It is Québec’s strong French accent that makes it très unique.
How did Québec become so French?
was an Iroquoian village when French explorer Samuel Champlain established it
as the first settlement of New France in 1608. After several battles, the
Treaty of Paris gave Britain control in 1763 of the New France colony that
would become Canada. By 1774, Britain was already having
problems with its colonies in New England (now the United States) so to avoid
revolt farther north, the government created the Québec Act,
which allowed the region to reinstate French civil law (though criminal law was
still British) and to accept Catholicism as an official religion. Since legal
and religious institutions were so central to society, French continued to be
How French is Québec today?
long debated whether their province should separate from the rest of Canada and
become its own sovereign nation in order to keep its French identity firmly
intact. Sovereignty referenda were voted down in 1980 and 1995, but the issue continues
to divide residents to this day.
support of sovereignty wish to form a fully self-determined and autonomous Québec.
They want to preserve their culture and fend off encroachment of English, Canada’s
Those against sovereignty
argue that both Québec and Canada will lose out if Québec secedes. The province
would no longer be part of the 10th largest economy in the world and Canada’s
economy would also reduce in size, losing, for example, Québec’s aerospace
industry and export commodities.
Keeping English-speaking Canada united would also be difficult since Québec’s
geographically cut off the far eastern provinces of Newfoundland, Prince
Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Some leaders of Québec’s
Aboriginal nations say it would be a human rights
violation to force their nations to become part of Québec rather
While the issue
is long from being decided, the ongoing underlying tension contributes to Québec’s
distinctness, setting it apart from the rest of North America and making it a
fascinating place for travellers to visit.