Analysis and Application of a Typology of Francophone Minority Communities (FMCs)

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Executive summary

The purpose of this research is to identify the criteria most relevant to CIC's mandate and objectives in relation to Francophone immigration and the vitality of Francophone minority communities (FMCs). To that end, we conducted an in-depth examination of six communities, their perception of immigration issues, their ability to integrate newcomers, and to include ethnic and cultural diversity in their thinking about identity. Our work was done in three stages:

  1. We developed a portrait of the Francophone minority communities in Canada and a matrix for analysis of those communities, adapted to reflect Francophone immigration and cultural diversity issues.
  2. Then we used this unique matrix to present a contrasted portrait of six Francophone minority communities: Moncton, Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Whitehorse.
  3. Finally, using a comparative approach to vitality that takes into account both the contexts in which the various FMCs are developing and the different categories of Francophone immigrants likely to settle in those communities, we developed a typology of the communities.

Taking into account three categories of criteria (the importance of the sociopolitical context; the size of the language group in the society in which it is present; and institutional completeness and organization), and, in particular, cultural diversity and how newcomers are welcomed, an FMC typology can be proposed:

  Large Community Small Community
Major centres Cosmopolitan metropolis  
Large society National capital Large Anglophone centre
Medium-sized society Bilingual urban centre Regional centre
Small society Large semi-urban community Small semi-urban community

Large or small community

  1. Cosmopolitan metropolis: very large society

    The cosmopolitan metropolis is characteristic (proportionately) of a small language community highly integrated into a very large society within which there is strong linguistic and cultural diversity (cosmopolitan) largely dominated by English, which very clearly and exclusively serves as the lingua franca. Moreover, this cultural diversity is the result not only of immigration, but also of the long-standing presence of large and visible cultural groups (Greek, Italian, Jewish, Chinese), as well as the presence of expatriates, temporary immigrants or international students. The economy is strongly anchored in international networks (presence of multinationals and widely globalized economic sectors). In a context such as this, the Francophone community has very little visibility, although it can sometimes, when the numbers justify it, develop a more or less mature form of institutional completeness in the most strategic sectors. Also, the Francophone community is marked by a very high level of cultural diversity, as in the world's big cities, as well as by a migration flow larger than elsewhere. In fact, the Francophonie can be divided into a number of distinct groups or forms of representation: local, Canadian and international, and distinct national anchors (French, Swiss, Tunisian). This is a paradoxical situation for Francophone immigration: on the one hand, it makes the society in question very attractive to the newcomer (strong potential for employment, integration, offer of services, advancement); on the other hand, it means that the prospective immigrants must either be proficient in English or lose socioprofessional status. The ideal-typical cosmopolitan metropolis is Vancouver. Toronto may be included.

Small communities

  1. Major Anglophone centre: large society, small community

    In a major Anglophone centre, English is as present as it is in a cosmopolitan metropolis and also is the only lingua franca. That said, the nature of the major centre is more national or regional than international. There is linguistic and cultural diversity, but to a lesser extent and of a different nature than in the cosmopolitan metropolises. The economic fabric depends on dynamics that are more local, although a number of sectors may also be part of dynamics that are more international. In a context such as this, the small Francophone community also has very little visibility, in spite of a form of institutional completeness that may be strong, including in the key area of education, as well as in the area of economic development, depending on the number of Francophones present. It is also a Francophonie that is more national or local, that generally has less cultural diversity than the cosmopolitan metropolises, and that has stronger and older identity markers more anchored in local history (particularly in Atlantic Canada). This is reflected in, among other things, the distribution of the French-speaking population or in place names and the presence of visible community places of memory. These major centres, owing to their economic vitality, attract immigrants—to a lesser extent, certainly— and the same challenges may arise for Francophone immigrants with regard to proficiency in English. These Francophone immigrants are also sometimes faced with a Francophone community that may be more visible, but that is also more culturally homogeneous. Winnipeg and Halifax are ideal-typical of the major Anglophone centre. Edmonton and Calgary may also be included.

  2. Regional centre: medium-sized society, small community

    Unlike the major Anglophone centre, this kind of centre is more regional and/or provincial in nature. Sometimes a major administrative or economic centre, it is characterized by a medium-sized population and the presence of a small Francophone community. Often far from the major centres, this kind of centre has weaker cultural diversity. In these contexts, the Francophone community has more difficulty offering some services in French and being visible. St. John, Fredericton or Saint John's could be considered to fall into this category. In this context, welcoming Francophone immigrants is both a necessity and a challenge, including with regard to proficiency in English.

  3. Small semi-urban community

    This is a category in which there is great contrast. In this context, the Francophone community is often far from the major centres. Although it is small, it sometimes has good visibility, owing to, among other things, the vitality of its community life and its ability to provide a form of institutional completeness. The presence of diversity can be highly variable, depending on the economic vitality of the region and its attractiveness. The challenges encountered by the community are often also those encountered by the society in which the community is developing. Whitehorse is ideal-typical of this type of community. Iqaluit, Yellowknife and Sydney could also be included.

Large communities

  1. National Capital

    Only the Ottawa-Gatineau region has the large society and large community configuration. Owing to this region's geographic location, especially its proximity to Quebec, and its national capital status, the Francophone community in it has better visibility than it does elsewhere, as well as a special vitality because of the vitality of the nearby Quebec Francophonie. Moreover, many Franco-Ontarian organizations are in Ottawa. A leading administrative centre, the region is also characterized by a diverse economic fabric that makes it attractive to immigrants, especially Francophone immigrants, many of whom settle there.

  2. Bilingual urban centre

    Here too, only one community, Moncton, has this configuration. The region has good economic vitality, with one of the highest socio-demographic growth rates in the country. Its increasingly diverse economy is making it more and more attractive to immigrants, though its immigration rate is still fairly low. The Francophone community has better visibility than elsewhere in Canada, owing not only to the presence of the city of Dieppe, a large majority of the population of which is Francophone, but also to the presence of a high proportion of Francophones in Moncton itself. Also, the Francophone community enjoys very strong institutional completeness in all strategic areas, including reception of Francophone immigrants.

  3. Large semi-urban community (small society, large community)

    These communities are far from the major centres, but are in regions where there is a strong (or even majority) and long-standing Francophone presence. Because they are often peripheral, these regions encounter difficulties with regard to their economic vitality. The sociodemographic reality is often reflected in strong migration of workers to urban centres where employment prospects seem brighter. However, the Francophone community is often very well organized and more autonomous, with a higher level of institutional completeness, despite a downward trend in service availability, including in the health or economic development sectors. In this context, not only recruitment, but also reception and, especially, retention of Francophone immigrants is of strategic importance, despite the local challenges (scarcity of means, infrastructures that are difficult to sustain, job market that is quite unfavourable). In these contexts, cultural diversity is often weak, even though the reception of immigrants is often warmer and more direct. Edmundston, Peninsula-Bathurst and Sudbury could be included in this category.


  1. We believe that CIC must seek to take into account both the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of the communities and the diversity of the immigrant clienteles. The Francophone immigration issue is a fairly recent one for Francophone communities, and analysis of a number of these minority communities clearly shows the specific and unique characteristics of each (in terms of both assets and challenges). Also, the settlement of Francophone immigrants can have an impact that is positive or negative, major or secondary, and determinative or incidental (quantitative). It is also important to analyse in greater depth the impact of immigration in the FMCs, including through an exhaustive inventory of the immigrants' economic and social participation in the FMCs. To that end, it is necessary to take into account the various categories of migrants settling and the flexibility that the institutions (federal, provincial and territorial) and the community organizations give themselves in the recruitment, reception, settlement and retention of immigrants. Finally, one must also be able to better assess the economic strength of the various places (think here of the international comparisons in the United States and Europe) (Norman, 2013).
  2. The dynamics of Francophone immigration in the FMCs depends on support for and strengthening of the collaborative governance structures, such as the LIPs and the Francophone immigration networks. CIC could emphasize points of contact between Francophone immigrants and Francophone communities, especially with regard to economic immigration and the role of employers. Also, the communities must develop relations with Francophone countries, in partnership with legitimate stakeholders, such as post-secondary institutions.
  3. Francophone immigration has been enhanced over the years through community involvement and the establishment of Francophone networks around provincial advocacy organizations. It is important here to understand clearly that the immigration network operates not from one locality, but from a larger area. Its activities are spread over a province or territory. It would be of interest when thinking about communities to apply the concept of the economic or cultural cluster (Chiasson and Allain, 2012), i.e. to take into account the overall environment of which these communities are a part, as well as the social, cultural and economic links that characterize them. The idea is to think in terms of configuration, of singular situations, rather than in mere quantitative terms. In its response to the communities, CIC must emphasize a partnership approach in which the FMC organizations, CIC offices and Francophone immigration experts qualitatively define the needs, constraints and opportunities on the basis of the parameters specific to each community and the needs specific to each type of immigrant population / class of immigrants.
  4. Development of the FMCs' institutional capacity in relation to immigration must also reflect a national vision for immigration. Since 2008, Canada has been developing immigration policies that are more economic in nature, and these must involve the FMCs. Consequently, the FMCs must not work in silos in immigration matters. They must be part of a broader effort, including in terms of the relationship with the majority community. It is a matter of decompartmentalizing immigration, which remains a major identity issue in some communities long used to the discourse related to defending gains.
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