The Influence of French and English Population on Canadian Identity

The Presence of French and English Population

The presence of French and English population had a decisive effect on the shape of Canadian institutions. The Canadian identity exhibits unique features as it blends diverse cultures to form a multicultural society in which all the people coexist peacefully with one another. When explorers arrived in the New World, they had contact with the First Nations people who had been living there for several years. Their interaction helped to facilitate the exploration of the bare land as the aboriginals helped the victors to adapt to the new land and harsh climate. The French were the first to arrive and they first settled in the St. Lawrence River Valley and Acadia.[1]

Battle for Imperial Dominance

They were followed by the British settlers who settled in Newfoundland. With an ongoing battle for imperial dominance in foreign lands, France and Britain were involved in armed conflict where the French lost New France to a British conquest.

British and French Spheres of Influence

Both the French and British imperialists played an active role in the setting up of their spheres of influence in what would later become Canada. The presence of the two forces ensued the dominance of the British and French culture which would gradually develop from imperialism to create a national identity for the people of Canada. The First Nations were significant in exploring the continent, providing fur to the settlers for protection from the cold, emergence of the Metis, and being caught in the middle of Inter-European war.[2]

Influence of Aboriginals on Canadian Identity

The involvement of the aboriginals can still be witnessed through their influence of Canadian identity through art and culture in the contemporary times.

Foundation of New France

In 1608, the French founded Quebec which was set up as the capital of New France. A few years later they would also set up Montreal and Trois-Rivieres to become major settlement areas. A royal government would then be established by King Lois XIV of France in 1663 to transform New France to a royal province from being a seigniory. The administration was carried out by the Sovereign Council to oversee the implementation of French laws.

British Conquest and the Royal Proclamation

The British conquest saw New France become a part of its large empire leading to the promulgation of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. As a result, the territory repealed the French laws that were in use at that moment as the British constitutional system was instituted.[3]

Significance of the Royal Proclamation

The Royal Proclamation was significant in determining relations with the First Nations as well as administration and ceded laws. All the treaties that were established between the Aboriginal people and the British Crown in Upper Canada were based on the provisions of the Royal Proclamation. Its significance is still felt today as it is cited by First Nations when referring to the treaties.

French and English Population and the Foundations of Federalism

The presence of French and English population was significant in laying the foundations of federalism. Even before the creation of the federation, there were two sets of Canadian population. Most settlers in the conquered New France were not British but French Canadian who had already been used to the application of the French law in their everyday lives even after repealing.[4]

The Quebec Act of 1774

The challenge for the British Crown was the adaption of its institutions in the colony to match common folk practice. Thus, the Quebec Act of 1774 was enacted by the British Parliament to allow for practice of French civic law among the French-Canadians while retaining their socio-political institutions.[5] More significantly, the act addressed freedom of worship as it allowed for practice of catholic faith among the people. The act not only recognized the variation between the two cultures but also ensured the establishment cultural co-existence.

The Influence of English and French Languages

The influence of the English and French populations can also be highlighted in how their two languages enjoy the same status as official languages. These languages form the basis of what is often used to define the Canadian experience. The Official languages Act of 1969 established the Royal Commission on Bilingualism.[6] In its provisions for official bilingualism, services are required to be provided in both French and English languages. The printing of commercial packaging also has to be in both languages. To help achieve bilingualism in Canada, French-language classes were introduced. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation revealed that prime minister Pierre Trudeau was one of the most celebrated figures in the country due to his role in promoting multiculturalism and bilingualism through official policies.

The Influence of French and English Cultures on Canadian Institutions

In conclusion, Canadian institutions usually adhere to the bicultural influences of the French and the English. The relations between the two cultures have shaped a large part of what is today known as the Canadian identity. Their respective languages have been implemented as official languages of the federation with both enjoying equal status. Canada’s source of good governance sprouts from the relationship between the English and French-Canadians and the British legal and parliamentary systems.


Bourhis, Richard Y. New Canadian Perspectives: Decline and Prospects of the English-speakingcommunities of Quebec. Research Report, Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities, Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2012.

Lepage, Jean-François, and Jean-Pierre Corbeil. "The evolution of English–French bilingualism in Canada from 1961 to 2011." Insights on Canadian Society. October 6, 2012. (accessed September 27, 2018).

Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes and Direction des communications. Quebecers, Our Way of being Canadian. Quebec: Gouvernement du Québec, 2017.

[1] Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes and Direction des communications 2017, 5.

[2] Ibid, 6.

[3]  Bourhis 2012, 133.

[4] Lepage and Corbeil 2012, n.p.

[5]  Bourhis 2012, 76

[6] Lepage and Corbeil 2012, n.p.

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