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The French Canadian Diaspora in the Great Lakes Region

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Between 1860 and 1960, a stunning 20% of Québec’s total French-speaking population of five million people left the province, many in well-documented waves of economic migration to Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Others chose to go west instead and settled in Western Canadian provinces or the American Midwest (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota). As such, French Canadian immigrants form a major diasporic group shaping the history, the economy, the toponymy, and the overall immigrant culture of the Midwest. Examples from the French Canadian diaspora in the Saginaw Valley and Upper Peninsula of Michigan and in Northern Wisconsin will be used to illustrate this history.

François Paré is Chair of French Studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. He is the author of many books about French Canadian literature, and in 1993 he won the Governor General’s Award, Canada’s most prestigious prize for intellectual or artistic achievement.

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