A Québécois or Quebecois (pronounced ), or in the feminine Québécoise (pronounced ), (plural Québécoises) is a native or resident of the Canadian province of Quebec, but usually refers in English to a French-speaking native of the province.

In English, Quebecer or Quebecker (or /kəˈbɛkɚ/) is used to refer to any resident of Quebec, including English-speaking, allophone, or Aboriginal residents of Quebec.

With a lower-case initial, the word is an adjective, and is also used to refer to Quebec French, a variety of the French language spoken by Quebec's population. As an adjective, it can refer to Quebec's francophone culture or population or the culture of the native French speaking population living in Quebec.

In French, Québécois refers to a native or any resident of Quebec. In a cultural context, it can also refer to a French-speaking Quebecer living in Quebec, or, as an adjective, refers to French Canadian culture in Quebec.


The name "Quebec" comes from a Mi'kmaq word meaning "where the waters get narrow" and originally referred to the area around Quebec City, where the Saint Lawrence River narrows to a cliff-lined gap. French explorer Samuel de Champlain chose this name in 1608 for the colonial outpost he would use as the administrative seat for the French colony of Canada and New France. The Province of Quebec was first founded as a British colony in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 after the Treaty of Paris formally transferred the French colony of New France to Britain after the Seven Years' War. Quebec City remained the capital. The term Québécois has since been used in French as a way of referring to people and things originating both from Quebec City and from the province.

Québécois identity

The term became more common in English as Québécois largely replaced French Canadian as an expression of cultural and national identity among French Canadians living in Quebec during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. The predominant French Canadian nationalism and identity of previous generations was based on the protection of the French language, the Roman Catholic Church, and Church-run institutions across Canada and in parts of the United States. In contrast, the modern Québécois identity is secular and based on a social democratic ideal of an active Quebec government promoting the French language and French-speaking culture in the arts, education, and business within the Province of Quebec. Politically, this resulted in a push towards more autonomy for Quebec and an internal debate on Quebec independence and identity that continues to this day. The emphasis on the French language and Quebec autonomy means that French-speakers across Canada now self-identify more specifically with provincial or regional identity-tags, such as acadienne, or franco-canadienne, franco-manitobaine, franco-ontarienne or fransaskoise. As a result, francophone and anglophones now borrow the French terms when discussing issues of francophone linguistic and cultural identity in English, though outside of Quebec terms such as franco-ontarian, acadian and franco-manitoban are still predominant.

Québécois nation

The political shift towards a new Quebec nationalism in the 1960s led to Québécois increasingly referring to provincial institutions as being "national". This was reflected in the change of the provincial Legislative Assembly to National Assembly in 1968. Nationalism reached an apex the 1970s and 1990s, with contentious constitutional debates resulting in close to half of all Québécois and a clear majority of French-speaking Québécois seeking recognition of nation status through tight referendums on Quebec sovereignty in 1980 and 1995. Having lost both referendums, the sovereignist Parti Québécois government renewed the push for recognition as a nation through symbolic motions that gained the support of all parties in the National Assembly. They affirmed the right to determine the independent status of Quebec. They also renamed the area around Quebec City the Capitale-Nationale (national capital) region and renamed provincial parks Parcs Nationaux (national parks). In opposition in October 2003, the Parti Québécois tabled a motion that was unanimously adopted in the National Assembly affirming that the Quebec people formed a nation. Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe scheduled a similar motion in the House of Commons for November 23, 2006, that would have recognized "Quebecers as a nation". Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabled the Québécois nation motion the day before the Bloc Québécois resolution came to a vote. The English version changed the word Quebecer to Québécois and added "within a united Canada" at the end of the Bloc motion.

The "Québécois nation" was recognized by the Canadian House of Commons on November 27, 2006. The Prime Minister specified that the motion used the "cultural" and "sociological" as opposed to the "legal" sense of the word "nation". According to Harper, the motion was of a symbolic political nature, representing no constitutional change, no recognition of Quebec sovereignty, and no legal change in its political relations within the federation. The Prime Minister has further elaborated, stating that the motion's definition of Québécois relies on personal decisions to self-identify as Québécois, and therefore is a personal choice.

Despite near-universal support in the House of Commons, several important dissenters criticized the motion. Intergovernmental Affairs minister Michael Chong resigned from his position and abstained from voting, arguing that this motion was too ambiguous and had the potential of recognizing a destructive ethnic nationalism in Canada. Liberals were the most divided on the issue and represented 15 of the 16 votes against the motion. Liberal MP Ken Dryden summarized the view of many of these dissenters, maintaining that it was a game of semantics that cheapened issues of national identity. A survey by Leger Marketing in November 2006 showed that Canadians were deeply divided on this issue. When asked if Québécois are a nation, only 48 per cent of Canadians agreed, 47 per cent disagreed, with 33 per cent strongly disagreeing; 78 per cent of French-speaking Canadians agreed that Québécois are a nation, next to 38 per cent of English-speakers. As well, 78 per cent of 1,000 Québécois polled thought that Québécois should be recognized as a nation. Among French native-speaking Québécois the support was at 96%.

Québécois in census and ethnographic studies

The Québécois are identified as an ethnic group in both the English and French versions of the Canadian census and in demographic studies of ethnicity in Canada. In the 2001 Census of Canada, 98,670 Canadians, or just over 1% of the population of Quebec identified "Québécois" as their ethnicity, ranking "Québécois" as the 37th most common response. These results were based on a question on residents in each household in Canada: "To which ethnic or cultural group(s) did this person's ancestors belong?", along with a list of sample choices ("Québécois" did not appear among the various sample choices).

In the more detailed Ethnic Diversity Survey, Québécois was the most common ethnic identity in Quebec, reported by 37% of Quebec's population aged 15 years and older, either as their only identity or alongside other identities. The survey, based on interviews, asked the following questions: "1) I would now like to ask you about your ethnic ancestry, heritage or background. What were the ethnic or cultural origins of your ancestors? 2) In addition to "Canadian", what were the other ethnic or cultural origins of your ancestors on first coming to North America?" This survey did not list possible choices of ancestry and permitted multiple answers.

In census ethnic surveys, French-speaking Canadians identify their ethnicity most often as French, Canadien, Québécois, or French Canadian, with the latter three referred to by Jantzen (2005) as "French New World" ancestries because they originate in Canada. Jantzen (2005) distinguishes the English Canadian, meaning "someone whose family has been in Canada for multiple generations", and the French Canadien, used to refer to descendants of the original settlers of New France in the 17th and 18th centuries. Among Quebec's population aged 15 years and older, 68.7% of the whole population identified ethnically as Canadien and 37% as Québécois.

Those reporting "French New World" ancestries overwhelmingly had ancestors that went back at least 4 generations in Canada: specifically, 90% of Québécois traced their ancestry back this far. Fourth generation Canadiens and Québécois showed considerable attachment to their ethno-cultural group, with 70% and 61% respectively reporting a strong sense of belonging.

The generational profile and strength of identity of French New World ancestries contrast with those of British or Canadian ancestries, which represent the largest ethnic identities in Canada. Although deeply rooted Canadians express a deep attachment to their ethnic identity, most English-speaking Canadians of British ancestry generally cannot trace their ancestry as far back in Canada as French-speakers. As a result, their identification with their ethnicity is weaker tending to have a more broad based cultural identification: for example, only 50% of third generation "Canadians" strongly identify as such, bringing down the overall average. The survey report notes that 80% of Canadians whose families had been in Canada for three or more generations reported "Canadian and provincial or regional ethnic identities". These identities include "Québécois" (37% of Quebec population), "Acadian" (6% of Atlantic provinces) and "Newfoundlander" (38% of Newfoundland and Labrador).

English Usage

English expressions employing the term usually implies specific reference to francophones.

  • Québécois people
  • Québécois society
  • Québécois literature
  • Québécois cinema

In each case above, Québécois could be replaced with Quebec, with a very tangible difference in meaning in "Quebec society" and "Quebec people". In "Quebec cinema," and "Quebec literature," implicit reference to works in the French language may subsist, perhaps because francophones are in the majority in Quebec, or because works in English are more likely to be viewed as part of an English Canadian whole.

French usage

Most French usage employs references to people and things of Quebec origin.

  • Les Québécois et Québécoises (masculine and feminine genders) to include women when referring to Quebecers as a whole.
  • Le québécois (e.g., Je parle québécois/I speak québécois).
  • Québécois de Québec: from Quebec City.
  • Québécois du Québec: from province of Quebec.

Possible use as an ethnic designation in French


The dictionary Le Petit Robert, published in France, states that the adjective québécois, in addition to its territorial meaning, may refer specifically to francophone or French Canadian culture in Quebec. The dictionary gives as examples cinéma québécois and littérature québécoise.

However, an ethnic or linguistic sense is absent from Le Petit Larousse, also published in France, as well as from French dictionaries published in Canada such as Le Dictionnaire québécois d'aujourd'hui and Le Dictionnaire du français Plus, which indicate instead Québécois francophone "francophone Quebecer" in the linguistic sense. These dictionaries also include phrases like cinéma québécois "Quebec cinema", but do not classify them as relating to language or ethnicity.

The online dictionary Grand dictionnaire terminologique of the Office québécois de la langue française mentions only a territorial meaning for Québécois.

Other documentation

Newspaper editor Lysiane Gagnon has referred to an ethnic sense of the word Québécois in both English and French.

Special terms using 'Québécois'

French expressions employing "Québécois" often appear in both French and English.

  • Parti Québécois: Provincial-level political party that supports Quebec independence from Canada
  • Bloc Québécois: Federal-level political party that supports Quebec independence from Canada
  • Québécois de souche ("old-stock Quebecker"): Quebecer that can trace his or her ancestry back to the regime of New France
  • Québécois pure laine: "true blue" or "dyed-in-the-wool" Quebecker
  • Québécois francophone: "francophone Quebecer"
  • Québécois anglophone: "anglophone Quebecer"
  • néo-Québécois ("new Quebecers"): immigrant Quebecers
  • Le Québec aux Québécois ("Quebec for Québécois", or "Quebec for Quebecers"): slogan sometimes chanted at Quebec nationalist rallies or protests. This slogan can be controversial, as it might be interpreted both as a call for a Quebec controlled by Québécois pure laine, with possible xenophobic connotations, or as a call for a Quebec controlled by the inhabitants of the province of Quebec, and free from outside interference.

See also


Further reading

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