Since When do we Speak French in Nunavut?

Traveling across the country, I’ve heard people speak French almost everywhere, whether in the Maritimes, the Prairies, out West and of course in Quebec and Ontario. After speaking with certain Rendez-vous de la Francophonie coordinators responsible for the northern territories, I've come to realise that French has managed to make its way through the Canadian northern ice. Behold, I came across an interesting article published by the Language Portal of Canada about Nunavut’s French origins which were completely unknown to me.

I invite you to read the article and discover the Nordic origins of the French language in this part of the country. For my part, I present here, however humbly, a summary of my readings and my brief research on the francophone Nunavut.

As is the case throughout the country, it’s the fur trade that brought the first Francophones to set foot on Nunavut soil during the 17th century. However, according to the article published by the Language Portal of Canada, the French fact in this northern territory only really blossomed in the 19th century, during the era of northern explorations. Racine, Bernier, Caron, Lavoie and Tremblay are all Francophone pioneers who embraced the Nunavummiut culture and community. (Friendly suggestion: check out the article about the meanings of the Inuit nicknames given to these French explorers.)

Our Land

In Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit, Nunavut means "our land". This area of more than 2 million km2 is inhabited by 33,330 people, mostly of Inuit descent (85%). That means only 1.3 inhabitants per 100 km2! Just to give you an idea of comparison, in Canada, population density statistics are 29 people per 100 km2. The coasts of Nunavut represent 67% of the coastal access across the country.

Another interesting fact: the territory's future seems promising as the government statistics estimate that more than half the Nunavummiut population is under the age of 25.

To discover all of Nunavut’s riches, visit the French version of the Nunavummiut’s government website. You will find additional information about the territory, population and economy of this vast northern land worthy of being rediscovered.

Philippe Daoust