Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[BRIEF NOTE] The Franco-Floridians

Past generations of Canadian Francophone migrants settled in areas bordering Québec, particularly in Ontario and the New England states. The modern generation of Francophones (and, it should be noted, the rest of the Canadian population) seems to be in quiet agreement with John Ralston Saul's suggestion in The Doubter's Companion that Florida is, among other things, a warm place where Canadians go to die. This trend dates back decades, as noted by Jon Nordheimer's 8 April 1987 article "Canadians Who Find a Winter Haven in Florida Bring Separatism Along" about the community of Hollywood.

Only now, at the end of the winter season, the English-and French-speaking Canadian residents of Florida are finally getting together. Their numbers are small, and language still separates them, but they gather in places like the Penalty Box Lounge in Fort Lauderdale or in the larger motels along the Sunny Isles oceanfront strip north of Miami to watch hockey games on television from Canada.

''Except for hockey at playoff time there is little contact made,'' said John Harmon, who writes under the name Jean Laurac in the French-Canadian newspaper Le Soleil de la Floride. ''Like in Canada, we live apart.''

It is a separatism of little rancor and less controversy at beaches and mobile home parks. Canadians have streamed into Florida for three decades, seeking relief from long winters and a higher cost of living back home.

A million or more Canadians can be found in Florida in the peak winter season, leaving 24 million or so compatriots behind to deal with the ice and snow. If you ask Canadians here, they will tell you without embarrassment that these figures would be reversed if those staying at home could afford to get down here every year.

[. . .]

Elderly men and women who speak few words of English play petanque, a lawn bowling game played with steel balls instead of wooden ones, at mobile home communities like Dale Village. Later, they may eat out in low-priced restaurants like Kerry's Fine Food where they can eat Quebec dishes like a mixture of ham, eggs, beans and sugar. In the evening, if they have access to satellite television from Montreal, they may watch weekly French language soap operas like ''Poivre et Sel,'' or ''Pepper and Salt,'' a comedy about elderly Quebecers like themselves.

Up the highway in Lake Worth, Evelyn Barron, an English-speaking retiree from Ontario, is indistinguishable from her American contemporaries in her winter activities, except for her twice-monthly luncheons at the Canadian Club of the Palm Beaches, where she joins others in singing ''O Canada.'' Later, at tea time, she savors butter tarts and a hot cup of brewed tea, which she says is unobtainable at most Florida restaurants.

[. . .]

''For people who don't speak English, there is cultural isolation in Florida,'' said Louise Rioux. From November to May, with her husband, Gerald Edwards, she broadcasts a daily 60-minute radio show in French of Canadian news, sports, interviews and entertainment from their south Florida home. This year they added 10 extra minutes of news in English.

''The French hang onto the program,'' said Mr. Edwards. ''It is their only means of getting news in Florida unless they receive a Quebec newspaper in the mail or have a television satellite dish.''
Tags: canada, florida, francophonie, migration, quebec, tourism
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