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Jantzen (2006) 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.

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During the mid-18th century, French Canadian explorers and colonists colonized other parts of North America in what are today Louisiana (called Louisianais), Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, far northern New York and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as well as around Detroit.

They also founded such cities as New Orleans and St. French Canadians later emigrated in large numbers from Canada to the United States between the 1840s and the 1930s in search of economic opportunities in border communities and industrialized portions of New England.

French Canadians (including those who are no longer French-speaking) constitute the second largest ethnic group in Canada, behind the English Canadians, and ahead of Scottish Canadians and Irish Canadians, although there is a divide between those identifying as French Canadians and those simply identifying as French.

In total, those whose ethnic origins are French Canadian, French, Québécois and Acadian number up to 11.9 million people or comprising 33.78% of the Canadian population.

found that French-speaking Canadians identified their ethnicity most often as French, French Canadians, Québécois, and Acadian.

The latter three were grouped together by Jantzen (2006) as "French New World" ancestries because they originate in Canada.The original use of the term Canada referred to the land area along the St.Lawrence River, divided in three districts (Québec, Trois-Rivières, and Montréal), as well as to the Pays d'en Haut (Upper Countries), a vast and thinly settled territorial dependence north and west of Montreal which covered the whole of the Great Lakes area.Confederation united several former British colonies into the Dominion of Canada, and from that time forward, the word "Canadian" has been used to describe both English-speaking and French-speaking citizens, wherever they live in the country.Those reporting "French New World" ancestries overwhelmingly had ancestors that went back at least four generations in Canada.Acadians residing in the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia represent a distinct francophone culture.

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