- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

PARIS More than 400 years after French prospectors first settled the North American region, Quebec again is turning to its former colonizer to boost its sagging population rate and shore up its French identity and heritage.
A government promotion campaign in parts of Europe and Africa aims to lure Francophones to Quebec with offers of employment assistance and education programs to prospective immigrants.
The flow of immigrants to Canada as a whole has not slowed, Canadian sources say.
But arrivals more often opt to settle in the English-speaking areas because of the Quebec government's requirement of sending children to French schools and conducting business in the French language.
In fact, the main target of the province's campaign is France, where immigration officials hope to nearly double to 6,000 the number of French immigrating to Quebec this year.
"It's important for us not to lose our language," said Manon Boucher, head of Quebec's immigration program in France. "So speaking French is an important item in the selection of people who are coming to Quebec.
"English-speaking people can come, and other languages can come," Mr. Boucher added in an interview. "But France is the most important country with French-speaking people, so it's normal for us to do our promotion here."
The Canadian province has set an overall immigration target of 39,000 to 43,000 new settlers for 2003. The ideal applicant, Mr. Boucher and Quebec immigrant officials say, is between 20 and 35 years old. The province is particularly hunting for specialty skills, including biotechnology and aeronautics.
"We also lack good butchers," Quebec's Immigration Minister Joseph Facal told a French radio station during a recent interview. "What would life be without a good butcher?"
French influence in Quebec once extended far beyond culinary matters.
Explorer Samuel de Champlain visited what was then New France regularly in the 17th century and encouraged Frenchmen to settle there. Franciscan priests arrived to spread Roman Catholicism.
When the Britain conquered Quebec in 1759, French settlers were allowed to remain, forming a French enclave in what became first a British colony, then a dominion and eventually an independent country within the British Commonwealth.
Separatist sentiment has ebbed and flowed over the years. A conservative swing among Quebec voters appears to have put talk of independence on hold.
The cultural ties between France and French Canadians are strong but have tended to be a one-way street. Quebecois writers and artists have set up shop in Paris. Singers like Isabelle Boulay and Celine Dion tour France regularly.
Quebec hosts information sessions overseas about immigrating to the province, mostly concentrated in Paris and other large French cities.
There appears to be no lack of interest. The twice-weekly sessions in Paris, for example, are booked solid for the next month.

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