First Census taken

English: Jean Talon
Jean Talon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


One of the best moves France made in the development of Canada was to appoint Intendants to help the governors.  They were really business managers and some of them were excellent.  The best was Jean Talon; the worst was François Bigot.

The first Intendant was appointed on March 21, 1663.  He was Louis Robert, but he did not come to Canada at all!! Talon’s first term as Intendant began in 1665. He took the first census of Canada, also on March 21 the following year.

Jean Talon conducted the census largely by himself, travelling door-to-door among the settlements of New France. He did not include Native American inhabitants of the colony, or the religious orders such as the Jesuits.

The tabulation showed 3,215 people.  English colonies to the south were growing far more quickly.  The English (as they were until the Act of Union with Scotland made them British) brought their families to Virginia and New England. Most of the French who came to Canada never had any intention of staying, and did not bring their families; they were great explorers and fur traders, but they wanted to return to their own homeland.

The English colonists who went to what is now the United States did so to escape restrictions at home.  They set up their own governments and controlled their own affairs.  When London tried to interfere they often disregarded its instructions.

On the other hand, Canada was ruled by the King of France.  He appointed the governors and high officials and told them what to do.  He even drew on his own funds to pay for the development of Canada.  When the king lost interest, or money was tight owing to war, the development of Canada suffered.  Eventually, when France lost Canada to Britain, Voltaire shrugged it off by saying: “The King must amuse himself and Canada was one of his playthings.”

Even so, the 3,000 French who were in Canada in 1666 began to have good times.  There were hardships and great danger from the Indians, but they evolved a way of life that made them better off than their counterparts in France.

To get a more detailed breakdown of the census, you can get that at Wikipedia; to get an overview of the history of census and the 2011 report, you can catch it at Statistics Canada.


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