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This article is the result of an exploration of the Museum’s oral history collection to answer the question: why do some French-speaking people decide to settle in a majority English-speaking area? The reasons can be complex, but language is one major “pull” factor. Video clips from interviews with Ben Maréga, Saïda Ouchaou-Ozarowski, and Quitterie Hervouet help us understand how language influenced their decisions to live in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Toronto.

In February 1998, widespread ethnic tensions led to an outbreak of armed conflict between the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Some 350,000 Kosovars fled to neighbouring countries in search of safe haven. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appealed to the international community to provide these refugees with temporary protection until they could return home. In 1999, over 7,000 Kosovar refugees arrived in Canada.

In September 1973, Chile’s military staged a coup d’état leading to the removal of Salvador Allende, the country’s first socialist to be democratically elected as president. The military regime’s subsequent campaign of repression forced some 200,000 Chileans to seek safe haven elsewhere. Heightened public awareness and lobbying pressured the Canadian federal government to loosen existing exclusionary immigration criteria. This permitted nearly 7,000 refugees from Chile to enter Canada.