Eugenie Le Sommer scored in the 34th minute on a beautiful give-and-go with Camille Abily.
The ball was passed to Le Sommer, who played it back to Abily and then left her defender and turned for goal. Abily found her with a pass and the Olympique Lyonnais striker beat goalkeeper Erin McLeod with a powerful left-footed shot from close range.
France, which will host the 2019 Women's World Cup, is ranked third in the world compared to No. 8 for Canada.
It was Canada' second straight loss, following a 1-0 setback at the hands of No. 6 England in the final of the Cyprus Cup. The Canadian women won their first five games of the year.
Canadian coach John Herdman was philosophical in defeat.
"I thought it was a good performance from Canada," he said. "The French have another gear from what we've been playing this year. We've been playing predominantly Tier 2 teams and France was our first Tier 1 test of 2015.
"I think they showed their athleticism, their pace and their strength. It was a bit of a shock to the system of our players in the first 20 minutes."
Herdman called the goal "sloppy."
The coach said France may have had the edge in the first half but Canada, bolstered by the introduction of attackers Josee Belanger, Kaylyn Kyle, Melissa Tancredi and Jonelle Filigno, was the superior team in the second.
"Second half was a strong performance from Canada," Herdman said. "The statistics were very even and certainly in the last 15 minutes Canada pushed the French right to the end with some good opportunities to equalize."
The game did raise a key question.
"One of the big things with Canada when we come up against Tier 1 teams is where are the goals coming from. And we're still asking that question," said Herdman.
Canadian defender Lauren Sesselmann, returning after a 13-month absence due to knee surgery, played the first half for Canada at left centre back against a dangerous French attack.
"Lauren did very well ... she gave us what we hoped she would — that left-sided balance," said Herdman.
Jessie Fleming, a 17-year-old midfielder, also played the first 45 minutes.
The game at the Stade Robert-Bodin was played before 11,441.
The two teams have history.
Diana Matheson's 92nd-minute goal knocked the French off the Olympic podium in 2012, earning Canada the bronze. And the French thumped the Canadians 4-0 at the 2011 World Cup to eliminate them from contention.
Canada has one more friendly before kicking off the World Cup on June 6 in Edmonton against China. The Canadians host England in Hamilton on May 29.
Next up for Canada is a closed-door training match with the U.S.
Herdman will name his World Cup roster on April 27 in Vancouver.