Francophones Have Left an Enormous Imprint on Sudbury – Claire Pilon

Claire Pilon is a Sudbury-based journalist, researcher and translator.  She has given Republic of permission to post her column on Sudbury’s francophone history. She can be reached at: or visit her website: This column was originally published in the Sudbury Star.

In order to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the City of Sudbury, this column will demonstrate how francophones have left and still play an important role in the creation and development of our city.

It will demonstrate how francophones helped shape the city, whether it be in the religious, educational, health, economical or social sectors.

In the following columns readers will be made aware of the many contributions of francophones to making this city what it is today, 125 years after its beginnings.

It was 125 years ago when the first settlers, a great number of them French-speaking arrived in our fait city.

Sudbury was a lumbering town before it became a mining one. It has developed over the years and has seen many changes, some for the best.

Francophones have played a large part in the development of the city since its beginning. Francophones first arrived in the city in 1883 from Quebec and have been here since.

The first census for the city was taken in 1901 because the city was only incorporated in 1892. The census indicated that one third of the population was composed of francophones and it was the second biggest linguistic group in the city. At that time, there were were many other cultural groups in Sudbury, many of them only spoke English.

Francophones have played an important part in shaping Sudbury into what it is today.

Let us remember the first mayor of our city was Étienne Fournier and that many francophones politicians were elected mayor or councillors and have played an important role in the management of Sudbury.

Francophones were very active taking their lives in their own hands and making things work for them. They were involved in establishing a great number of institutions developed to serve settlers in their own language. They were the founders of the first Roman Catholic church, Ste-Anne-des-Pins.

Once the francophone population grew, so did the number of churches.

Francophones were also instruments in founding the first school of the city in the basement of Ste-Anne-des-Pins. Many elementary and secondary catholic schools and then public schools followed.

Because of the historic dedication of the francophone population, Sudbury has established a bilingual university as well as a French college.

There were also a great number of francophone businesses, many of them were opened in the Flour Mill area that had the largest concentration of French speaking people.

Francophones also wanted to become financially independent and heavily supported the foundation of the caisse populaire, a financial institution based on the co-operative movement.

They have also played an important part in the health field, especially with the arrival of the Grey Nuns of the Cross, who took over the management of Hopital St-Joseph and the many francophone doctors who have left their mark. Let us not forget the establishment of the only francophone community health center.

There have also been and still are many francophone non-profit organizations and businesses who have helped flourish the city’s economic base.