La Francophonie in Ontario
Northeastern Ontario is home to many vibrant French-speaking communities, some dating back 400 years. From Sudbury to Hearst, Franco-Ontario is alive and kicking – with a language and culture unique to the region.
Ontario is home to Canada’s largest Francophone community outside of Quebec, and currently 21% of all Franco-Ontarians live in Northeastern Ontario, many along the Trans-Canada Highway 11 corridor northwest of Sudbury.
The deep-rooted Franco-Ontarian communities of Hearst, Kapuskasing, Timmins and Cochrane, Sudbury, and Iroquois Falls, Smooth Rock Falls, Moonbeam, Val Rita and other towns promote their identity and rich cultural history through festivals, museums, universities and schools, and cultural and community centres.
Francophone history in the Northeast
In the 19th century, many Francophones traveled up the Ottawa River from Quebec to find jobs in forestry and agriculture around Mattawa. In the early 20th century the expansion of the railroad brought a population boom to the string of towns along the Trans-Canada Highway northwest from Sudbury.
From Sudbury to Hearst, you’ll discover outdoor entertainment and warm hospitality aacross the region. Dive in to lumberjack history at the Festival des Bucherons in Kapuskasing or grab your paddle and show off your skills in the three-day Great Canadian Kayak Challenge & Festival in Timmins.
Take to the dance floor in celebration of francophone artists at Festival de la St-Jean in Kapuskasing. The June 24 Festival de la St-Jean is considered Ontario’s biggest event in honour of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of French Canadians.
Vibrant cultural centre of Northeastern Ontario
Sudbury is a long-standing hub of Franco-Ontarian culture, and there are many opportunities in the city to explore, celebrate and learn about la francophonie. The Centre franco-ontarien de folklore is an important cultural space for the preservation and study of French Ontario culture, particularly oral tradition.
Francophone culture in the Arts
Francophone culture is especially present in the arts across the region. In Sudbury, Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario showcases contemporary works by Franco-Ontarian authors and Canadian playwrights, while concert promoter La Slague presents ten or more concerts by francophone artists every year. And La Nuit sur l’étang has its much-anticipated annual gala concert, which has recently expanded to add recently the French Fest.
The artist-run Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario, showcasing contemporary francophone visual arts holds regular gallery exhibits as well as extra-mural events like the Foire d’art alternatif de Sudbury. The francophone book fair, Salon du livre de Sudbury, is held in May every even-numbered year, and in odd-numbered years it organizes a literary festival and reading marathon.
In Kapuskasing, the Centre régional de Loisirs culturels is a year-round cornerstone for francophone culture in the community with performances, live theatre, and art gallery. In nearby Hearst, the Conseil des Arts holds various events at Place des Arts de Hearst and hosts exhibits at Galerie 815.
The Franco-Ontario flag flew for the first time on September 25, 1975 – now known as Franco-Ontarian Day – at the University of Sudbury. The flag became the symbol of the Franco-Ontarian community and was officially recognized in 2001.