From Academic Kids

Franco-Ontarians (French: Franco-ontarien) are francophone residents of the Canadian province of Ontario. According to the 2001 Canadian census, there were 548,940 francophones in Ontario, comprising 4.8 per cent of the province's total population. Franco-Ontarians constitute the largest French-speaking community in Canada outside of Quebec, and the largest minority language group within Ontario.

The Franco-Ontarian population is concentrated primarily in Eastern Ontario (41.3 per cent - 226,705 francophones), in Ottawa, Cornwall and many rural farming communities, and in Northeastern Ontario (25.2 per cent - 138,585 francophones), in the cities of Greater Sudbury, North Bay and Timmins and a number of smaller towns. Other communities with notable francophone populations are Toronto, Windsor, Penetanguishene and Welland. Most communities in Ontario have at least a few Franco-Ontarian residents.

Ottawa, with 128,620 francophones, has the province's largest Franco-Ontarian community by size. Greater Sudbury, 29 per cent francophone, has the largest proportion of Franco-Ontarians to the general population among the province's major cities, although some smaller towns in fact have a francophone majority. These include Hearst, Kapuskasing, West Nipissing, St. Charles, Clarence-Rockland, Champlain, Alfred and Hawkesbury.

The French presence in Ontario dates to the mid-17th century. Early settlements in the area include the Mission of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons at Midland in 1649, Sault Ste. Marie in 1668, and Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit (Detroit, Michigan), located opposite Windsor, in 1701. Southern Ontario was part of the Pays d'en-haut (Upper Country) of the French regime, and later part of the Province of Quebec until Quebec was split into The Canadas in 1791.


Franco-Ontarian identity

The term Franco-Ontarian in fact has two related usages, which overlap significantly but are not identical: it may refer to francophone residents of Ontario, regardless of their place of birth, or to people of French Canadian ancestry born in Ontario, regardless of their primary language or current place of residence.

In popular usage, the first meaning predominates and the second is poorly understood. Although most Franco-Ontarians meet both definitions, there are notable exceptions. For example, although Louise Charron was the first native-born Franco-Ontarian appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada bench, she was preceded as a francophone judge from Ontario by Louise Arbour, who was born and raised in Quebec but had her professional career as a lawyer and judge in Ontario. As a result, both women have been referred to as "the first franco-ontarian Supreme Court justice", although the more common practice is to credit Charron, franco-ontarian in both senses, with that distinction.

Conversely, two of the most famous rock musicians from Ontario, Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morissette, are Franco-Ontarian by the second definition but not by the first, since they were born to Franco-Ontarian parents but currently work and live predominantly using the English language.

Further, Canada's current Prime Minister, Paul Martin, is Franco-Ontarian, although many Canadians inaccurately consider him Québécois as his political career has been associated primarily with Montreal.

Both meanings are politically charged. Using the second to the exclusion of the first may be considered racist in that it excludes francophones born in other countries, such as Haiti, Vietnam or Tunisia, from the Franco-Ontarian community, while using the first to the exclusion of the second obscures the very real cultural distinctions that exist between Franco-Ontarians, Québécois, Acadians, Métis and other Canadian francophone communities, and the pressures toward assimilation into the anglophone majority that the community faces.

As a result, the complex political and sociological context of Franco-Ontarian can only be fully understood by recognizing both meanings and understanding the distinctions between the two.


Although Ontario as a whole is not officially bilingual, the Ontario government's French Language Services Act ( of 1986 designates 23 areas of the province where provincial ministries and agencies are required to provide local French-language services to the public. An area is designated as a French service area if the francophone population is greater than 5,000 people or 10 per cent of the community's total population.

The French Language Services Act applies to provincial government services only. It does not require municipal governments to provide bilingual services. Municipal governments may, however, provide French language services at their own discretion.

The following census divisions are designated areas in their entirety:

The following census divisions are not fully designated areas, but have communities within their borders which are designated for bilingual services:

The Office of Francophone Affairs is the government agency responsible for ensuring that French language services are provided. Francophones who live in non-designated areas can also receive French language services by directly contacting the Office of Francophone Affairs in Toronto, or in the nearest designated community. The cabinet minister currently responsible for the Office of Francophone Affairs is Madeleine Meilleur.

The judicial system in Ontario is officially bilingual in all areas, although in some parts of the province a legal matter involving francophones may have to be transferred to another region where francophone services are more readily available. A francophone who wishes to be served in French by the judicial system cannot be refused this transfer if he or she cannot be served locally in French.

There are 44 municipalities in Ontario which are officially or functionally bilingual at the municipal level. Most of these are members of the Association française des municipalités de l'Ontario, or AFMO.


In the past, the Ontario government was often much less supportive of and often openly hostile toward the Franco-Ontarian community. Regulation 17, passed in 1912, forbade French-language instruction in Ontario schools. This was eventually rescinded, and Ontario now has eight French-language Catholic school boards and four French-language public school boards. Each of these school boards serves a significantly larger catchment area than an English-language school board in the province, due to the smaller francophone population.

Ontario has two exclusively francophone community colleges, La Cité collégiale in Ottawa (with a second campus in Hawkesbury) and Collège Boréal in Sudbury (with additional campuses in several Northern Ontario communities, and one in Toronto.) A third college, Collège des Grands-Lacs in Toronto, ceased operations in 2002. Its programs and services are now the Toronto campus of Collège Boréal. There is also a francophone college of agricultural technology in Alfred.

Ontario does not have any exclusively francophone universities. It does, however, have two universities which offer instruction in both English and French, Laurentian University in Sudbury and the University of Ottawa. As well, York University in Toronto has a bilingual federated college, Glendon College, although the university is otherwise an anglophone institution.

Culture and Media

The primary cultural organization of the Franco-Ontarian community is the Association canadienne-française de l'Ontario, or ACFO, which coordinates many of the community's cultural and political activities.

The Franco-Ontarian Flag

Missing image
Franco-Ontarian flag
The Franco-Ontarian flag consists of two bands of green and white. The left portion has a solid light green background with a white fleur-de-lys in the middle, while the right portion has a solid white background with a stylized green trillium in the middle. The green represents the summer months, while the white represents the winter months. The trillium is the floral symbol of Ontario, while the fleur-de-lys represents the French heritage of the Franco-Ontarian community.

The flag was designed in 1975 by a group of university students in Sudbury, and flown for the first time at Laurentian University. It was officially recognized as the emblem of the Franco-Ontarian community in the Franco-Ontarian Emblem Act of 2001 (

Ironically, in 2003 a controversy arose in Sudbury when the city government voted against flying the flag at Tom Davies Square for St. Jean Baptiste Day, claiming that it would be inappropriate for the city government to display on public property a symbol representative of only a portion of the city's population.


The dialects of French spoken in Ontario are similar to but distinct from Quebec French. Due to the large English majority in the province, many English words are simply used in place of the proper French words when speaking French. One example is "un truck" or "un pickup" to refer to a pickup truck, when the standard French word is "camion".

This also occurs in Quebec French, to a lesser extent, although in recent years Quebec speakers have made a more concerted effort to reduce their use of anglicisms.

Nevertheless, virtually all educated speakers of French in Ontario are familiar with standard French and communicate readily in it when necessary.


Ontario has one francophone daily newspaper, Le Droit in Ottawa. However, 17 other communities in Ontario are served by francophone community weekly papers, including L'Express de Toronto, Le voyageur in Sudbury, L'Action in London/Sarnia and Le Rempart in the Windsor area.


The province has three Radio-Canada television affiliates, CBOFT in Ottawa, CBLFT in Toronto and CBEFT in Windsor, which have transmitters throughout the province. All three stations are identical in their programming except for local news. CBOFT produces all three newscasts.

The provincial government operates TFO, which has transmitters in 18 communities, but is otherwise available only on cable. In 2003, TFO produced and aired Francoeur, the first Franco-Ontarian téléroman.

TVA, TV5 and RDI are available on all Ontario cable systems, as these channels are mandated by the CRTC for carriage by all Canadian cable operators. Where there is sufficient local demand for French-language television, Ontario cable systems may also offer French-language channels such as TQS, MusiquePlus and RDS, although these channels only have discretionary status outside of Quebec.


On radio, the Franco-Ontarian community is served primarily by Radio-Canada's La Première Chaîne, which has originating stations in Ottawa, Toronto and Sudbury, with rebroadcasters throughout Ontario. Espace Musique, Radio-Canada's arts and culture network, currently broadcasts only in Ottawa, Toronto, Sudbury and Paris, although Windsor is scheduled to begin receiving this service in 2005.

Non-profit francophone community stations exist in several communities, including Penetanguishene (CFRH), Hearst (CINN), Kapuskasing (CKGN), Cornwall (CHOD) and North Bay (CFDN). A new station, CHOQ, will begin broadcasting in Toronto in 2005. Many campus radio stations air one or two hours per week of French-language programming as well, although only CHUO at the University of Ottawa and CKLU at Laurentian University are officially bilingual stations.

Francophone commercial radio stations exist in Sudbury (CHYC) and Timmins (CHYK); the Timmins station also has rebroadcasters in Kapuskasing and Hearst. Ottawa francophones are served by the commercial radio stations licensed to Gatineau, and many other Eastern Ontario communities are within the broadcast range of the Gatineau and Montreal media markets. One station in Hawkesbury (CHPR) airs a few hours per week of locally-oriented programming, but otherwise simulcasts a commercial station from Montreal, and CFSF in West Nipissing airs programming in both English and French.


Through its proximity to Gatineau, Ottawa is the only Ontario community which has regular access to French-language films. However, Cinéfest in Sudbury and the Toronto International Film Festival both regularly include francophone films in their annual festival programs, and community groups in many smaller communities offer French film screenings when possible. Francophone films also air on TFO and Radio-Canada.

Theatre and Music

Eight professional theatre companies offer French language theatrical productions, including four companies in Ottawa (Théâtre du Trillium, Théâtre du Vieille 17, Vox Théâtre and Théâtre la Catapulte), one in Sudbury (La Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario) and three in Toronto (Théâtre Corpus, Théâtre La Tangente and Théâtre français de Toronto). There are also numerous community theatre groups and school theatre groups.

Annual music festivals include La Nuit sur l'étang in Sudbury and the Festival Franco-ontarien in Ottawa. Notable figures in franco-ontarian music include Robert Paquette, Marcel Aymar, En Bref, Brasse-Camarade and CANO.

Publishing and Literature

Ontario has seven francophone publishing companies, including Sudbury's Prise de parole and Ottawa's Editions Le Nordir.

Notable Franco-Ontarian writers include Lola Lemire Tostevin, Daniel Poliquin, Robert Dickson, Jean-Marc Dalpé, François Paré, Gaston Tremblay and Hédi Bouraoui.

See also List of French Canadian writers from outside Quebec.

Political aspects

In the late 1980s, several Ontario towns and cities (most notably Sault Ste. Marie) were persuaded by the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada to declare themselves English-only in the wake of the French Language Services Act and the Meech Lake Accord debate. This was considered by many observers to be a direct contributor to the resurgence of the Quebec sovereignty movement in the 1990s, and consequently to the 1995 Quebec referendum.

Quebec writer Yves Beauchemin once controversially referred to the Franco-Ontarian community as "warm corpses" who had no chance of surviving as a community. However, the Quebec government provides significant financial assistance to Franco-Ontarian cultural groups and organizations, as it believes that it has a responsibility to assist in supporting and protecting French-language minority communities throughout Canada.

On October 19, 2004 a Toronto lawyer successfully challenged a traffic ticket on the basis that the city had not posted bilingual traffic signs in accordance with the 1986 French Language Services Act. The city of Toronto is currently expected to appeal this decision. The results of that appeal may significantly change the nature of municipal responsibilities concerning services to its Franco-Ontarian residents, but the appeal may also overturn the decision as a legal error since the Act had not previously been deemed to cover municipal government services.

Also in 2004, the province's Minister of Francophone Affairs, Madeleine Meilleur, became the province's first cabinet minister to attend a Francophonie summit, travelling to Ouagadougou with counterparts from Quebec, New Brunswick and the federal government. Meilleur also expressed the hope that Ontario would someday become a permanent member of the organization.

On January 10, 2005, Clarence-Rockland became the first Ontario city to pass a bylaw requiring all new businesses to post signs in both official languages. Clarence-Rockland is 60 per cent francophone, and the bylaw was widely supported within the community.

Other Notable Franco-Ontarians

Other notable Franco-Ontarians not mentioned in the above article include:

External links


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