French Canadians began settling in Ontario at the beginning of the 18th century with the establishment of an agricultural settlement near Detroit. It was almost a century later that this small colony expanded and further settlements were created to meet the demand for industrial labour as Ontario developed. The majority of Franco-Ontarians settled in the area between Ottawa and the Québec border, and this remains the region with the highest concentration of French-speaking people and those of French origin. As of 1981, Franco-Ontarians made up 7.5% of Ontario’s population, of whom about two-thirds spoke French as their mother tongue. In the 20th century the question of language rights in education was a primary concern of the Franco-Ontarian community. Franco-Ontarians pressed for, and won, the legal right to French-language education, which allowed French-language schools to join the public system.
L’Ami du Peuple was published in Sudbury, where approximately 40% of the population is Franco-Ontarian, three-quarters of whom speak French as their mother tongue. Sudbury’s cultural institutions include French-language theatres and publishers, and bilingual Laurentian University. L’Ami du Peuple was published in French between 1942 and 1968, almost all of which is available here. The newspaper maintained a strong voice of Catholicism, covered local and national news, and discussed union and other labour issues of interest to Sudbury’s large working class.
Contributed by Multicultural History Society of Ontario.