French Canadians began settling in Ontario at the beginning of the 18th century with the establishment of an agricultural settlement on the site that is now Windsor, Ontario. 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.
The French-language newspaper Le Courrier d’Essex began publishing in 1884 in Windsor. In 1885 its name was changed to Le Courrier de l’Ouest, expanding its reach to serve French communities outside Essex County. It ceased publication altogether in 1886. It appears to have been published at irregular intervals and most issues do not survive or are incomplete. Those pages that are available, however, are a fascinating testament to its time and place. Coverage of the Riel Rebellion, for example, mingles with international news, religious instruction, poems and anecdotes for family reading, and local advertising.
Contributed by Multicultural History Society of Ontario.