Story Ideas

Ontario celebrates 400 years of French history and culture.

Special events and festivals will take visitors on a journey through Francophone life in the largest French-speaking community outside Quebec.

17 June 2015

Suggested tweet: Come celebrate 400 years of French history, culture + language in Ontario this summer #explorecanada @OntarioTravel

It’s been 400 years since French explorer Samuel de Champlain first passed through what is now Ontario in his quest to establish routes along major waterways and expand the lucrative fur trade. This summer and fall, the province is rolling out the red carpet to commemorate four centuries of cultural, economic and social contributions by its Franco-Ontarian community with special events and festivals.

Save the date: September 25, 2015, is the official Franco-Ontarian Day.

Why 2015: In the early 17th century, Champlain—a founding father of New France—pushed westward into the St. Lawrence basin, Lake Ontario, Lake Nipissing and to the shores of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. The trade routes along these waterways would become part of the Route des Voyageurs. The French were the first Europeans to explore the province, forging alliances with First Nations people and establishing permanent settlements.

Franco-Ontario today: There has been a significant and dynamic French presence in Ontario since Champlain’s last voyage in 1633. Fast forward to 2015: more than 610,000 Francophones call Ontario home, making it the largest French-speaking community in Canada outside of Quebec. They bring diversity, rich traditions and joie de vivre to the province.

Highlights: Through October 2015, dozens of local and regional events are planned to commemorate the 400th. Communities across the province will celebrate the history of French culture and involvement in the province, applauding the ties that unite them to all Ontarians. Franco-Ontarian culture will also be an exciting part of the summer’s Toronto 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

Champlain’s Astrolabe, Midland: Champlain’s astrolabe is an amazing mariner’s navigational artefact from the explorer’s original 1615 voyage. Lost for more than 250 years, it will be on display at Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, site of the first Jesuit mission and the first European settlement in Ontario (July-August).

Timber! PANAMANIA festival, presented by CIBC, Toronto: Théâtre français de Torontobrings a vibrant show of circus, dance, theatre and the traditional music of Quebec and Franco-Canadian lumberjacks to the stage as part of the Pan Am Games’ PANAMANIA festival, presented by CIBC (Timber!: July 23-25; PANAMANIA festival, July 10-Aug.15).

Le Festival du Loup en Nouvelle-France, Simcoe County: This “howling” festival features storytellers, local musicians, artisans, a painted wolf art auction, community dances, historical performances and an annual howling contest (July 16-19).

Bytown Days 2015, Ottawa: In honour of the French presence in Ontario, the annual Bytown Days celebration highlights the shared traditions of Francophone and Aboriginal cultures, featuring costumed characters, heritage music, dance, talks and guided tours. (July 30-Aug. 3).

Rendez-vous Champlain 2015, Penetanguishene: A family-friendly celebration that includes a re-enactment of Champlain’s arrival, workshops on corn-husk doll making and birch-bark canoe building, traditional dances and demonstrations of the fur trade. A highlight is a concert showcasing Franco-Canadian artists from the east, west, Franco-Ontario and Quebeçois parts of Canada (July 31-Aug..2).

Looking for more visual inspiration from Canada’s rich Francophone culture? Browse our Brand Canada Library for thousands of images and videos from all over Canada.

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