It was just over 400 years ago when French explorer Samuel de Champlain explored the wilderness of Ontario, bringing with him the first wave of French culture and heritage. Over the years, French-Ontarians have had to fight hard to keep their culture alive, but have managed to do in a spectacular way, and it is still easy to see the many French cultural influences all around Ontario.
The arts are always an important link when it comes to language and identity, and French art is greatly supported throughout Ontario. The Ontario Arts Council have a program that is specially dedicated to Francophone Arts, and this supports everything from new French-language films to visual art groups and craft projects.
The Franco-Ontarian Festival is held each June in Ottawa, at Major’s Hill Park, and is believed to be the largest Francophones and Francophiles celebration in the whole of Canada. The festival has been running for over 40 years now, each one bigger and better than the last, complete with special musical events and plenty of family entertainment.
Monument de la Francophonie d’Ottawa
The Monument de la Francophonie d’Ottawa was opened in 2006, and features a Franco-Ontarian flag at the center. Around the flagpole is a granite monument that tells the story of French education in Ottawa over time. The monument was so greatly appreciated that the committee that created the park built five more monuments the following year.
Held each year in Toronto, Cinefranco is a week-long French film festival that showcases both Canadian and French-language films. Launched in 1997, the film festival this year will be held from the 27th of October to the 1st of November, and gives the audience the opportunity to appreciate French films that would not otherwise have been distributed among a Canadian audience. For those of you who cannot make it for Cinefranco this year, keep an eye out for some of the many other film-related events and activities that Cinefranco hosts in Toronto throughout the year, all of which can be found on their social media accounts.
With such a strong sense of French culture all over Ontario, it is no surprise that there are countless French restaurants to be found. Just like everywhere else in the world, there are a few that really stand out from the crowd, such as Le Select Bistro in Toronto, which first opened its doors in 1977, and whose menu features a delicious array of Parisian classics. Another popular French eatery in Toronto is Coquine, which has won numerous awards for their authentic French cuisine. For those of you in Ottawa, give the modern Black Cat Bistro a try, or, for a truly cutting edge menu, head to Restaurant 18.
French culture is deeply ingrained into life in Ontario, and it brings a certain unique charm to the region. From the authentic French cuisine of Toronto to the lively French festival in Ottawa, Ontario is clearly, and rightfully, proud of its French heritage, and will hopefully be able to retain that for years to come.