The French Colony*

By: William Lyon Mackenzie King

From: Polyphony Summer 1984 pp. 24-26
© 1984 Multicultural History Society of Ontario

*From "Foreigners Who Live in Toronto," The Daily Mail and Empire (Toronto), 2 October 1897.

The total French population in Totonto does not exceed 800. The majority are found in Ward Two, in the vicinity of Seaton and Sackville streets, between King and Queen. A good many reside in Parkdale, and odd ones are scattered about in other parts of the city. There are a lot of young people among them, and some of the older families have been here for forty years. Most of them are French-Canadians, there being only about half a dozen families direct from France. Strangely enough, a good many have come here from the United States. The majority are employed in factories. One firm in this city has neatly 100 in its employ, and another about 50. A few are proprietors of profitable business concerns of their own, but most are mechanics. Some are engaged as hair-dressers, others as printers, tailors, and shoemakers; a few are barbers, and bookkeepers, and there are one or two doctors, and a blacksmith. With few exceptions they own but little property, but a good many have effected small savings. They do not crowd in their houses, and only a few live in rear cottages. During the past year scarcely any of their number have sought relief.
They have a benefit society, known as the St. Joseph Society, which has been in existence for ten years, and is now incorporated. It has a good membership, and a fair amount of money in the bank. A good many of the French are members of the secret fraternal societies, and are especially strong in the Foresters, having two lodges of their own, Sacred Heart Lodge 201, and St. Joseph's Lodge. They are good citizens, and give the police no trouble whatever. Almost all are naturalized, and take a fair intetest in political affairs. They have received practically no employment from the city or the Government. Only a very few are members of trades unions. They are almost all Roman Catholics, and in the centre of their little colony in the eastem part of the city is the Sacred Heart church, at which about 80 families worship. The services are conducted in French by Father Lamarche, who has lived among them as parish priest for nearly ten years past. The children, of which there are a large number, attend chiefly the Separate schools, either St. Maty's, St. Basil's, or the Sacred Heatt. A good many have continued their education in De La Salle Institute.

Practically all the children speak English well, though many of their parents know but little of the language. There is scant reason to expect that their numbers will be greatly increased from either France or Lower Canada, but there is every possibility of some coming from the United States. Those who come will probably do so with the hope of getting work in some of the city factories.

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