Government of Ontario     |    

Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery

Researching Franco-Ontarians at the Archives of Ontario


Painting: Étienne Brûlé at the mouth of the Humber
Étienne Brûlé at the mouth of the Humber
F. S. Challener
Oil on canvas 166.4 cm x 135.9 cm
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 619849

September 25th is now Franco-Ontarian Day in Ontario, celebrating the vital contributions of the province’s Francophone communities. The date marks the anniversary of the Franco-Ontarian flag’s unveiling in 1975. It also commemorates the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain and Étienne Brûlé's journeys to what is now Ontario.

At the Archives of Ontario, we acquire, preserve and showcase records related to Ontario’s history, and we have some significant collections that help tell the story of the French presence in the province.

French explorers and missionaries began travelling throughout Ontario during the 17th and 18th centuries. The first European settlement was Ste.-Marie-Among-The-Hurons (1639-1649) near Midland, and French-speaking settlers arrived in the Windsor area starting in 1749. Our cartographic holdings include original French maps from this time period, as well as maps and plans documenting Francophone settlement areas. Our library holdings contain original works by early explorers.And our private records include documents created by early settlers, fur traders, merchants and politicians.

Francophones settled in various areas across Ontario during the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly in the northeast, southwest, Georgian Bay, Ottawa, and Prescott-Russell area. Today Ontario is now home to close to 600,000 Francophones of all origins, the largest Francophone population outside of Quebec. Our government records detail milestone events and movements like the struggle for French-language education, the creation of the Office of Francophone Affairs, and the development of French-language provincial services from the 1960s on. We also have collections of French-language newspapers from the early 20th century up until the 1980s.

The records of numerous Franco-Ontarian families give unique insight into Francophone communities from the 18th century to the present. The Max LeMarchant deGodart du Plany collection consists of research notes, genealogies and correspondence of several French families. Our holdings on the Dionne quintuplets – the first known birth of quintuplets, in 1934 – are of special interest because both the family and then news of the children’s tragic exploitation became world-famous.

General Resources

Our online exhibit, French Ontario in the 17th and 18th Centuries, is a great introduction to the early Francophone history of the province.

Government Services for Franco-Ontarians

Since the 1970s, the Ontario government has been committed to offering services to citizens in the French language. The responsibility for overseeing this task has been with a number of different government ministries, branches and departments since then.

Note: Access to many of these series is restricted under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs

The naming of a Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs first occurred in 1978. The Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs is also holds another portfolio within the Ontario cabinet.

The Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs oversees development of policy within the Ontario government as it relates to the provision of French language services, and is responsible to the Cabinet and Legislative Assembly for the provision of these services. Since 1986, the Minister is responsible for the administration of the French Language Services Act. The Minister also oversees operation of the agencies in the Ontario government concerned with the provision of French language services, such as the Office of the Government Coordinator of French Language Services and the Office of Francophone Affairs.

  • RG 77-6 Correspondence of the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs 1986-1991

Office of Francophone Affairs

Created in 1985 the Office of Francophone Affairs assists with the development of French language initiatives and services throughout the Ontario government. The Office advises the government on the development and implementation of French language services and on relations with the Franco-Ontarian community. The office also provided grants to assist community services for francophones.

  • RG 77-2 Office of Francophone Affairs communications and community relations correspondence 1976-1993 40.1 metres of textual records 20 year restriction

  • RG 77-4 Policy and projects records of the Office of Francophone Affairs 1977-2003 38.3 metres of textual records 100 year restriction RG 77-7 Correspondence of the Executive Director of the Office of Francophone Affairs 1986-1990 9 metres of textual records 20 year restriction

  • RG 77-8 Records of the Community Support Fund 1981-2001 14 metres of textual records 20 year restriction

  • RG 77-9 Records relating to the implementation of the French Language Services Act 1986-1991 5.5 metres of textual records 20 year restriction

  • RG 77-10 Corporate program records of the Office of Francophone Affairs 1987-2000 6.3 metres of textual records 100 year restriction

From 1979 to 1985 the Government Coordinator of French Language Services was responsible for co-ordinating the individual French-language programs of all agencies of the Ontario government, and making recommendations to the government that would further the development of these services. In addition the Coordinator was the chairman of an Interministerial Committee of Coordinators whose members were responsible for developing French language services in their respective ministries.

  • RG 77-1 Correspondence of the Government Coordinator of French Language Services 1969-1982
  • RG 77-3 Correspondence of the Executive Secretary to the Office of the Coordinator on Bilingualism 1968-1981
  • F 47-16 Ontario Arts Council Franco-Ontarian grants files 1969-2004
    Series consists of records created and maintained by the Ontario Arts Council documenting grants made to Franco-Ontarian individuals and organizations involved in arts, culture and literature.

French Education in Ontario

The issue of French-language education in Ontario has been a contentious one since Confederation. The government began offering French education in a systematic way beginning in the late 1960s. Note that many of these series contain restrictions on access due to privacy reasons.

Department of Education

From 1912 to 1927 French language education beyond Form 1 was forbidden in publicly-funded primary and secondary schools. It was the Department of Education’s responsibility to ensure compliance with these restrictions.

  • RG 2-102 English-French school correspondence files and inspection summary registers 1911-1927

  • RG 2-42 Department of Education select subject files [18--]-1964, predominant 1885-1913

  • RG 5-1 Correspondence of Sir James Whitney 1874-1914

  • RG 2-157 Report of the Commissioners on Schools in the Counties of Prescott and Russell in which the French Language is Taught 1893

  • RG 2-158 Report of the Commissioners on Public Schools in Ontario in which the French Language is Taught 1889

Ministry of Education

The Ontario government continued to resist funding French-language education in Ontario until the Symons Commission and the Beriault Committee in 1968, when the Ministry of Education began ensuring that Ontarians had access to high quality education at the primary and secondary levels in French.

  • RG 2-176 Files and report of the Ministerial Commission on French Language Secondary Education (Symons Commission) 1968-1973

  • RG 2-167 Research files and report of the Committee on French Language Schools in Ontario (Beriault Committee) 1967-1968

Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister, French Language Education

The Assistant Deputy Minister, French Language Education advised the Minister and the Deputy Minister on all matters pertaining to the education of Francophones at the elementary and secondary levels between 1980 and 1993.

  • RG 2-185 Files of the Assistant Deputy Minister for Franco-Ontario Education 1972-1996

  • RG 2-276 Ministry of Education French Language Professional Development and Cultural Activities Program funding files 1979-1996

French Language Education Policy and Programs Branch

Starting in 1993 the French Language Education Policy and Programs Branch has developed curricula for French elementary and secondary education that defined provincially consistent requirements, developed standards for student achievement, developed policies for language planning and student cultural development and established provincial secondary education policy as it related to French language schools. The branch also facilitated partnerships that expanded the use of technology in French language schools, administered French language education funding programs, coordinated research and analysis in terms of content and process with respect to French language education, planned, developed and coordinated liaison activities with the ministry and with other ministries and agencies as they related to French language education, monitored and advised on issues pertaining to liaison with the French language community.

  • RG 2-290 Learning Materials Fund (French-language) development files 1974-1996

  • RG 2-379 French language education in Ontario operational files 1973-2003

Council for Franco-Ontarian Education

As a result of the Report of the Ministerial Commission on French Language Secondary Education and the recommendations of the task force on re-organization, a permanent planning board, the Council on French Language Schools was formed in 1972 to ensure the continuing development of elementary and secondary French language education in Ontario.

  • RG 2-200 Council for Franco-Ontarian Education operational files 1969-1996

Franco-Ontarian Families

Numerous records of Ontario families held at the Archives help document the lifestyles of everyday Ontarians from the Eighteenth Century to the present.

  • F 2128 Jacques Duperon Baby family fonds 1759-1866, 1946
    Jacques Duperon Baby (1731-1789) and his sons, James and Francis, were involved in the fur trade, the public service, Justice, landownership, and the militia during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Francis Baby was a member of the Upper Canada Legislative Assembly. Francois Baby, brother of Jacques Duperon, and his descendents played an important role in Quebec's politics and economy during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

  • F 318 Max LeMarchant deGodart du Planty collection [194-]-1979
    Collection consists of research notes, genealogies and correspondence on the du Planty family, the Godart family and their branches, as assembled by Max LeMarchant de Godart du Planty. Families mentioned include Dongan (Dungan), Van Buskirk and a large number of other French (continental) families.

  • F 493 Jean Baptiste Rousseau family fonds 1774-1953
    Jean Baptiste Rousseau (1758-1812) was an early merchant and mill owner in Ancaster, York and Kingston, Ontario, who died while serving in the War of 1812.

    Rousseau served in the Indian Department, 1775-1779, and then traded on the north shore of Lake Ontario, at Kingston and along the Humber River. In 1795, he moved to Ancaster where he bought a saw and grist mill. He was married twice. He married his first wife, Marie Martineau, in Montreal in 1780. After the breakup of this marriage in 1786, he married Margaret Clyne (1759-1823) and had two sons, George and Joseph Brant (1799- 1868). Rousseau died while serving in the War of 1812.

Dionne Quintuplets

In 1934 one Franco-Ontario family would become among the most famous families in the world and would become the top tourist attraction in the province. The first known birth of quintuplets occurred on May 28, 1934 near Callandar, Ontario and news quickly spread around the world. The girls were made guardians of the Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe by order of the provincial government under claims that the parents were unfit to ensure their survival. They were later made wards of the crown until their eighteenth birthday.

The government built a hospital for the children that allowed tourists to watch them play. An estimated 3 million people would visit the hospital between 1936 and 1943 and the government would make $51 million dollars off of them in revenue for the government through tourism, film appearances and numerous sponsorships. In 1943 their parents were able to win back custody of their children, but they would continue to make public appearances throughout their childhood.

  • C 9 Fred Davis and Yvonne Leroux fonds [the official photographers of the quintuplets] 1924-1978

  • F 10 Mitchell F. Hepburn fonds

  • RG 3-9 Premier Mitchell F. Hepburn public correspondence records

  • RG 3-10 Premier Mitchell F. Hepburn private correspondence

  • F 12 Gordon Conant fonds

  • F 1322 Joseph Sedgwick fonds

  • RG 4-53 Dionne Quintuplets Official Guardian records 1934-1954

  • RG 22-3560 Nipissing District Surrogate Court Dionne quintuplets records 1934-1942, 1955, 1964-1970

  • F 4392-58 St. Lawrence Starch Company Dionne quintuplets files 1933-1999

Other Records

  • F 1080 Percy James Robinson fonds. Mr. Robinson was an historian, specializing in 17th and 18th century Ontario, and is the author of Toronto under the French regime. The fonds consists of his research notes and materials, and correspondence pertaining to Ontario’s French and First Nations history in the 17th and 18th centuries (and other related topics).

  • F 378 Hiram Walker Historical Museum collection. The Hiram Walker Historical Museum collection consists of records deposited with or collected by the Hiram Walker Historical Museum, Windsor. The collection consists of records pertaining to the history of the Windsor and Detroit area, 1749-1971, including the Francophone presence. The collection includes correspondence, land papers, financial records, legal instruments, and certificates from various pioneer families, businesses, churches, associations and societies. The collection also contains materials compiled by George Fortune Macdonald and Neil F. Morrison, local historians and collectors.


Finding Aid L 23, Original and Microfilm Newspaper Collections in the Archives of Ontario [Word, PDF]

Additional Internet Resources

Logo for the Centre de recherche en civilisation canadienne-française of the University of Ottawa

Map: Sanson, Nicolas. Le Canada ou Nouvelle France, &c. Tirée de diverses Relations des François, Anglois, Hollandois, &c. [ca. 1660]

Sanson, Nicolas. Le Canada ou Nouvelle France, &c.
Tirée de diverses Relations des François, Anglois, Hollandois, &c. [ca. 1660]
Reference Code: C 78, A0 4943
Archives of Ontario

[Return to top of page]