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Region’s unique Francophone history chronicled in new book by former Sudburian

Historian Serge Dupuis said pioneering research on region’s Francophone population from University of Sudbury was invaluable in tracking French-Canadian influence on region’s history

In November, 2020, Serge Dupuis, an historian and professor at Laval University (Université Laval) began searching for information about Francophone families who lived in the Flour Mill, hoping to write a book of the area’s history.

Originally from Sudbury, Dupuis put together a survey to learn from those who could offer first hand information. After an article published in about his quest for information, Dupuis not only got the response he was hoping for, but enough information that he has been able to partner with L’Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario du grand Sudbury (ACFO) who commissioned a pamphlet, both in French and English, offering a quick glimpse of the city’s Francophone history. 

The 60-page Sudbury’s Francophones: A Brief History will be officially launched on June 24 to coincide with St. Jean Baptiste Day.

Translated to English by Peter McCambridge, it was an interesting experience to have his writing translated, said Dupuis

“English is more direct. Whereas in French, the abstract form will be prettier, more pleasant to read, but it kind of comes off as heavy when it's directly translated into English,” Dupuis said.  “So part of the challenge for an English version was to simplify certain sentences, to shorten them, to make them a little bit more direct because it just came off weird in the English version.”

This pamphlet will also serve as a “teaser,” said Dupuis, for the Flour Mill history book still to come. 

As a graduate of Laurentian University’s Histoire program (History program delivered in French), Dupuis said he wants to acknowledge how much he depended on the research done by the school, especially University of Sudbury, as a cultural hotbed for Francophone history. 

“It wouldn't have been possible without research,” said Dupuis. “Pioneers in writing on French-Canadians, the socio-cultural fabric of the Flour Mill or the history of French-language education, the history of cultural forgiveness and the development of institutions. 

“Those were all things that were studied, in large part, due to the existence of University of Sudbury professors. That inspires their students to study these things.”

He is deeply saddened, he said, that future students will not have the same opportunities he did. He is referring to the fallout from Laurentian University’s insolvency. 

U. of S. is a federated university along with Thorneloe University and Huntington University, all of which operate on the Laurentian campus. Laurentian announced April 1 it was terminating the federation agreement, which involved the transfer of operating funds from LU to its federated partners, with the schools as part of the insolvency process, throwing the future of the schools into limbo.

Dupuis said he hopes that by offering the pamphlet in both official languages he can not only give Francophone Sudburians the chance to see more of their history, but perhaps allow Anglophone Sudburians to have a more complete understanding of the founding of the city.

“I'm assuming that most people who read it will be learning (for the first time) most of what's in there,” said Dupuis. “They'll have certain bits of information, whether it be about schools, or the Franco-ontarian flag or certain things like that. But the rest of the information will be new.” Dupuis said that the information may be new to Anglophones, and that was a challenge.  

“How do you talk about certain issues like economic marginalization or the abolition of French in schools or you know, the loss of language to which is not something I think that necessarily most angle forms are aware of? So how do you speak about that to an Anglophone audience that are less accustomed to hearing this history. That was an interesting part of this project.”


Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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