Land and settlement

The story

“When Upper and Lower Canada formed a united Canada in 1841, Canadiens were solidly established in three areas of Upper Canada: south of Lake St. Clair in the Assomption area, southeast of Georgian Bay in the Penetanguishene area, and south of the Ottawa Valley in the Bytown area.” Gratien Allaire, Professor Emeritus at Laurentian University of Sudbury


Settlers | labourers | families | farmers | politicians


The establishment of French communities in Ontario


18th and 19th centuries


Southwestern Ontario | Eastern Ontario | Northern Ontario | Central Ontario


To expand the population of New France and slow English expansion | To carve out new settlements in less populated areas | To pursue opportunities for agriculture | To gain employment in the natural resource and industrial sectors

Agriculture was practised by the French at Fort Frontenac as early as the 1670s. Agricultural settlement also occurred around Fort Pontchartrain at Detroit and along the south shore of the Detroit River in the early to mid-18th century.

In the late 19th century, with the coming of the railroad, another wave of French-speaking farmers emigrated to Ontario, settling areas such as Essex and Simcoe counties, and northeast Ontario.

Opportunities for work in lumber camps attracted French labourers to the Ottawa Valley after 1810, and Ottawa’s Lowertown became an important centre for French inhabitants in the latter half of the 19th century. Young people from what is now Quebec were also encouraged to move west and acquire land along the Ottawa River, where they made their living through a combination of subsistence farming and forestry.

In the latter part of the 19th and into the early 20th century, French Canadians also settled in more urban centres such as Toronto, Cornwall and Welland to pursue employment in industrial sectors. In the early 20th century, settlement also expanded into northern Ontario as French-Canadian workers and their families sought opportunities for employment that accompanied the building of the railway and the establishment of resource-based industries, such as mining and pulp and paper production.

By 1921, the French-Canadian population in Ontario had grown to nearly 250,000 – an increase of nearly 235,000 since 1842.