Every June, French culture in the city is celebrated during Francophone Week, culminating with a bonfire celebration on St. Jean Baptiste Day. During this week, French culture is exhibited with displays of art, theatre and patriotic songs as Toronto’s French-speaking community gathers together to celebrate its heritage during Franco-Fête.
There are more than 220,000 French-speaking people from various backgrounds living in Toronto. The community is a multicultural mix of Franco-Ontarians, Québecois, Acadians, francophones from the western provinces, Franco-Americans, and French-speaking peoples from such countries as France, Haiti, Belgium, Switzerland, Morocco, Senegal, Congo, and other African nations. French-owned businesses include restaurants, pharmaceutical companies, clothing boutiques, and translation services.
An early French settler in Ontario was Etienne Brûlé, interpreter to Samuel de Champlain and the first known European to stand on the site of Toronto in 1615. La Salle, another famous explorer, used the route in his explorations and was the first to record the name Toronto from the original native Indian word. In the 1700s, the French built fur-trading fortifications in the city. On the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, a huge boulder with an inscription marks the place where Fort Rouillé, commonly known as Fort Toronto, once stood in 1749.
Baby Point, an affluent Toronto neighbourhood, was once the estate of the Bâby family. In 1762, French fur-trader Jacques Bâby opened a trading store on the Humber River, and his son James Bâby became a member of both the executive and legislative councils of the new province of Upper Canada. Toronto’s St. George Street is named after Laurent Quetton de St. George who operated a successful mercantile business at the turn of the 19th century. Other places and streets, such as Agincourt and Roncesvalles, take their names from famous French battles.
In the 1890s, most of the French population was located in the vicinity of Seaton and Sackville streets, between King and Queen streets, and in Parkdale. The community consisted of French-Canadians and half a dozen families from France. The majority were employed in factories, while some worked as printers, tailors, shoemakers, barbers, and bookkeepers.
One of the earliest organizations was the St. Joseph Society, a social service organization. The centre of the community was the Sacré Coeur Church, established on Sherbourne Street in 1887. Many French children attended separate schools, continuing their studies at a variety of schools, including De La Salle Institute.
A second parish, St. Louis de France, was established in Don Mills in 1965 to meet the needs of a growing French population. An important organization at this time was Chasse-Galerie, which housed an art gallery, workshops, and a bookstore, and organized events to promote French-Canadian culture.
Founded in 1981, ACFO-Toronto is a community-based non-profit organization, created for the purpose of furthering the development of French-speaking Ontarians or Ontarians of French culture living in Toronto and assists the more than 75 francophone organizations in Toronto to provide their services to the Community.
L’Alliance Française de Toronto, one of the oldest French groups in the city, continues to promote French culture through exhibitions, cultural events, a resource centre, a library and language classes. The Comité Français de l’Hôtel de Ville de Toronto, which organizes Francophone Week, was formed to establish a direct link between Toronto’s elected officials and the francophone community.
There are a number of French dance troupes, singing clubs, and theatre groups, as well as francophone radio and television stations in the city, and it is possible for students to begin and complete their education in French by attending Toronto’s day care centres, French elementary schools, secondary schools, and colleges.
Places to Go
Théâtre Français de Toronto, (Tel. 416-534-7303, www.theatrefrancais.com, 21 College St, Suite 610), performs plays for both adults and children during its season.
Exhibitions of French paintings, sculptures, and books are displayed at Maison de la Culture, Glendon College, York University, (Tel. 416-487-6710, 2275 Bayview Ave). Contact: Sylziane de Roquebruna.
Alliance française de Toronto, (Tel. 416-922-2014, www.alliance-francaise.ca, 24 Spadina Rd) exhibits works by new French artists.
Toronto abounds with French restaurants serving carefully prepared soups, stews, meat and fish dishes enhanced by sauces such as béarnaise and béchamel. Hors d’oeuvres usually include escargot (snails in garlic, butter, and parsley), pâté de foie gras (goose liver paté), and soupe a l’oignon (onion soup). Regional specialties may include ratatouiIle (eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini stewed in olive oil), bouillabaisse (a stew of fish, mussels, and shellfish), and cuisses de grenouilles (frog legs). Popular desserts are mousse, soufflé, and torte. The French are renowned for their excellent wines, and café au lait is a popular beverage.
Arlequin, (134 Avenue Rd), serves specialties from the south of France, including ratatouille, scallops, roast lamb, and rabbit with thyme. A food shop on the premises sells French gourmet products.
Le Trou Normand, (Tel. 416-967-5956, 90 Yorkville Ave), specializes in the cuisine of Normandy and northwestern France, serving dishes such as marinated rabbit, veal escalope with cream sauce, and calf’s brains.
Le Petit Gourmet, (Tel. 416-966-3811, 1064 Yonge St), serves Basque-style fish stews and meat dishes.
Provence, (Tel. 416-924-9901, 12 Amelia St), serves duck in nine of its main dishes with a variety of sauces; and Jacques Bistro du Parc, (Tel. 416-961-1893, 126A Cumberland St), offers 17 different types of omelettes.
Le Papillon, (Tel. 416-363-0838, 16 Church St), is Toronto’s original crêperie, serving seafood, vegetarian, and fruit crêpes.
Le Saint Tropez, (Tel. 416-591-3600, 315 King St. W), offers light-style French cuisine, including a selection of 40 different sandwiches for lunch;
Marcel’s Bistro, (Tel. 416-591-8600, 315 King St. W., 2nd floor);
La Bodega, (Tel. 416-977-1287, 30 Baldwin St), provides the experience of eating sophisticated French cuisine in the charming elegance of an old home.
Other restaurants serving French cuisine include Auberge du Pommier, (Tel. 416-222-2220, 4150 Yonge St);
Bistro 990, (Tel. 416-921-9990, 990 Bay St);
La Maquette, (Tel. 416-366-8191, 111 King St. E);
Le Montmartre French Restaurant, (Tel. 416-630-3804, 911 Sheppard Ave. W);
Le Paradis, (Tel. 416-921-0995, 166 Bedford Rd);
Le Select Bistro, (Tel. 416-596-6405, 328 Queen St. W);
Scaramouche, (Tel. 416-961-8011, 1 Benvenuto Place);
Olliffe Butcher Shop, (Tel. 416-928-0296, 1097 Yonge St),
and Cumbrae Butchers, (Tel. 416-923-5600, 481 Church St).
Pastry shops include France Patisserie, (Tel. 416-752-0027, 435 Midwest Rd);
and Patachou Patisserie, (Tel. 416-927-1105, 1095 Yonge St), which sells brioches, croissants, brie sandwiches, quiche, and imported paté.
Stores that carry imported goods from France include The French Collection, (Tel. 416-483-3861, 253 Eglinton Ave. W), importers of women’s clothes.
Librairie Champlain, (Tel. 416-364-4345, www.librairiechamplain.com, 468 Queen St. E) is considered the best French-language bookstore in the country with more than 100,000 French-language books in stock.
Maison de la Presse Internationâle, (Tel. 416-928-2328, 102 Yorkville Ave), carries French dailies, weeklies, Quebec newspapers, and magazines. It also sells French classics, reference books, dictionaries, greeting cards, and music by French recording artists.
Religious Centres, Schools and Other Institutions
Many French-speaking Torontonians belong to the Roman Catholic church. French services are held at the following churches:
CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER, (Tel. 416-922-4948, 162 Bloor St. W).
ÉGLISE DU SACRE-COEUR, (Tel. 416-922-2177, 381 Sherbourne St). The church is more than 100 years old.
JARVIS STREET BAPTIST CHURCH, (Tel. 416-925-3261, 130 Gerrard St. E).
ST. LOUIS DE FRANCE, (Tel. 416-445-6433, 1415 Don Mills Rd).
French schools in the city include:
ÉCOLE JEANNE-LAJOIE, (Tel. 416-397-2080, 150 Carnforth Rd).
ÉCOLE MONSEIGNEUR-DE-CHARBONNEL, (Tel. 416-393-5537, 110 Drewry Ave).
GEORGE BROWN COLLEGE, Centre français, (Tel. 416-415-2000, P.O. Box 1015, Station B).
GEORGE ÉTIENNE CARTIER, (Tel. 416-393-5314, 250 Gainsborough St).
GLENDON COLLEGE, (Tel. 416-487-6710, York University, 2275 Bayview Ave).
GABRIELLE ROY, (Tel. 416-393-1360, 14 Pembroke St).
LE COLLEGE FRANCAIS, (Tel. 416-393-0175, 100 Carlton St).
SACRE-COEUR, (Tel. 416-393-5219, 25 Linden St).
ST. MADELEINE, (Tel. 416-393-5312, 1 Ness Dr).
ST. NOËL CHABANEL, (Tel. 416-393-5321, 1300 Wilson Ave).
ST. JEAN DE LALANDE, (Tel. 416-393-5369, 500 Sandhurst Circle).
TORONTO FRENCH SCHOOL, (Tel. 416-484-6533, www.tfs.on.ca, 306 Lawrence Ave. E).
BANQUE PARIBAS DU CANADA, Royal Trust Tower, TD Centre, (Tel. 416-365-9600, 77 King St. W., Suite 4100, P.O. Box 31).
NEW YEAR’S DAY. On January 1, New Year’s Day celebrations include the eating of tourtières and roast turkey. Réveillons (get-togethers) are held on December 31 in private homes.
MARDI GRAS is held during the week before Lent begins. Celebrations include a masquerade ball and other social activities.
ST-JEAN-BAPTISTE DAY, June 24, takes place in honour of the patron saint of French Canadians. Francophone Week takes place around this time with cultural activities at Harbourfront and Ontario Place, and a large bonfire celebration at Glendon College.
LE FESTIVAL ACADIEN, August 15, is held in honour of the patron saint of all Acadians, Our Lady of Assumption. An all-day open-air festival is held at Harbourfront with displays of crafts, demonstrations of spinning and weaving, and singing and dancing.
LA TIRE STE. CATHERINE is held on November 25. A French Canadian custom was started on this date in the 17th-century when Marguerite Bourgeoys made toffee candy for her students. The tradition continues to this day and celebrates unmarried women over 25 years of age.
CHRISTMAS. On December 25, Christmas is celebrated with Le Réveillon (midnight supper). After attending Midnight Mass, it is customary for French Canadians to gather together to share tourtières, pastries, and other delicacies, along with Petit St. George wine. The festivities include dancing and singing.
FRANCO-FÊTE. This is the largest French festival in Toronto. More than 10,000 francophones attend this celebration of La Francophonie held yearly between St-Jean-Baptiste Day and Canada Day. This family-oriented festival has featured great names in French music worldwide, such as Céline Dion, Robert Charlesbois, and Michel Rivard. Chair: Gérard Parent.
LA NUIT BLANCHE, Since 2002, Paris has invited its inhabitants to take an artistic and nocturne round for one night. The objective is to make art and culture accessible to everyone and to emphasize urban space. This event now also takes place in Toronto on the first Saturday of October and attracts close to a million visitors.
LA FÊTE DE LA MUSIQUE, On the 21st of June, since 1982, the summer solstice is a day of music. People get together in various locations including streets, squares and centres to listen to live bands, all for free. All towns and villages in France hold this festival, and this concept has now spread to countries all around the world. Today we can enjoy La Fete de la Musique in New York, London, Rio, Madrid or Toronto.
LA SEMAINE DE LA FRANCOPHONE, Every year in March, Toronto has a French atmosphere. For old and young alike, dozens of activities are organized by French speaking assiciations and intitutions from Toronto, they gather and celebrate French as a common language.
ANNUAIRE FRANCOPHONE, CFT Centre Francophone, (Tel. 416-203-1220, 20 Lower Spadina Ave). An annual directory of services available in French.
CJBC 860, FRENCH RADIO AND TV, (Tel. 416-205-3311 and 205-2522, Box 500, Station A). Same address: CBLFT-French television.
TFO, (Tel. 416-968-3536, 21 College St., 6th Floor, P.O. Box 3005, station F). Publicist: Claudette Paquin.
L’EXPRESS, (Tel. 416-465-2107, 17 Carlaw Ave). A weekly newspaper in French. Editor: Magaline Boutros.
CLUB CANADIEN DE TORONTO, (Tel. 416-243-0662, www.clubcanadien.ca, 1116 Wilson Ave).
FRENCH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, (Tel. 416-205-9820, 20 Queen St. W., Suite 2006).
ALLIANCE FRANÇAISE DE TORONTO, (Tel. 416-922-2014, www.alliance-francaise.ca, 24 Spadina Rd). President: Lee MacNeil.
ASSOCIATION DES PROFESSEURS D’IMMERSION DE NORTH YORK (APINY), (Tel. 416-488-8044, 56 Braeside Rd). President: Laurie Moir.
FRANÇAIS ACCUEIL, (Tel. 416-544-8106, 24 Lower Village Gate).
ASSOCIATION DES SCOUTS DU DISTRICT DE TORONTO, (Tel. 416-490-6313, 265 Yorkland Blvd., 2nd floor). Executive Director: Peter Sundborg.
Franco-Ontarian students celebrate the official adoption of their community’s flag.
LE CERCLE CANADIEN DE TORONTO, (Tel. 416-243-0662, 1116 Wilson Ave Suite 66030).
CENTRE DE RECHERCHE EN EDUCATION FRANCO-ONTARIENNE (CREFO), (Tel. 416-923-6641, 242 Bloor St. W., #6-210). Director: Monica Heller.
CENTRE D’ACCUEIL HÉRITAGE, (Tel. 416-365-3350, 33 Hahn Pl).
CERCLE DE L’AMITIE, (Tel. 905-456-0606, Fax 905-542-8896, 1780 Meadowvale Blvd., Mississauga).
COMITÉ FRANÇAIS DE L’HÔTEL DE VILLE DE TORONTO, (100 Queen St. W., 2nd Floor). President: André Duclos.
CONSEIL DES ÉCOLES CATHOLIQUES DU GRAND TORONTO, (Tel. 416-222-8282, 80 Sheppard Ave. E).
EVEIL FÉMININ, (Tel. 416-922-2177). President: Anne Perry.
FRANCOSCOPE, (Tel. 416-449-8738, 61 Ternhill Cres). A French cultural club. President: Paul Ceurstemont.
GARDERIE LAJOIE, (Tel. 416-759-5095, 150 Carnforth Rd). President: Julie Ethier.
L’ASSOCIATION DES FEMMES D’AFFAIRES FRANCOPHONES, (Tel. 905-827-6189, P.O. Box 7147 Oakville). Contact: Colette Mockfyd.
LA FARANDOLE (GARDERIE), (Tel. 416-363-1841, 14 Pembroke St). Contact: Doina Iliescu.
LA GARDERIE RAYON DE SOLEIL, (Tel. 416-444-3464, 1 Ness Dr). Contact: Celine Mousseau.
LE CENTRE MEDICO SOCIAL COMMUNAUTAIRE, (Tel. 416-922-2672, 22 College St., Main floor). Executive Director: Jean-Gilles Pelletier.
LE PETIT CHAPERON ROUGE (GARDERIE), (Tel. 416-463-3955, 250 Gainsborough Rd). President: Kip Daechel.
LES BOUTS D’CHOUX (GARDERIE), (Tel. 416-960-9929, 25 Linden St). Director: Julie Meta.
SOCIÉTÉ D’HISTOIRE DE TORONTO, (Tel. 416-497-5354, 552 Church St., P.O. Box 93). President: Rosland Smith.
UNION DES ARTISTES, (Tel. 416-485-7670, 625 Church St., Suite 103).