A small campus in northern Ontario is celebrating a big role it played in the province’s history. On September 25, 1975, the new Franco-Ontarian flag was raised for the first time in Ontario at the entrance of the University of Sudbury, a bilingual institution federated with Laurentian University. On that same day 42 years later, U of Sudbury unveiled a plaque commemorating that historic moment.
The flag was created by Gaétan Gervais, a Sudbury-born history professor at Laurentian, and students Michel Dupuis and Jacline England following the 1974 founding of the French Students’ Association at Laurentian. It features the fleur-de-lys, a historic emblem of French culture and language, and a trillium, Ontario’s official flower, on a background of green and white to represent the province’s dominant seasons. A grassroots campaign based at U of S promoted the flag as a unifying symbol of the province’s francophone population. It was slowly adopted across the province until its official recognition by the Ontario government in 2001.
The plaque reads in part, “the green and white flag … endures as the most prominent symbol of the province’s diverse francophone community and represents more than 400 years of the French presence in Ontario.”
According to the 2011 census, 493,300 Ontarians speak French as their mother tongue (another 46,605 speak both French and English). In Sudbury, French is considered a mother tongue for more than a quarter of residents.