Provincial plaque commemorates French-Canadian settlement and the CPR in the Mattawa area



    MATTAWA, ON, Oct. 27 /CNW/ - Today, at the Mattawa and District Museum,
the Ontario Heritage Trust and the Mattawa Bonfield Economic Development
Corporation unveiled a provincial plaque commemorating the French-Canadian
settlement and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in the Mattawa area.
    "The French-Canadian settlement that accompanied the construction of the
Canadian Pacific Railway was instrumental to the growth and prosperity of
Mattawa and surrounding towns," said The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander,
Chairman of the Ontario Heritage Trust. "We are delighted to commemorate the
contributions of this early francophone community and its lasting cultural
legacy in this region of the province."
    Situated at the confluence of the Mattawa and Ottawa rivers, the small
town of Mattawa was along the route of those heading north or west during
early exploration and the fur trade. The area saw its first permanent settlers
when the Hudson's Bay Company opened a seven-building fur trading post there
in 1837. With the decline of the fur trade, Mattawa became a centre for the
forest industry. As the "capital" of the lumber camps, it had a transient
population of 2,000 lumberjacks.
    It was not until the arrival of the CPR, however, that settlement in and
around Mattawa increased. By 1880, there were 4,000 men working on the railway
line in the area. The resulting population growth not only benefited the
economic development of Mattawa, but of several towns to its west, including:
Eau Claire, Bonfield, Astorville and Corbeil.
    Although living conditions were harsh, half of the workers and their
families remained in Mattawa following completion of the railway in 1881. Of
the men who stayed, 1,000 were French-Canadian. The town soon became an
important lumber depot, supply centre and hiring location for lumber
companies.
    "We are proud to celebrate the accomplishments of these French-Canadian
settlers and their profound impact in shaping the cultural and economic
landscape of the area," said Culture Minister Aileen Carroll. "Their spirit
and traditions are reflected in the vibrant francophone community that exists
there today."
    Mattawa eventually attained municipal status in 1884, with many settlers'
families established in the surrounding area. Population growth due to the
booming lumber industry led to the construction of churches and hospitals, as
well as the formation of associations. At the turn of the 20th century,
Mattawa and the towns to its west continued to flourish.
    "The significance of the CPR and French-Canadian settlement in shaping
the Mattawa area into an important transportation and cultural centre in
northern Ontario is immense," said Dean Backer, Mayor of Mattawa. "We are
proud of our unique Franco-Ontarian heritage and we are grateful to all those
involved in acquiring this provincial plaque."
    The introduction of the CPR significantly influenced the founding and
development of Mattawa and other towns in the area. Opportunities presented by
the construction of the railway also attracted many French-Canadians who
settled there and left a lasting imprint on the region's culture and heritage.
    The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario,
dedicated to identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's
heritage.
    The Trust gratefully acknowledges the Ontario Office of Francophone
Affairs for its assistance and the Department of Canadian Heritage for its
financial contribution to this provincial plaque through the Canada-Ontario
Agreement on French-Language Services.

    
    Quick Facts:

    -   The Ontario Heritage Trust's Provincial Plaque Program commemorates
        significant people, places and events in Ontario's history.
    -   Since 1953, over 1,200 provincial plaques have been unveiled.
    -   There are 41 provincial plaques across the province commemorating
        Franco-Ontarian heritage.

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For further information:

For further information: Liane Nowosielski, Assistant Marketing and
Communications Coordinator, Ontario Heritage Trust, Telephone: (416) 325-5032,
E-mail: liane.nowosielski@heritagetrust.on.ca


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