Provincial plaque memorializes francophone teacher Jeanne Lajoie

    PEMBROKE, ON, Oct. 28 /CNW/ - Today, the Ontario Heritage Trust, the City
of Pembroke and the Centre culturel francophone de Pembroke unveiled a
provincial plaque commemorating Jeanne Lajoie (1899-1930).
    Lajoie was born in Lefaivre, west of Hawkesbury, on February 2, 1899.
From an early age she was plagued by poor health, but she persevered, setting
her sights on becoming a teacher. In 1923, she accepted a position at St. John
School in Pembroke. There, she would figure prominently in the last major
battle of the Franco-Ontarian struggle against Regulation 17, which from 1912
to 1927 prohibited instruction in French after Grade 2.
    "Jeanne Lajoie was a dedicated teacher and advocate for French-language
schools," said The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, Chairman of the Ontario
Heritage Trust. "This provincial plaque will ensure that her contributions to
preserving Ontario's francophone culture are remembered."
    Although francophones were the largest cultural group in Pembroke, St.
John School was the only Catholic school offering French instruction. However,
not long after Lajoie was hired to teach at the school, she was replaced by an
anglophone instructor. Following her dismissal, she wrote to the Association
Canadienne-Française d'Education d'Ontario (ACFEO). Her letter was published
in the newspaper, sparking a reaction among local parents who wanted their
children to receive instruction in French. With the support of ACFEO, parents
voted to establish the first independent French school in Pembroke - Ecole
libre de Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc - with Lajoie as teacher.
    "Jeanne Lajoie's commitment to providing education in French for the
children of her community had a lasting impact on generations of
Franco-Ontarians," said Culture Minister Aileen Carroll. "I'm pleased to see
her contributions commemorated with a provincial plaque."
    For the next four years, Lajoie figured prominently in the Pembroke
school crisis, until Regulation 17 was rescinded in 1927. Sadly, however,
those years took a toll on her health, and in 1930 she succumbed to
tuberculosis at the age of 31.
    "The Francophone community of Pembroke is proud of its heritage and is
delighted that the Ontario Heritage Trust and the City of Pembroke will be
unveiling a commemorative plaque highlighting the meaningful work of Jeanne
Lajoie in our region," said Lucile Tourigny, president of Le Centre culturel
francophone de Pembroke. "Her ardour, conviction and love of the French
language and culture are a light that continues to shine on our community
    Today, Jeanne Lajoie is remembered as the "Pucelle de Pembroke" (the
"Maid of Pembroke"), in reference to Joan of Arc, for her commitment to
providing education in French and preserving francophone culture within
Ontario. The public Ecole élémentaire Jeanne Lajoie in Toronto and the Roman
Catholic Ecole intermédiaire Jeanne-Lajoie in Pembroke are both named in her

    The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario,
dedicated to identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's
    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 and 48 celebrating women in history.

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For further information:

For further information: Catrina Colme, Marketing and Communications
Coordinator, Ontario Heritage Trust, Telephone: (416) 325-5074, E-mail:

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