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HEARST – On the sidelines of the Centenary celebrations of the village of Hearst, a municipality of 5,000 inhabitants, a must see in the north of the province, ONFR+ invites you to step back in time featuring five key moments that shaped its history and made it the most francophone city in Ontario.
1912, the railway boom
Tracing the origins of Hearst’s creation takes us back to 1912, when construction began on the National Transcontinental Railway, and later, in 1914, that of the Algoma Central and Hudson Bays Railway, which would later be renamed the Algoma Central Railway.
At the time, the locality of Hearst had been chosen to be one of the water supply stations for the steam trains in circulation. Quickly becoming a major railroad junction, the road opened up the Clay Belt region to forestry and agriculture, supported by the provincial government’s desire to develop the North.
This campaign will attract large numbers of migrants from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, particularly from Finland and Sweden, who will soon be joined by Britons and Quebecers familiar with the agroforestry environment. The Catholic Church of French Canada encouraged its faithful to spread the Catholic faith and the French language by settling in the north.
1922, incorporation of the city
It was on August 3, 1922 that the city of Hearst was officially born after the foundation of the parish of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption in 1919 by the first bishop of the region, Archbishop Joseph Hallé. The city of Hearst was incorporated in 1922 with a population of 573.
The community, formerly called Grant, in honor of a long-lost Western community, was renamed in honor of Sir William Hearst, Minister of Natural Resources (1911-1914) and Premier of Ontario (1914-1919), who established a farm experimental there in 1917.
The city was multilingual at the time, and in power was one of Ontario’s most francophobic governments behind Regulation 17, which prohibited the use of French in bilingual schools in separate, public systems. Ironically, the name of this city is now synonymous with a majority Francophonie.
1953, a decisive year for the university and the hospital
It was a fruitful year for the region, which saw the birth of Hearst Seminary (future College and later Hearst University), the region’s francophone higher education center, by Louis Levesque, Bishop of Hearst, whose diocese was created in 1939. .
Hearst is a city that has four levels of education for a population of 5,000, another exception from the northern city. 1953 was also the year that Saint Paul’s Hospital, founded in 1922, was purchased from the United Church by the Sisters of Providence at the request of the bishop after lengthy negotiations.
The Sisters then renamed it to its current name, Hôpital Notre-Dame, and closed their hospital in Ste-Agathe, Quebec, in order to transfer their staff and move there. An important event that made it possible to save the dilapidated building, whose maintenance funds were exhausted, and to renovate it to become a hospital center that today serves the entire region.
2002, Claude Larose and hockey in its heyday
Some will surely remember the month of April when two days of celebration took place in honor of five-time Stanley Cup champion and first player in the northern city’s national league, Claude Larose.
On April 29, a ceremony is held to unveil the plaque for the renowned new Claude Larose Recreation Center. From time to time, the Stanley Cup is displayed to the delight of the public who can pose in front of it. The former player, then 60 years old, will take the opportunity to wear the number 15 shirt and take a lap of honor on the ice carrying the Stanley Cup to the applause of the audience.
An incident occurs, however, when the former hockey player drops the cup after entering the dark through the referees’ entrance. A moment that will be cut during the editing of the recording of the event, and camouflaged by Claude Larose who hides the part of the ring with a ledge. It is said that a certain Roger Sigouin, a body repairman and alderman, noticed it in the crowd and fixed it in 10 minutes in his family’s garage. He will become mayor of the city a month later, dethroned to this day.
2021, the university acquires its autonomy
Another significant date in Hearst’s history is the passing in Queen’s Park in April of a bill making Hearst University an autonomous university. Prior to that, the educational institution had been affiliated with the University of Sudbury since 1957 and Laurentian University at Sudbury since 1963.
It obtains its own institutional charter and, therefore, definitively breaks with Laurentian University, which was hit by a severe financial crisis that led to the cut of 72 programs, including 29, in French and to the indignation of the Franco-Ontarian community in the region. . Many hope that his example will serve to support the independence of the other French-speaking university in the North, the University of Sudbury.
In 2013, Université de Hearst became the first university in Ontario designated under the French Language Services Act. With a renowned research chair, a large international clientele and campuses in Hearst, Kapuskasing and Timmins, the Université de Hearst contributes greatly to the economic development of the city, the promotion of the Francophonie and the influence of the entire region. .