110 Years of a French Canadian community

Tire d’érable – maple syrup being poured on ice during a former Festival du Bois.

Looking for ways to “Flaunt your Frenchness?” Look no further than Maillardville, the local francophone community in Coquitlam who, in 2019, is celebrating the 110th anniversary of its founding.

Fraser Mills started off as a small mill hamlet in 1889 and soon became one of the biggest and most lucrative saw mill operations of the Commonwealth. By 1909, the surrounding area had developed with the addition of houses, a post office and a general store, amongst other essentials of a growing town. With this expansion, the founders of the mill, Frank Ross and James McLaren, came to realize that the mill was in need of manpower. Known for their proficiency in logging and forestry, workers from Quebec were sought after to work at the mill and, on Sept. 26, 1909, approximately 100 Quebecers arrived by train, ready to start a new job and experience life on the west coast. Over time, more and more French Canadians arrived and the community flourished and a chapel, Notre Dame de Lourdes, was built. In 1912, the Fraser Mills community was named Maillardville, in honour of visiting French priest, Father Edmond Maillard.

A milestone anniversary

Fast forward to today, the French Canadian community in Coquitlam is still thriving and prosperous. This is, in part, thanks to La Société Francophone de Maillardville, a non-profit organization, and the work of executive and artistic director Johanne Dumas. Madame Dumas has been in her role for 24 years. She has the responsibility of putting forth the requests of La Société’s board members, organizing events and managing the team at their office.

“As they say in French, I’m Le Gros Fromage,” explains Dumas.

It has been an exciting and busy year for Mme. Dumas and Maillardville. Earlier this year in March, they had the 30th anniversary of Le Festival du Bois, the largest Francophone fête in Western Canada, an event that celebrates the culture and history of French Canadians. Each year, there is a lineup of Francophone musical artists, performances, activities and traditional French Canadian food of course.

“It went very well. We had over 10,000 people attend,” says Dumas about this year’s event. “For us that’s quite a milestone to have a French festival that has existed for over thirty years in a suburb of Vancouver.”

“Extravaganza of musicians, singers and performances”

Johanne Dumas.

La Société Francophone de Maillardville was also nominated this year for a Trille D’or award in the category of “Arts Presenter of the Year”, an accolade given to an organization for its promotion and celebration of French Canadian music. Unfortunately, La Société did not take home the award this year, but they still continue to actively support and endorse French Canadian music through their events and activities.

“We’re like a folk fest. Our music is mainly around the Festival du Bois,” explains Dumas. “We have acts that come from BC and all over Canada. It’s a three day extravaganza of musicians, singers and performances for Children.”

The next big event coming up is La Fête de Maillardville, a weekend celebrating the arrival of the first Quebecers and the formation of the community. From Friday, Sept. 20th to Sunday, Sept. 22nd there will be activities and events taking place, from musical performances to a commemorative mass.

“To celebrate the pioneers that first came to this neck of the woods,” says Dumas.

Aside from these annual larger events, visitors can also be present for the annual Christmas celebration, La fête de Saint-Jean-Baptise in June, French classes, French summer camp for kids as well as take part in geocaching.

Madame Dumas encourages everyone to come out and check out the events they have planned.

“Everyone is welcome to take part in all our activities,” she says. “Most of the information on our website is in both official languages.”

To learn more about what Maillardville and La Société Francophone de Maillardville have to offer, visit their website.