“Welcome to Ottawa.”1 Thus reads the front page of Le Droit on Tuesday, January 2, 2001. Dianne Paquette-Legault adds on page 3: “The new City of Ottawa was created yesterday as a result of the amalgamation of 11 municipalities and the Ottawa–Carleton Region. Imposed by Queen’s Park, this municipal merger makes Ottawa the fourth largest city in the country.” 2 The municipality of Vanier is swept away by this merger, which deprives regional Francophones of the only municipal political instance they control.
Originating some 100 years earlier, in 1909, following the merger of the villages of Janeville, Clarkstown and Clandeboye, the village of Eastview enjoys rapid growth which enables it to become a town in 1912. In 1963, Eastview becomes a city. In 1969, it takes the name of Vanier in honour of the first Francophone Governor General of Canada, Georges P. Vanier. Francophones are in the majority there, and Vanier becomes a privileged site of Francophone political affirmation, with residents electing their mayors and councillors. Vanier belongs to them; it is an integral part of their identity.
Following the merger, the Francophones of Vanier are submerged in a city with a population of 785,000. Their identity faces potential erasure, especially since the neighbourhoods of the new city are not partitioned according to the administrative boundaries of the former municipalities. The territory of Vanier is amalgamated with neighbouring Lowertown, a neighbourhood which has a similar French presence, burden of immigration and socio-economic vulnerability. But Vanier, a hub of French life, no longer has the same existence without the institution of the municipality.
In the following edition, Le Droit shares comments from community leaders. Faced with the fait accompli, they stress positive aspects of the amalgamation. “Francophones will feel less isolated. There will be more mutual aid and solidarity,” says Gisèle Lalonde, former Mayor of Vanier. Bernard Grandmaître, another former mayor, states: “All ingredients of the French-speaking world go into the same salad. Francophonie will resonate everywhere.”3
1 Denis Gratton, “La nouvelle Ville d’Ottawa prend forme.” Le Droit, December 31, 2012 (translated from the original).
2 Dianne Paquette-Legault, “Ottawa voit le jour”. Le Droit, January 2, 2001 (translated from the original).
3 Diane Paquette-Legault, “La fin de l’esprit de clocher”. Le Droit, January 3, 2001 (translated from the original).