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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund


Francophone Edukit

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Cold Lake









A horse-drawn rideHudson’s Bay Company explorer William Pink first visited the lake Atin Osogan Sagahigan (Cree for "the dog, the rump, the lake") 210 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, circa 1766-67. The area's beaver and buffalo population had interested the fur traders for years, and in the 1850s, Oblate missionaries on their way to Lac La Biche also passed through. Despite all of this activity, it wasn’t until 1884, that A. F. Cotton surveyed the lake and renamed it "Vincent" after his son. The Missionaries promptly renamed it "St. Vincent," and in 1906, the growing colony was dubbed "Lac-St.-Vincent" by Bishop Émile Legal.

While the area was officially opened to settlement in 1909, French-speaking immigrants recruited by Oblates settled in the area as early as 1906. In 1907, Bishop Justin Grandin appointed Father Eugene Bonny to organize the parish which became known for its fertile land. An effect of the railroad bypassing the community in 1918, St. Vincent never achieved village status, but remained a viable rural community.

Early Co-op store in Saint Vincent.For the first and second generation of residents, the parish of St. Vincent was important to maintain their religious and cultural affiliations. A chapter of the Association Canadienne-Francaise de l’Alberta (ACFA) was established in 1927, and various parish priests contributed to the establishment of cultural institutions to aid the community. In spite of the loss of a newly built church to a fire in 1918 (the construction of which had been spearheaded by parish priest, Alberic Ouellette) the parishioners rallied on. Charles Okhuysen was able to obtain teaching sisters from the Sisters of the Assumption, who aided parishioners in the establishment of a new church, also used as a school. With the move toward centralizing educational institutions, the school was closed in 1965 and the Sisters of the Assumption left the community.

Today St. Vincent continues to be active. While population has dwindled, farms have grown exponentially over the years, making the area a rural success. Still populated by people of French descent, St. Vincent remains an important part of the French community in Alberta.

Related Link:
St. Vincent website (http://collections.ic.gc.ca/stvincent-stpaul/eng/st_vincent/vincent_index.htm)


  • Champagne, Juliette Marthe. De la Bretagne aux plaines de l’Ouest canadien. Saint-Nicholas: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2003.
  • Legal, Émile J. Short Sketches of the History of the Catholic Churches and Missions in Central Alberta. Winnipeg: West Canada Publishing Co. Ltd., 1914.

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