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Campus Saint-Jean, Edmonton

When Henri Grandin became Vicar of Missions for the province of Alberta-Saskatchewan, he decided to take on the task of recruiting new Oblates to the West. The Oblates needed a training institution in the West, and he arranged for a Juniorate to be founded at the Oblate parish at Pincher Creek. Pincher Creek at the time had a growing Francophone population. Father André Daridon set up the new school and he was the first teacher at Junioriate Saint-Jean.

Soon after its foundation, the school was moved to Edmonton, a more central and populated location, in order to aid recruitment. The Juniorate Saint-Jean was moved into a house near St. Joachim Parish in Edmonton in 1910, but the very next year, it was moved to its current location, south of the North Saskatchewan River, on land donated by former Premier Alexander Rutherford.

After the Juniorate’s move, the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Evron became responsible for cooking, laundry, and an infirmary at the school. The school began to expand early on. In 1917, the “Maison Blanche” was added to the school, and, then, an annex to the original building was built in 1921, tripling its capacity. In its early years, the Juniorate’s curriculum was based on the University of Ottawa’s. The Juniorate’s affiliation with the University did not become official until 1928, the same year that the school was recognized officially as a French-language institution. Juniorate Saint-Jean continued to be bilingual, but the emphasis would now be on French-language instruction. 

In 1941, the College of Jesuits of Edmonton, the only Francophone post-secondary college west of Manitoba, closed its doors. This spurred a change at Juniorate Saint-Jean, which became Collège Saint-Jean in 1943. The Collège would continue to train Oblates, but it would also train a Francophone laity for liberal professions, and non-Oblate priests. That year, the student population climbed to 130 and would continue to rise rapidly throughout the 1950s. In response to this growth, Collège Saint-Jean had a new building added in 1950, with dormitories, conference rooms, a theatre and a gymnasium.

The growth of Collège Saint-Jean continued in the 1960s. In 1960, a $400,000 pavilion was built, to include science laboratories, a library, a lecture room and classrooms. Four years later, a new million dollar building was begun that eventually housed administration offices, reunion halls, refectories and classrooms. Women began attending the Collège for the first time in 1961. During this period, the Collège also began to offer education courses, affiliated first with Université Laval and then with the University of Alberta.

By 1970, the climate in Alberta had become much more favorable towards francophone education and so the Oblates were increasingly removing themselves from their direct support of the Collège.  The high school section had become part of the Edmonton Catholic School District in 1976 and would represent the boys in the new J. H. Picard bilingual high school which opened in 1971.  A partnership with the University of Alberta was begun in 1970 by which the post-secondary programs were offered under a new entity called Collège Universitaire Saint-Jean.  The University operated the academic part and the Oblates the residences and the cultural component of the program.  Given the success of the program, it was decided by the Oblates to relinquish completely their role in what had become a francophone but secular institution.  With financial support from the two senior levels of government, the University purchased the land and buildings from the Oblates in 1976 and then gave the Collège universitaire status as a Faculty.  A year later the institution became officially Faculté Saint-Jean of the University of Alberta.  In 2005, it was decided to refer to it as Campus Saint-Jean although it remains legally a Faculty within the University. 

Campus Saint-Jean is located on Rue Marie-Anne Gaboury in the Bonnie Doon neighborhood of Edmonton, at the heart of the Francophone community in Edmonton. The campus is known for its library, Bibliothèque Saint-Jean, which houses one of the largest French-language collections in Western Canada. The Campus also has a renowned choir, Chorale Saint-Jean, established at the Juniorate in 1937.  In 2008-09, more than 675 undergraduate students and some 80 graduate students were pursuing their studies there.  The Canadian Studies Institute, and the Institute of Western Canadian Francophone Heritage are also housed on the Campus.

Photo Galleries

Faculté Saint-Jean Photo Exhibits

Faculté Saint-Jean Photo Exhibits

The three photo exhibits tell the fascinating story of this unique Western Canadian educational institution from its founding as the Oblate Junioriat College in Pincher Creek by Fr André Daridon. In 1910, it was moved to Edmonton and established on its present site in 1911 where it flourished.  The Collège educated generations of Francophone Albertans as well as enriching the cultural life of the city through music, literature and a range of cultural events. Sports were also important to student life. In 1976, the Oblates sold it to the University of Alberta ultimately becoming a multidisciplinary Francophone Campus. The complex of buildings comprising the Campus anchor the French Quarter on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River.  The text panels, on which the first exhibit was based, can be seen in the Salle du patrimoine, Pavilion Lacerte, Campus Saint-Jean, University of Alberta. Images in the exhibits are drawn from the Oblate Archives and the Campus Saint-Jean and the Heritage Community Foundation wish to acknowledge their gratitude to the Oblates for permission to reprint these materials.


Edmonton’s Francophone Heritage. “Faculté Saint-Jean of the University of Alberta.” Retrieved May 19, 2009 from http://www.abheritage.ca/francoedmonton/modern/college-faculte_e.html

History Trails. “Faculté Saint-Jean: A New Faculty but an Old Institution.” 1980. Retrieved May 19, 2009 from http://www.ualbertacentennial.ca/feature_articles/display_feat_article.php?article_id=963

Ouimet-Levasseur, France. Regards, Paroles et Gestes: en souvenir du 20e anniversaire de la Faculté Saint-Jean. 1997.

University of Alberta Centenary. “Campus Saint-Jean.” Retrieved May 19, 2009 from http://www.ualbertacentennial.ca/organization/faculties/saint_jean.html

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