Saint-Boniface: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Last updated: January 4, 2022

Walking through the streets of St. Boniface, it feels like being in Quebec, as the French language is present in every aspect of daily life. Begun with the first Coureurs des bois and their Métis descendants, and reinforced by the Catholic clergy, the presence of French has resisted the inflow of new Anglo-Saxon settlers for two centuries.

01. Esplanade Riel

The footbridge that crosses the Red River between downtown Winnipeg and St. Boniface is considered an esplanade, providing continuity for pedestrians and cyclists between the two urban areas. In the middle there is a suspended restaurant above the river’s waters, which can be tumultuous during spring floods.

02. Fort Gibraltar

Located in the park north of St. Boniface near the Red River, the current fort is a recreation of the one built in 1809 at the confluence with the Assiniboine River by the North West Company, rival to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Fort Gibraltar allows for a historical presentation in season and hosts the Festival du Voyageur.

03. City Hall

St. Boniface City Hall was built in 1905 to provide the many community services requested by the inhabitants of the city created in 1883, including a jail. Since the amalgamation with Winnipeg in 1972, it remains a relay for municipal action more directly directed towards the Francophone population.

04. Archbishop’s Residence

In 1818, the Catholic Church in Quebec sent Father Provencher, who became bishop in 1820. He organized the new community on a French-speaking and Catholic basis, setting up the education of the children as well as the care of the sick and the elderly. The residence dates from 1865, and replaced the one burnt down by the fire in the cathedral.

05. Cathedral

Since 1818 several buildings succeeded one another, damaged by the elements or becoming too small, they were finally replaced by a large stone construction in 1862. The cathedral only lasted until 1968 when a fire destroyed it, leaving only the outer walls. They were saved as they were while a place of worship was rebuilt nearby.

06. Grey Nuns Convent

The Grey Nuns arrived from Montreal in 1844 and were active even before the completion of their convent in 1851. It will be at the same time a school, a dispensary, an orphanage and a hospice before the construction of more specialized buildings. Since 1956, this beautiful wooden structure has become the museum of Saint Boniface, recounting the stages of the city’s development.

07. University

As soon as he arrived in 1818, Father Provencher began to teach, as time went by education became more structured and secularized. The present building dates from 1911, today, it accommodates a thousand students for French language teaching and is therefore at the heart of Francophone cultural life in Western Canada, also encouraging other activities such as theatre.

08. Tomb of Louis Riel

Born in 1844, Louis Riel was the prominent figure in Manitoba’s early history. Head of a provisional government in 1870, he was responsible for Manitoba’s entry into Canadian confederation. In 1884, he led the Métis rebellion against the large-scale arrival of Anglo-Saxons. Arrested and executed, he remained a symbol for Francophone communities.

09. Rue Deschambault

In this quiet street grew up Gabrielle Roy, a major francophone writer who became famous in 1945 with her first novel The Tin Flute. Although she lived in Quebec, she continued to be inspired by the memories of her Manitoba childhood throughout her work. Her birth house is now a museum, laid out as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. (more)

10. Chez Nous (At Home)

Located in the centre of the old historic district of St. Boniface, this curious round building from 1973 is a retirement home with about 100 units. It is in keeping with the works of the Grey Nuns. Although it is also open to English-speaking residents, it illustrates how all stages of life can continue to take place in French.

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