Religion, Language, and Culture

In Sudbury's early days, people were primarily concerned about survival and the community mainly developed in an atmosphere of mutual cooperation and harmony.  Events of global, national or provincial dimensions would change relations between the various ethnic groups, even within the Catholic Church.

The famine in Ireland gave rise to a wave of immigration to Canada.  The Catholic population, until then mainly French Canadian, was transformed radically.  The same phenomenon affected the make-up of the Catholic clergy.  French Canadians and the Irish combined their efforts for the right to a Catholic education but were divided on the question of language.

Immigrants from Europe became more and more numerous.  From very diverse cultures and beliefs, they saw in parish life a means of preserving not only their faith but also their culture.  Generally, they obtained the support of the French-speaking clergy who shared in these aspirations whereas the English-speaking clergy believed that parish life had to promote integration of the new arrivals into the existing community.

Even before the opening of the railroad to passenger trains, a special military convoy passed through the area en route to the west to fight the Louis Riel rebellion.

When the Government of Manitoba did away with public financing for separate schools in 1890, Manitoba's school question regularly made newspaper headlines and worried the Catholic population.

In Ontario, English became a mandatory subject in 1885.  Then, in 1890, it became the language of instruction.  In 1912, Regulation 17 limited the teaching of French to the first two years of elementary school. This regulation particularly affected bilingual and French-language Catholic schools.

In 1917, (with the onset of World War I) conscription would have a divisive effect on the population, depending on the degree of attachment to the various countries of origin or how devoted immigrants were to Canada.

The clergy in place, whether at the parish or the diocesan level, could promote one ethnic group or another by recruiting secular priests, by backing construction projects or by supporting associations.  So, in an unusual phenomenon, it was often the determination of parishioners that provided the driving force needed to establish new Catholic parishes, particularly if they were of an ethnic nature.


Material compiled from 75e anniversaire du diocèse du Sault Ste-Marie 1904-1979, Fondateurs du Diocèse de Sault-Sainte-Marie, La Paroisse Sainte-Anne des pins de Sudbury (1883-1940), Aperçu sur les origines de Sudbury, and Paroisse Sainte-Anne de Sudbury.

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