Celebrating Rouleauville

Someone vandalized three bilingual traffic signs in Calgary’s historic Rouleauville neighbourhood last week. They sprayed-out “Arrêt”, leaving only “Stop” visible.

Sheila Risbud, president of the Association canadienne française de l'Alberta, said the act showed a “flagrant lack of respect for one of the country's two official language communities.”

That May is Alberta’s Francophonie Month adds to the irony.

Purchased by funds raised in Calgary’s Francophone community, the signs celebrate the heritage of Rouleauville, located in Calgary’s Beltline area. Alberta has one of the fastest-growing francophone populations in Canada and the third-largest francophone population outside Québec, after Ontario and New Brunswick. 

Where is Rouleauville?

Rouleauville was named for Charles and Édouard Rouleau — brothers who moved to Alberta from L’Isle-Verte, Quebec in the 1880s. Édouard was a doctor and the first president of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Charles was a judge and a member of the Bureau of Education. 

Rouleauville had 500 residents in 1899, the year it was incorporated as a city. Nearby Calgary had about 4,000 residents. Calgary continued to grow, and annexed Rouleauville in 1907. Calgary’s numbered street system replaced the original French street names and the Province of Alberta passed a law limiting the education of children to English only. 

You can find out more about Rouleauville in this podcast walking tour.

Before Rouleauville

Calgary’s Francophone heritage goes back much further, and so does its Indigenous history. 

French was the first European language spoken in Alberta, and in the 17th century, French Canadians and francophone Métis fur traders first settled on the lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, and the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations. 

Image: The “Rouleauville at the turn of the century” map pictured is courtesy of the Glenbow Archives (LIB 91) in Calgary

Catherine Fisher, blogger