French roots of Calgary's Mission marked on Remembrance Day

The home of Calgary’s Lilac Festival used to be a French village and that community was named after a family, whose son died fighting in the First World War.

Group hopes to shine spotlight on little known piece of Calgary history

A Remembrance Day ceremony in Calgary was well attended Monday, and among other things paid tribute to those who died at war, including Pte. Henri Joseph Rouleau, right. The Calgary community of Mission used to be a French village called Rouleauville, named after the family, until it was annexed by Calgary. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada, Glenbow Archives)

The home of Calgary's Lilac Festival used to be a French village and that community was named after a family whose son died fighting in the First World War.

That's right, trendy Mission used to be Rouleauville, named after two Rouleau brothers, one of whom had a son, Henri Joseph Rouleau, who is better known as Pte. Rouleau.

"It is such a shame this is not commemorated as it should be. I am hopeful as the years continue, this should be an automatic recognition," Suzanne de Courville Nicol told CBC News.

"The Mission district was originally Rouleauville, from 1899 to 1907, when it was annexed by the city. Everything French was wiped out. All the street names took on the numerical system that we are familiar with now."

As the president of Bureau de Visibilité de Calgary, de Courville Nicol looks to share the history of Calgary, with more diverse roots than many know.

Suzanne de Courville Nicol attends a Remembrance Day ceremony Monday in Calgary. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

She says it started when a judge, Charles-Borromée Rouleau, and his brother Dr. Édouard-Hector Rouleau, moved to the area from what is today Quebec.

"The doctor's youngest son, he would have been two-years-old in that family photo, became the soldier who went to war, in the First World War and died after fighting at Vimy, Passchendaele," de Courville Nicol said.

Ken LaPointe is a researcher and advocate for the history of what is today Mission.

In 1998, he became involved in a fight to save St. Mary's High School, slated for closure, and began to learn more about the neighbourhood.

"From that conflict I learned about Mission and its history that goes back before Calgary," LaPointe said.

"Pte. Henri Joseph Rouleau is important on not just a community scale, but we feel nationally."

de Courville Nicol says there are about 100,000 francophones in the Calgary area, and 300,000 in the province, but sometimes they connection to the province is sidelined.

"French is not just Quebec. It is Alberta. That's what's important to recognize and somehow, we are not invited to the table. We need to be considered, invited, included."

On Sept. 13, 1917, Pte. Henri J. Rouleau of the 46th Battalion died of battlefield wounds.

While only 20 years old, Pte. Rouleau was one of 585,000 casualties of which 325,000 were allied soldiers, according to the bureau.

"He lies buried at the military cemetery in Calais, France."

With file from Radio-Canada's Vincent Bonnay


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.