Vanier celebrates half a century of history
Then-city called Eastview changed its name to Vanier in 1969
It's been called a cultural centre for Ontario and Ottawa francophones — and in 2019, Vanier residents celebrated the 50th anniversary of their community's identity.
The area just east of the city's core drew many Rideau Canal workers looking for a place to live in the 1820s, with main thoroughfare Montreal Road carved out starting in 1869, according to Ottawa Tourism.
While French speakers were already well established in the 1.6 square-kilometre area, which was home to Ontario's first bilingual public school, it wasn't until 1969 that it took the name it has today.
The then-city, founded as Eastview in 1909, changed its name from to Vanier in 1969 to commemorate the first French-speaking governor general Georges Vanier.
It became part of the amalgamated City of Ottawa in 2001.
For many living in the east Ottawa neighbourhood, a sense of solidarity comes with the territory.
"Vanier chose me," said Donna Chevrier, owner of the Ola Cocina restaurant.
Although she's only been in Vanier for a few years, Chevrier said she learned the value of community in October after her restaurant was broken into and vandalized.
Customers raised more than $15,500 in less than 24 hours to help repair the damage.
"I discovered that Vanier has a lot of heart," she told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview. "Whenever I think about it, I start to cry."
For others, 2019's year-long celebrations offered the chance to reflect on the culture, history and diversity that runs deep in the community.
"We made it possible to [showcase] quality artists who do not always have the chance to reach an audience that is theirs here in Vanier," said Jean Malavoy, director general of the francophone museum Vanier Museopark
Beyond its francophone population, Vanier is also a diverse neighbourhood, Malavoy said.
The Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health is a cultural hub for Indigenous people in the neighborhood.
In the fall, traditional sweating tents were installed to celebrate Indigenous culture.
"There is a wealth of [Indigenous] culture that we were able to share here," said Malavoy.
Vanier also has a vibrant African-Canadian community, which hosted a new African Book Fair this past year.
"We brought together African and Creole authors and to talk about their culture and the lifeblood that inhabits them," Malavoy said.
"As we have a large African community, it was a beautiful testimony to their reality."
For the Museopark director, the year of celebrations will hopefully set the tone for 50 more years of pride.
With files from Radio-Canada's Nicolas Haddad and Christian Milette