History

Francophones have been present in Yukon since the early days of its settlement by Europeans. During the Klondike Gold Rush, the number of French Canadians even exceeded the number of English Canadians. However, the first non-aboriginal people to come to Yukon were not looking for gold; they were fur traders. In Yukon like elsewhere in the country, the French-Canadian and Metis voyageurs played a key role in this trade.

While Russian companies dominated trade in Alaska until 1867, the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) was the main trader in Yukon. In 1840, Robert Campbell explored inland Yukon for the HBC. He travelled along the Pelly and Yukon rivers with the help of French-Canadian guides. To thank them, he named some landmarks after them.

A Francophone trader, François-Xavier Mercier, eventually managed to go head-to-head with the HBC's commercial monopoly. In 1874, with his partner Jack McQuesten, he built the Fort Reliance trading post near the mouth of the Klondike River. It was also in a large part because of his efforts that the Catholic Church sent the first oblate missionaries in the region. Francophone priests and religious communities from Canada and Europe had a lasting effect on the development of Yukon, especially in education and health care services.

During the Klondike Gold Rush, at the end of the 19th century, Francophones were already well established in the area. They played an essential role in the establishment and development of new communities in Yukon, including Dawson and Mayo. Later, they also played an active role in the territory's social and political life, within the new society that emerged from the Gold Rush. As surveyors, engineers, teachers, prospectors, adventurers, business people, men and women, Francophones left their mark in Yukon. Many landmarks bear names testifying to a rich Francophone presence on the whole territory.

Over the last hundred years, however, the strong emigration that followed the end of the Gold Rush, coupled with isolation and the deficiencies of the territory's infrastructures, almost caused the elimination of the Francophone community. Collective efforts within the Francophone community finally led, at the dawn of the 1980s, to renewed interest in the French language and rights. New services, including a daycare centre, a school and a Francophone centre, are concrete illustrations of the vitality of the Francophone community.

Yukon's wilderness continues to call to the Francophone spirit. The open spaces offer countless opportunities to live far from the constraints present in cities and attract those with an independent streak. However, today's Yukon is also more than a destination for adventurous spirits. It is also a place where French speakers can live and contribute to their society by sharing their language and culture. It is a place where people can live their life in French.