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The founding of a Roman Catholic mission on the east side of the Red River near the meeting of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in 1818 by Bishop Provencher was the first step in the establishment of the Francophone settlement of St. Boniface, the centre of the French culture and religion on the Western prairies.

The new mission, established for the Métis and First Nations bands that lived at the fork of the rivers, was named for a German saint, St. Boniface, and gradually expanded with the arrival of other priests and sisters, including the Sisters of Charity of Montréal, the Grey Nuns, who arrived in 1844. The various orders established the churches, schools, and hospitals, all among the earliest in the West. The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, especially Bishop Taché, worked to attract French-speaking Catholic leaders from Eastern Canada to support the new settlement and firmly establish the Francophone culture. St Boniface was incorporated as a Town 1883 and a City in 1908 and has, because of this early history, developed separately and uniquely from the larger City of Winnipeg to the north and west.

It did, however, benefit from the same economic expansion that fuelled the growth of Winnipeg in the pre-World War I era. In St. Boniface, civic leaders launched an aggressive campaign to attract business by offering tax incentives, inexpensive land and power and excellent transportation facilities. Industries quickly sprang up including several agricultural product processors (lumber and wheat mills and abattoirs) as well as Manitoba's first rolling mill. [1] The Union Stock Yards, the massive 80-hectare site that at one time was the largest yards of its kind in Canada, was established at its eastern end. Offices, abattoirs and kilometres of pens and spur lines were located in the Yards which were, for many years, the largest single source of employment in St. Boniface. The Yards began to decline in the 1970s and by the 1990s the site was abandoned, with some redevelopment occurring recently. [2]

St. Boniface Hospital on Taché Avenue was founded in 1844 and continues to be a leader in health services. St. Boniface College on de la Cathedrale Avenue, founded in 1818, incorporated in 1871 and affiliate d with the University of Manitoba, offers post-secondary French-language education in the region. The Canadian National Railways' Symington Yards, located east of Lagimodière Boulevard, are a major industrial facility. Newer residential districts of Southdale, Windsor Park and Island Lakes, have kept up with the demand for modern housing.

 

[1] S. Grover, "219 Boulevard Provencher, L'Hôtel-de-Ville de Saint Boniface (St. Boniface City Hall)," report of the Historical Buildings Committee, September 5, 1981; and Thomas Berry and J.P. Mayor, "The City of St. Boniface To-day," The Dominion, December 1912, p. 48.

 

[2] M. Peterson, "780 Marion Street - Union Stock Yards Complex," report of the Historical Buildings Committe