HistoryFur traders and European mercenaries hired by Lord SELKIRK to protect his fledgling RED RIVER COLONY were among the area's first settlers.
Fur traders and European mercenaries hired by Lord SELKIRK to protect his fledgling RED RIVER COLONY were among the area's first settlers. With the founding of a Roman Catholic mission (1818), St Boniface began its role in Canadian religious, political and cultural history - as mother parish for many French settlements in Western Canada; as the birthplace of Louis RIEL and fellow Métis who struggled to obtain favourable terms for Manitoba's entry into Confederation; and as a focus of resistance to controversial 1890 legislation to alter Manitoba's school system and abolish French as an official language in the province (seeMANITOBA SCHOOL QUESTION).
Early educational, cultural and social-service institutions were started by religious orders, including the Sisters of Charity of Montréal (Grey Nuns) who arrived in 1844. The Collège de Saint-Boniface (dating back to 1818), a founding college of UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA, and St Boniface General Hospital grew from these institutions.
The early economy was oriented to agriculture. Union Stockyards, developed 1912-13, became the largest livestock exchange in Canada and focal point for a meat-packing and -processing industry. By the early 1900s, numerous light and heavy industries were established. St Boniface was incorporated as a town 1883 and a city 1908. As one of the larger French communities outside Québec, it has often been a centre of struggles to preserve French language and identity within Manitoba.
St Boniface is a residential, retail and industrial community. Despite difficult economic conditions and decline of the meat-packing industry including the gradual closing down of the Union Stockyards (in the 1980s), it still has a wide range of light and heavy industries, retail outlets and services. Headquartered in St Boniface, the Conseil de développement économique des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba promotes bilingual businesses throughout the city and the province. The ward is also the home of the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine located in the St Boniface General Hospital Research Centre. CN's Symington Yard has one of 20 intermodal terminals in North America.
Early church buildings have dominated the landscape of old St Boniface. St Boniface Basilica was rebuilt following a disastrous fire in 1968. The Provincial House of the Grey Nuns, built 1846-51, is now a museum. Collège de Saint-Boniface also suffered a fire in 1922 and was transferred into the Petit Séminaire de Saint-Boniface to which a number of wings were added to over the years. It is now known as the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface. Older sections of St Boniface have been the subject of urban revitalization programs as has the old Union Stockyards (more commonly known as the Public Markets) site. Community cultural organizations include French-language radio and TV stations; La Liberté, a weekly newspaper; the Centre culturel franco-manitobain and Centre du patrimoine (Heritage Centre), whose buildings are interconnected; an arts centre; the annual winter Festival du Voyageur; and performing arts groups such as LE CERCLE MOLIÈRE and Ensemble Folklorique de la Rivière Rouge.