Archivist Sarah Glassford, professor Emmanuelle Richez, and librarian Katharine Ball Archivist Sarah Glassford, professor Emmanuelle Richez, and librarian Katharine Ball pose with some of the materials from the local French-language newspaper Le Rempart donated to the University.

Historic francophone newspaper to be archived and digitized at Leddy Library

The Leddy Library at the University of Windsor has received a donation of nearly 40 years of the local French-language newspaper Le Rempart, marking a significant step towards preserving and making accessible the cultural and historical records of Southwestern Ontario’s francophone community.

As far back as 2016, publisher and proprietor Denis Poirier began searching for a permanent home for the newspaper’s archive of back issues. He had already taken them home with him rather than see them end up in a dumpster, when Le Rempart had to move from the Place Concorde community centre to much smaller premises on Walker Road. Although this step preserved the newspapers, it was not a long-term solution to the question of access.

In 2024, the plight of Le Rempart’s back issues came to the attention of Leddy Library after an inquiry by Denise Leboeuf, a songwriter with roots in Essex County. While working on a project highlighting important moments in the history of the francophone community, she had found valuable online resources at the Leddy Library, including digitized copies of other francophone newspapers. She hoped to gain access to Le Rempart, a crucial source of insight into the local francophone community for the mid-to-late-20th century.

“Newspapers are enormously valuable as primary sources because they offer unique windows into the communities they serve,” says Leddy Library archivist Sarah Glassford. “No other single primary source offers such a wide range of insights into a community. The duration of Le Rempart’s publication makes it especially valuable, as it tracks the unfolding history of the community it serves during decades of major social and cultural change.”

A true community partnership emerged from Leboeuf’s inquiry: the Francophone Genealogical Archives in Windsor put her in touch with Glassford, Leddy librarian Katharine Ball, and University of Windsor francophone professors Emmanuelle Richez of political science and Guillaume Teasdale of history. The group in turn reached out to Poirier, unaware that he was already seeking a repository for the newspaper’s history.

“I wanted to find a secure, permanent home for the Le Rempart archive that would allow the whole community to access it,” said Poirier. “The possibility of digitizing it was a nice bonus.”

Discussions between Poirier and Leddy Library resulted in a two-pronged agreement: first, to allow Leddy Library to digitize Le Rempart’s back issues from 1966 to 2003 and make them freely accessible online; second, to donate the hard copies to the library’s Archives & Special Collections for long-term physical preservation and access. The newspapers were brought to the University in December 2023.

“This is monumental for the French-Canadian community of Windsor-Essex County,” says Dr. Richez. “With more than 13,000 francophones living in the area and 38,000 residents who understand French, this will offer great insight into our local and cultural history.”

The process of digitization and cataloguing — which may take up to a year to complete — is now underway, spearheaded by Ball, who co-ordinates the Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive (SWODA). The resulting collection will be made available online through SWODA and the Internet Archive, ensuring that the rich history chronicled in Le Rempart is readily available to researchers and the general public alike.

“This initiative represents a successful collaboration of many partners — the library, teaching faculty, community members, and local media — in a shared effort to preserve the voices and experiences of a linguistic minority with deep roots in Windsor-Essex, for the benefit of future generations,” says Richez.

“The Leddy Library’s commitment to preserving local history and making it accessible is playing a crucial role in fostering our understanding of the marginalized yet vibrant francophone community in Southwestern Ontario.”

Explore Le Rempart online:

Explore other online local newspapers and resources at SWODA: and INK: