Local newspapers at the heart of Canadian life

By Annie Wolfe

Library and Archives Canada’s newspaper collection is full of stories, both large and small! These true stories make up Canada’s fabric, from politics to the economy, and from the arts to sports, not to mention the obituaries, known to be a gold mine for genealogists.

Local newspapers, in particular, are the voices of regions, cities, villages and neighbourhoods. The information they provide is especially important because it comes straight from those involved in building Canada’s communities. Local newspapers open a window on debates and events that directly affect citizens’ lives. Thanks to local newspapers, communities discover news that affects them directly. Local newspapers are outstanding sources of historical fact.

Here are two examples of local newspapers with valuable information for researchers or the merely curious.

Fort McMurray Today

The daily Fort McMurray Today, founded in 1974, covers the communities of Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo, in Alberta. In spring 2016, a huge wildfire raged, forcing the evacuation of the area. The damage was extensive, with devastating effects on the Canadian economy, including reduced oil production.

Fort McMurray Today won the Breaking News award, shared with the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun, in 2016 for coverage of the wildfire. (Source: http://nna-ccj.ca/award-archives/list-of-winners-since-1949/#2)

Microfilms of newspapers from 2015 to 2017 were acquired for the national collection to document the history of the community before, during and after the wildfire tragedy.

L’Écho de Frontenac

The weekly L’Écho de Frontenac, founded in 1929, covers the region of Lac-Mégantic, in Quebec. In summer 2013, a railway accident caused an explosion and fire that destroyed part of the town. This tragedy had significant economic, environmental and, particularly, human consequences for the community, which will take years to recover. Even today, in 2018, the courts are still trying to establish what exactly happened.

As a side note, the public library was rebuilt after the fire and renamed for Nelly Arcan, the famous Lac-Mégantic author.

Microfilms of newspapers from 2012 to 2016 were acquired for the national collection to document events related to the tragedy, but especially to show the community’s great resilience.

Local newspapers, being at the heart of Canadian life, are an extraordinary source of information on what is really happening in communities across Canada. They relate and confirm both tragic and happy events. Canada’s history is written in newspapers.

The two newspapers mentioned in this article, Fort McMurray Today and L’Écho de Frontenac, are just a few examples of the newspaper microfilm acquisitions in the national collection. These microfilms are available through interlibrary loan. For more information, please visit Library and Archives Canada’s Loans to Other Institutions page or your public library.

Black-and-white photo of a large church in a small village. Railway tracks can be seen in the foreground.

The Lac-Mégantic church before the railway accident that created a major explosion in the village in 2013. The photograph is dated 1925 (MIKAN 3323453)

Annie Wolfe is an acquisitions librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

6 thoughts on “Local newspapers at the heart of Canadian life

  1. Pingback: Local newspapers at the heart of Canadian life – Business Startup-Bay Area

  2. Don’t disagree! And It’s good to see that even very modern newspaper films are available through interlibrary loan. Bit surprised to see these are still being filmed though. (Maybe talk more about that.)
    And so very disappointed every time I realize how fragmented Canada’s historical newspapers collections are, and that Library and Archives Canada has not taken the lead in preservation and access to these vital research materials.

  3. I agree with the above poster, I have so many towns/cities to search for genealogy purposes. It would be a real boost to have one place to search these papers. I know some companies have done this, but its expensive and they still cover only certain areas (like Toronto). I was in Outlook, Saskatchewan some years ago, and in the local village museum they had all the newspapers. It was a gold mine, and immediately found my great grandmother’s obituary in 1934. Nothing like hands on of course, but to find them at a national level would be the best for those who can’t travel across this huge country!

  4. I had thought that two microfilm copies of all newspapers were given to the LAC as deposit copies. When was this policy changed — if indeed it was a policy?
    Many newspapers have been scanned and are available (often in broken runs) on numerous sites. As April noted above, some companies have done this but using them can be expensive. Nonetheless, finding listings of scanned newspapers is fraught. Could LAC, with its immense resources 😉 provide an aggregate listing with links to the available urls?

  5. Hello,
    Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collects a select number of Canadian current daily newspapers on microfilm, many Canadian ethnic newspapers, indigenous newspapers, and student newspapers received from the Canadian university press. Through legal deposit, we receive all newspapers microfilmed after January 1, 1988 for which more than three copies are produced. LAC will also be pursuing acquisition of microfilm or digital versions of community newspapers, if they are available, and we collaborate with canadiana.org to digitize pre-1926 Canadian newspapers, including community newspapers. More information about this project can be obtained from http://www.canadiana.ca/local-newspapers-2015

  6. I agree with the previous poster; I have a large number of towns/cities to research for ancestry purposes. It would be a huge help to be able to search these papers all in one spot. I know some companies have done this, but it is pricey and they only serve a limited number of places (like Toronto). When I was in Outlook, Saskatchewan, a few years ago, the tiny town museum housed all of the newspapers. It was a gold mine, and I quickly discovered my great grandmother’s obituary from 1934. Of course, nothing beats hands-on experience, but finding them on a national scale would be ideal for individuals who cannot travel throughout our vast country!

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