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.

Curious about Library and Archives Canada’s new archival collections and publications? Check out “What’s new in the collection”

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to launch “What’s new in the collection,” your place to stay informed on some of LAC’s newest acquisition activities.

This new section showcases lists of select archival records and publications that we have recently received in addition to select archival records that are now available for consultation.

Of particular interest in the inaugural winter 2016 release is the addition to the Michel Marc Bouchard fonds as well as new items by Peter Rindisbacher and Cornelius Krieghoff. New publications received under the Legal Deposit Program include books on pianist Oscar Peterson and author Germaine Guèvremont.

Selected by LAC archivists and librarians, What’s new in the collection will be updated quarterly.

Happy discoveries!

Government of Canada Acquires Historically Significant Documents About the 1758 Siege of Louisbourg

Library and Archives Canada has acquired a two-part manuscript diary about the 1758 siege of Louisbourg in Cape Breton. The siege, a substantial battle of the Seven Years’ War, ended the French colonial era in Atlantic Canada, and contributed to France’s loss of Quebec City in 1759. The loss of Louisbourg, Quebec City and Montreal in 1760 led to the 1763 Treaty of Paris when France formally ceded Canada to Britain. “Our Government is pleased to have acquired this historically important manuscript diary, as it provides a rare glimpse, from a French perspective, into one of the most important events in Canada’s history,” said the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. The two-part diary, totalling about 180 pages, was written by an unknown French infantry officer from the “Régiment de Cambis” who witnessed the events during the summer of 1758. The diary’s first part details the siege, defense and capture of Louisbourg from the witness’ point of view. The second part describes the aftermath of the French surrender on the troops and more specifically, on the fate of “Régiment de Cambis”, which was held in captivity in England until 1759. These singular, original documents will greatly enrich Library and Archives Canada’s collection related to these events. The item was acquired for a total of about Can$50,000, including insurance, transportation and auction house fees, at an auction held by Sotheby’s in New York yesterday.