St. Pierre and Miquelon are the discounted Paris of Canada

This French archipelago off the coast of Newfoundland is an often forgotten remnant of French colonialism

Art by Kristen Frier

Art by Kristen Frier

There is a famous saying among us history-geography nerds that if you see anything weird or out of place in a country’s map, then two things are to be blamed: Napoleon or the Brits. 

Napoleon is the reason Bosnia and Herzegovina, a mostly landlocked place, has a 15 mile wide coastline, the reason everyone, except Freedomland, uses the metric system, the reason the United States grew twice its size in the mid 1800s, and the reason why my girlfriend left me. Okay, maybe not that one. 

We know what the Brits did. They’re known to stir things up wherever they go. The islands off the coast of Newfoundland are no exception. These are, in essence, the results of epic rap battles between Britain and France. These weren’t your average rap battles as they involved a lot more men, ammunition, and time — seven years to be exact. 

The Seven Years ‘rap battle’ caused France to lose Quebec and most of its other North American colonies, but Britain being a good homie allowed France to keep St. Pierre and Miquelon as a souvenir, and possibly as a reminder of its defeat — not a bad idea for a “rub it in your face” gift. France was not particularly happy with this consolation prize but couldn’t do much, going by the principle of “losers weepers.”

France did not keep quiet though, they were happy to say “payback time” to Britain when they helped the Brits in North America remove the “u” in “honour” and change “lift” to “elevator” to forge the greatest country on earth. This caused some more back and forth until the islands decided that croissants are better than Fish n’ Chips, became French in 1796, and have been an outpost of croissant lovers ever since. 

So, what makes these islands unique? Well, nothing much really. They’re pretty basic as far as islands go, surrounded by trees, water, fish, seagulls, more trees, more water, more fish, and more seagulls. What makes them interesting and “exotic” is the fact that many people who can’t afford to go to Europe’s France can flex that they have been to a France, even though they just sailed on a boat from St. John’s, Newfoundland.

But my compatriots, do not despair. The islands are all Canadian but in name. The local dialect of French is Canadian, islanders need to come to Canada for advanced medical procedures, and the islands rely heavily on Canadian imports for supplies. They’re more like a part of Canada in France than vice-versa. 

France subsidizes heavily to maintain a sense of relevance in this part of the world because I’m pretty sure that 99 per cent of French people don’t know about these islands either. Perhaps Canada is to be blamed for it, at least in part.

You see, Canada and France probably do not believe that there are plenty of fish in the sea, so they, like sensible adults, fought over their sea, “turf” verbally, and then took it to an arbitral tribunal. This awarded a whopping 18 per cent of the area that France was initially claiming, effectively strangling the fishing industry in the territory, leading it to depend on state subsidies. 

Now that’s the way to go. If you can’t defeat them, pull a 4-D chess move and make their life insufferable. Did you know that these islands were a hotbed of illegal liquor smuggling to the U.S. during prohibition, and even Al Capone set up shop there? This means that they were actually cool and relevant at one point in history.

In short, if you’re dreaming of going to Paris to sip café in a beret but only have the budget for Montreal, St. Pierre and Miquelon might be a good choice for you. Even the poor should have fun sometimes.