In January, 1990 Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, a northern city with over 200 hundred years of French settlement, passed a resolution declaring its city government would operate in English-only. Accounts of how this language specific resolution came about are often, even inescapably overshadowed by the character and actions of the city’s brash, defiant Mayor, Joe Fratesi. This paper presents an expanded account of events, wherein Mayor Fratesi is one of many actors, albeit one ready to maximize a political opportunity.

To existing accounts, this paper adds the voices and experiences of those within the French community, ones largely absent in the published record. While those outside the Sault saw the resolution as threatening to Canada’s linguistic and cultural aspirations, within the Sault it was clearly a local matter.