The name for the new French First Language secondary school and community centre in Riverdale honours a man who forged engineering history in the Yukon 120 years ago.
The full name of the school and community centre will be Le Centre scolaire secondaire communautaire Paul-Émile Mercier in French or The Paul-Émile Mercier Secondary School Community Centre in English – CSSC Mercier for short.
The name was proposed by Vincent Bélanger as part of a competition launched by the Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon (CSFY) with the Yukon Francophone community and students from École Émilie-Tremblay and Académie Parhélie.
The name was selected as part of the competition. Bélanger will receive an award of $100 for submitting the name Paul-Émile Mercier.
“The CSFY and the Yukon francophone community are proud to be able to associate the name of Paul-Émile Mercier with the new secondary school community centre,” Jean-Sébastien Blais, the CSFY’s president, said last Friday.
“This is a wonderful way to pay tribute to this francophone who left his mark on the Yukon and who contributed to the creation of our cultural heritage.
“Through his contribution to the economic and social vitality of the territory, Paul-Émile Mercier is a model of involvement for our community,” Blais said.
“In addition, his career as a university professor reflects his interest in sharing knowledge, which makes him an inspiring choice for a school and for the education of our students.”
Former federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair is a great-grandson of Mercier.
“Our family is sincerely honoured that the new secondary school community centre in Whitehorse is named after our ancestor Paul-Émile Mercier,” said Mulcair, who now comments on political matters in French and English in Montreal.
“Marie-Louise Taché and Paul-Émile Mercier were married in Yukon, and we are extremely proud of these roots,” added Mulcair.
“We offer our warmest greetings to the entire Yukon francophone community and look forward to soon revisiting your beautiful part of the country.”
The CSFY has taken the necessary steps to obtain the right to use the name in collaboration with the Yukon government and Mercier’s
In April 2019, it was revealed that the cost of the school had risen to $35.3 million – an $8-millon increase over the previous estimate.
Mercier was born in 1877. The son of Virginie Saint-Denis and Honoré Mercier, a former premier of Quebec, Paul-Émile Mercier left his mark in the Yukon as an engineer. He helped develop the Yukon’s transportation system in the early 20th century.
In 1901, he married Marie-Louise Taché in Whitehorse.
In 1903, Mercier became director of the Department of Public Works in Whitehorse.
His work led him to move around the territory. Among other things, he directed work at the Five Finger Rapids to make them less dangerous for navigators.
Returning east with his wife, he held a position as chief engineer for the City of Montreal from 1914 to 1919.
Mercier’s name is associated with several important functions: major in the army, land surveyor, professor at the École Polytechnique de Montréal, not to mention his participation as a member of numerous societies and associations.
He died on Aug. 24, 1926, at the age of 49.
“I am honoured to join the Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon in announcing the name for the new French First Language Secondary School,” said Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.
“Paul-Émile Mercier’s legacy as an engineer and professor will inspire generations of Yukon students on their learning journey. Congratulations to Vincent Bélanger for making a great suggestion.”
In April 2019, Ketza Construction began construction on the Riverdale Education Reserve.
The new school, which will accommodate up to 150 students, will offer programming for French First Language students in Grades 7 to 12.
“It will provide a rich and stimulating environment that will inspire students to develop their full potential for years to come,” the government said in a statement.
The initial deadline for completion was this summer, followed by a final phase to fit-up and commission the building.
Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the date of entry of students is still to be determined.
Funding for the project includes $7.5 million from the federal government and its Official Languages Support Program.
These funds finance community spaces, which will be shared with the community and other students on the campus.
It includes spaces for a multi-purpose room, a community radio station, a community kitchen and an atrium to host a variety of activities and events.
Meanwhile, francophone history buffs would note today is the 40th anniversary of a milestone event for the nation.
On May 20, 1980, by a margin of approximately 60 per cent to 40 per cent, Quebecers voted no to premier René Levesque’s Parti Québécois government’s referendum question on pursuing sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada.