In 1898 the first Franco-Albertan newspaper in Western Canada was founded. By 1928, six French newspapers emerged. Not all had the same longevity and some were successful outside the borders of the province, for example, the newspaper L’Union founded in 1917 was, “one of the top ten independent newspapers in French Canada,” according to Le Devoir. Despite its reputation, the differences between the leaders of the newspaper L’Union and the newly founded French Canadian Association of Alberta (founded in 1926) resulted in the disappearance of the L’Union in 1929 and the founding of a new journal LS Alberta, which then became the official publication of the French Canadian Association of Alberta. The new newspaper, LS Alberta, was launched on November 16, 1928.
For many years, the Oblates funded and retained control of the publication until the 1970s. The Oblates played a role leading in the establishment and support of the French press in Alberta. Despite numerous financial and economic crises, the Oblates supported the newspaper with capital and skilled labour, most not receiving any salary. When short of staff, the director served as a handyman, as in the case of Father Paul-Émile Breton in the 40s who handled the writing, composition, typography and setting pages. At the time of Father Jean Patoine, the newspaper published some 4000 copies. Without his efforts and the support of the Oblates, the survival of the newspaper would have been short-lived.
In those early days, the publication recounted events such as the rise of fascism and the Second World War. Over time, it moves closer to the community and became more representative of its population.
Until 1965 and the creation of the British newspaper The Sun by André Piolat, LS covered the Northwest Territories and British Columbia. In 1962, there was talk of merging the three western newspapers belonging to the Oblates: LS Alberta, LS Saskatchewan and The Patriot Freedom Manitoba. This idea was eventually abandoned because of the distribution challenges to such a wide geographic area.
In 1967, Mr. Jean-Maurice Olivier, then the editor, convinced the Oblates to change the name of the newspaper from LS Alberta to Franco-Albertan. Besides the name, the format changed and the annual subscription increased from $2 to $ 3.50.
After the death of Father Patoine in 1972, Guy Lacombe took over in 1973 and became the editor and chief of the newspaper. During his term lengthy negotiations began for the sale of the newspaper and printing. The Oblates finally agree to sell the Franco-Albertan to ACFA for the nominal sum of $1.
Since 1976, the newspaper has been produced under several directors-writers including Gaetan Tremblay, Maxime Jean-Louis, Michel Paquette, Paul Denis, Yves Lavertu, Acting Pierre Brault, Jean Luc Thibaut, Pascale Bréniel, Francois Pageau, Nathalie Kermoal and Eric Batalla.
Since 2005, strong partnerships have been established to diversify sources of income from federal government advertising. The creation of five francophone school boards in Alberta have increased the number of subscriptions to the newspaper. More recently, Le Franco has partnered with the Economic Development Council of Alberta, Campus Saint-Jean, the Welcome Center and development of Northern Alberta and the youth-family Alliance of Alberta Society, and others.
The advent of the internet, social media and the continual development of cyberspace also affect the daily life of Le Franco. The primary objective of the new Le Franco website and its social media presence attracts a larger pool of readers interested in the Alberta Francophonie, while complementing the printed weekly newspaper.
Le Franco is now an independently published and is no longer the official publication of the ACFA.
As said by the late Guy Lacombe:
The mission of Le Franco remains essentially the same as it has always exercised, that is to say, to inform, to communicate between the Franco-Albertans across the province while exercising leadership in the editorial content.