Jean-François Séguin

Born in Rigaud in 1917, Jean-François Séguin was the son of a farmer with a very modest income. He grew up in a closely-tied family where singing and music were food for the soul during the Great Depression in the early 1930’s. In 1953, he enrolled at the school of agriculture in Oka, and graduated three years later with a general knowledge of horticulture, agronomy and veterinary medicine. Suffering from chronic allergy, especially hay fever, he couldn’t consider owning a farm, so he turned to horticulture and the cooperative movement. In 1938, his first job consisted in managing a provincial horticultural station in Trois-Rivières, Quebec.

While working, he took advanced courses in landscape architecture and marketing. He also did an internship at the Montreal Botanical Garden before settling in Ontario in 1943. For 10 years, he was the manager of the Africana Fleuriste Company in Vanier.

It was not only his passion for horticulture and landscaping that brought him to Ottawa, but also a young nurse named Jacqueline St-Pierre. This young woman became his wife in 1943. Seven children were born from this marriage ‑ five boys and two girls. A special word of recognition must be said for this woman, wife and mother of what was almost a single-parent family, providing day-to-day support to her seven children as Séguin had many other concerns.

It was mostly as a fieldman and secretary-general of the Union des cultivateurs franco-ontariens (UCFO), from 1953 to 1979, that Séguin gained his outstanding reputation with Ontario’s Francophone farmers and rural community. It was reverend Arsène Hébert, recipient of the Mérite agricole franco-ontarien 2003, who hired Séguin as the secretary-general of the UCFO in 1954. In this capacity, he travelled Ontario from north to south and from east to west.

He organized, often by himself, many different conferences and meetings, and it must be stressed that if the UCFO still exists today, it is largely due to the leadership and commitment of this man. Through his activities, he probably was the catalyst of the Alfred College, organizing a variety of agricultural training and rural leadership courses.

Meanwhile, he fostered the establishment of many agricultural co-operatives as well as credit unions in rural areas. Given his personality exemplified by his white hair and his strong voice, he was noticed and listened to. People around him could feel his love for the land, but mostly for those who worked on the land, and especially the Francophone farming community. Not only was he seen as a great co-operator, but also as a unifier. He persuaded all the Francophone agricultural organizations in Ontario to come together to better communicate and defend the interests of farmers. He co-founded the Conseil de la coopération de l’Ontario, which he served as the clerk-treasurer. His actions transcended the borders of Ontario, namely when he was elected as the co-founder of the Canadian Co-operative Council. He believed that Ontario’s Francophone farmers had the right to get services in French, a language he cherished and promoted actively. At some point, he belonged to 13 associations. “I was away from home eight evenings a week”, he said in an interview with Le Droit in 1979.

On March 12, 2003, Séguin died at age 86, but his accomplishments remain. His 26 years with the UCFO, 25 of which as the secretary-general remain a great source of motivation for the Franco-Ontarians.