Casselman - What to Expect from a Franco-Ontarian Town in Winter

I bet you think the largest francophone community outside of Quebec is located in New Brunswick. The truth is, almost three times more  fran...

I bet you think the largest francophone community outside of Quebec is located in New Brunswick. The truth is, almost three times more francophones, over 600,000 people, reside in the province of Ontario. Expectedly, the majority of them live along the Ontario-Quebec border, with the highest concentration - in towns and villages east of Ottawa. I happened to recently visit one of those typical Franco-Ontarians towns, called Casselman, where most people speak French in their daily lives. I hope to give you a sense of it, although you can't expect much from a small town during a province-wide lockdown in the middle of a brutally cold winter. Definitely give it another try in the summer.

If you ever travelled between Montreal and Ottawa, chances are you've driven through this town or perhaps even stopped for food or gas. 
Looking like an ordinary exit off the Trans-Canada Highway, Casselman is best appreciated from a train. Long silver spires of Paroisse Ste-Euphemie Church would catch my attention every time I would pass by this town.
Casselman started exactly like most other small towns in Ontario: a wealthy person, Martin Casselman bought a piece of land on both sides of the Little Nation River and started his lumber business by cutting abundant forest resources in the area. The transportation of lumber was not a problem as the Ottawa River is pretty close to Casselman.
Between 1891 and 1919, Casselman experienced three devastating fires that wiped out most of the town. 
What is Casselman today? It's a town of 3,500 people, a church, a train station, a golf course, a handful of local businesses, a craft brewery, a few grocery stores and restaurants, a school, a library and of course - a hockey arena. 
Almost forgot: the largest outdoor waterpark in Canada (Calypso) is only a 10-minute drive from Casselman. 
There is also a small waterfall on the river which I could not see up close because of too much snow. 
The Little National River makes a scenic bend overlooked by prime real estate. Speaking of which - Casselman and the surrounding area are seeing some active new development as people are moving out of the city. 
But not everyone can afford a house or an apartment, even in Casselman. I met this lady (below) at the local park when I wanted to take some pictures of a river. She's been living in a tent with her husband for over four months now. She seemed quite chatty (I think that's what you become when you live in isolation) and said that camping was a great way to survive during the pandemic. She wanted to show me a fox den, but I didn't have proper footwear. Apparently, she and her husband have everything they need as her parents regularly bring them food, firewood and Tim Hortons coffee. To keep warm, they put up a smaller tent inside a bigger one and sleep in a single sleeping bag. I don't know how effective it is when the temperatures drop below -25 C / -10 F. 
Would I recommend visiting Casselman? Yeah, why not. It'll make a great stop to have lunch or just stretch legs on the way from Ottawa to Montreal. 
If I were to start a business in Ontario with the focus on customer service, I would definitely consider Casselman. Where else in the province can you get access to fully bilingual workers? Casselman - gotta visit in the summer!

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