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Francophone and Business Leader Played a Key Part in Building the Community


In 2020, the Francophone Assembly of Ontario (Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario) awarded Denyse Culligan the Prix Florent-Lalonde for nearly 35 years of dedicated service to the Franco-Ontarian community in Northwestern Ontario.

Denyse arrived in Thunder Bay along with her daughter in 1987 to open a Second Cup franchise. With her business experience and engagement in the Francophone community in Oshawa Durham, she quickly got involved with francophones in Northwestern Ontario.

Despite Thunder Bay declaring itself unilingual English during the language fury that rocked Canada in the late 80s and early 90s, Denyse worked tirelessly in the community to have all French language groups work together to create more services in health, education, and the cultural sector. This involved, in part, building a women’s centre, a coop and a day care center all the while supporting efforts to expand education and health services in Thunder Bay and the surrounding communities.

Madame Culligan still runs her business in her early 80s. She talks to us about nonprofits as drivers of economic development that enhance people’s lives and helps, for instance, to retain our young people in the north.

She was a high profile and public figure leading the efforts to build a stronger community for nearly 25 years. But while she may not be ‘’on stage’’ these days, she has maintained her involvement behind the scenes for the last ten years.