Legal, a Francophone settlement, is a small and attractive town in Sturgeon County, and is located 42 kilometres north of Edmonton. The population is 1,220, and steady growth continues to be experienced, including some 13% over the half decade 2006-2011. Originally an agricultural service centre, Legal has now also become a satellite community for commuters to Edmonton and St. Albert. The town’s name is pronounced in the French manner, with a short “e,” (luh gal), and with the stress on the second syllable.
In the last decades of the 19th century, half of the settlers in western Canada spoke French. Today, some 20% of the residents in Legal remain bilingual (thrice the provincial average). The École Citadelle, a Francophone elementary/junior school, is operated by the Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord, Alberta’s largest French-language school board. Street names, delightfully, are in French, and the municipality’s Francophone heritage is clear in its architecture and the many murals throughout town.
The earliest settlers were in search of homesteads, and arrived in the 1890s from France by way of California. To these were added large numbers from Québec, attracted by the area’s fertile soil, and the influence of the mission, assigned by the Catholic hierarchy, to colonize the west with settlers recruited from Québec, to l’abbé Jean-Baptiste Morin, instrumental as well in the inception of Morinville. A chapel was built as early as 1889. The first church was constructed in 1911-12; the current church was built in 1950. The Paroisse St-Émile de Legal celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 1991.