Since the 1900s, an associate around the Canadian police (the equivalent of the consulate) showed itself to be aware of the lodging conditions of students in Paris. It came up with the idea of creating a house to welcome them. The idea was then taken up by the high commissioner of the Canadian government, Philippe Roy. But, he had to wait until the end of the First World War and also the project of the Cité universitaire in 1919 in order to put it into action. He managed to gain the interest of the Canadian senator Joseph-Marcelin Wilson who offered the biggest contribution. The latter made up three-quarters of the funds necessary for construction, making the project possible. The building was inaugurated in 1926.
The Maison des étudiants canadiens has always been a private not-for-profit organisation in which some of the descendants of senator Wilson, the first donor, are involved. Among his descendants are Jean Ostiguy who is particularly involved, having dedicated more than 45 years to the house. His leaderships and fundraising have allowed Canadian students to have a place to stay in France. The “Comité au Canada de la Maison des étudiants canadiens à Paris” is currently chaired by Robert Panet-Raymond, the founder’s great grandson.
The house holds the status of a foundation and is recognised as a public utility of which the board of directors is chaired by the Canadian ambassador in France.
The building, inaugurated in 1926, was designed by two architects, the Frenchman Emile Thomas and the Canadian Georges Vanier. The southern style integrates elements that are characteristic of the Côte d’Azur such as the French windows on the southern façade and the balconies decorated in tortoiseshell tiles. Initially it was made up of a central section with a double-pitched roof and two wings that were topped with roof terraces with pergolas. It’s in the interior spaces, notably in the elegant gallery that you can find the Canadian “touch” in the floor with a beautifully-crafted mosaic depicting a beaver and a maple leaf which are national symbols of Canada.