Saint-Pierre et Miquelon

Saint Pierre and Miquelon, officially the Territorial Collectivity of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (Collectivité territoriale de Saint-Pierre et Miquelon), is a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean near the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Saint Pierre and Miquelon is the remaining vestige of the once vast territory of New France. Its residents are French citizens; the collectivity elects its own deputy to the National Assembly and participates in senatorial and presidential elections. It covers 242 km2 (93 sq mi) of land and shores and had a population of 6,008 as of the March 2016 census.

The islands are in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near the entrance of Fortune Bay, which extends into the southwestern coast of Newfoundland, near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
St. Pierre is 19 km (12 mi) from Point May on the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland and 3,819 km (2,373 mi) from Brest, the nearest city in Metropolitan France. The tiny Canadian Green Island lies 10 km (6 mi) east of St. Pierre, roughly halfway to Point May. Saint-Pierre is French for Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen.

The present name of Miquelon was first noted in the form of Micquetô, Miqueton or Micquellon in the French Basque sailor Martin de Hoyarçabal’s 1579 navigational pilot for Newfoundland, Les voyages aventureux du Capitaine Martin de Hoyarsabal, habitant du çubiburu: “Giſant le cap de Breton & le pertuis de Miqueton est oest, y a 42 l. [leagues]” … “Gisant la Colombe de S. Pierre le pertuis de Micquellon nord noroest & sud suest: y a 7 l. It has been claimed that the name Miquelon is a Basque form of Michael; Mikel and Mikels are usually named Mikelon in the Basque Country. Therefore, from Mikelon it may have been written in the French way with a q instead of a k.

The Basque Country is divided between Spain and France, and most Basques live south of the border, so Miquelon may have been influenced by the Spanish name Miguelón, an augmentative form of Miguel meaning “big Michael”. The adjoined island’s name of “Langlade” is said to be an adaptation of l’île à l’Anglais (Englishman’s Island).



Archaeological evidence indicates that native peoples, such as the Beothuk, visited St Pierre and Miquelon, but it is not thought that they settled on the islands permanently.

On 21 October 1520 the Portuguese explorer João Álvares Fagundes landed on the islands and named the St. Pierre island group the ‘Eleven Thousand Virgins’, as the day marked the feast day of St. Ursula and her virgin companions. In 1536 Jacques Cartier claimed the islands as a French possession on behalf of the King of France (Francis I). Though already frequented by Mi’kmaq people and by Basque and Breton fishermen, the islands were not permanently settled until the end of the 17th century: four permanent inhabitants were counted in 1670, and 22 in 1691.

In 1670, during Jean Talon’s second tenure as Intendant of New France, a French officer annexed the islands when he found a dozen French fishermen camped there. The British Royal Navy soon began to harass the French settlers, pillaging their camps and ships. By the early 1700s the islands were again uninhabited, and France ceded them to the British by the Treaty of Utrecht which ended the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713. The British renamed St Pierre to ‘St Peter’, and small numbers of British and North American settlers began arriving.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763), which put an end to the Seven Years’ War, France ceded all its North American possessions, but Britain granted fishing rights to France along the Newfoundland coast, and as part of that arrangement returned Saint-Pierre and Miquelon to France.

With France supporting the US during the US Revolutionary War, Great Britain invaded and razed the colony in 1778, sending the entire population of 2,000 back to France.
In 1793 the British landed in Saint-Pierre and, the following year, again expelled the French population, and tried to install British settlers. The British colony was in turn sacked by French troops in 1796. The Treaty of Amiens of 1802 returned the islands to France, but Britain reoccupied them when hostilities recommenced the next year.

The Treaty of Paris (1814) gave the islands back to France, though the UK occupied them yet again during the Hundred Days War in 1815. France then reclaimed the now uninhabited islands, in which all structures and buildings had been destroyed or fallen into disrepair. The islands were resettled in 1816. The settlers, mostly Basques, Bretons and Normans, were joined by various other peoples, particularly from the nearby island of Newfoundland. Only around the middle of the century did increased fishing bring a certain prosperity to the little colony.

20th Century

In 1903 the colony toyed with the idea of joining the United States, but in the end nothing came of the idea. During the early 1910s the colony suffered severely as a result of unprofitable fisheries, and large numbers of its people emigrated to Nova Scotia and Quebec. The draft imposed on all male inhabitants of conscript age after the 1914 beginning of World War I crippled the fisheries, as their catch could not be processed by the older men or the women and children. About 400 men from the colony served in the French military during World War I (1914–1918), 25% of whom died. The increase in the adoption of steam trawlers in the fisheries also contributed to the reduction in employment opportunities.

Smuggling had always been an important economic activity in the islands, but it became especially prominent in the 1920s with the institution of Prohibition in the United States from January 1920. In 1931 the archipelago was reported by the New York Times to have imported 1,815,271 U.S. gallons (1,511,529 imperial gallons; 6,871,550 liters) of whisky from Canada in 12 months, most of it to be smuggled into the United States. The end of Prohibition in 1933 plunged the islands once more into economic depression.

During World War II, despite opposition from Canada, Britain, and the United States, Charles de Gaulle’s forces seized the archipelago from Vichy France, to which the local government had pledged its allegiance. In a referendum on 26 December 1941, the population endorsed the takeover by Free France by a vote of 63 for Free France (98.2% of ballots cast) with three ballots voided.

The colony became a French Overseas Territory in 1946.

After the 1958 French constitutional referendum, the territory of Saint Pierre and Miquelon was asked to choose one of three options: becoming fully integrated with France, becoming a self-governing state within the French Community, or preserving the status of an overseas territory; it decided to remain a territory.



Since March 2003, Saint Pierre and Miquelon has been an overseas collectivity with a special status. The archipelago became an overseas territory in 1946, then an overseas department on 19 July 1976, before acquiring the status of territorial collectivity on 11 June 1985. The archipelago has two communes: Saint-Pierre and Miquelon-Langlade. A third commune, Isle-aux-Marins, existed until 1945, when it was absorbed by the municipality of Saint-Pierre. The inhabitants possess French citizenship and suffrage. Saint Pierre and Miquelon sends a senator and a deputy to the National Assembly of France in Paris and enjoys a degree of autonomy concerning taxes, customs, and excise.

France appoints the Prefect of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, who represents the national government in the territory. The Prefect is in charge of national interests, law enforcement, public order, and, under the conditions set by the statute of 1985, administrative control. Since January 2021, the current prefect is Christian Pouget.

The local legislative body, the Territorial Council (Conseil territorial), has 19 members: four councillors from Miquelon-Langlade and 15 from Saint-Pierre. The President of the Territorial Council is the head of a delegation of “France in the name of Saint Pierre and Miquelon” for international events such as the annual meetings of NAFO and ICCAT.

France is responsible for the defence of the islands. The Gendarmerie maritime has maintained a patrol boat, the Fulmar, on the islands since 1997. Law enforcement in Saint Pierre and Miquelon is the responsibility of a branch of the French Gendarmerie Nationale; there are two police stations in the archipelago.

On Monday 10 January 2022 Saint Pierre and Miquelon made international news when MP Stéphane Claireaux, a member of the governing La République en Marche (LREM) was pelted with seaweed and stones in response to the government’s new Covid-19 rules. The rule was announced by the state representative, the prefect, on 2 January for the island and angered residents.

Maritime Boundary

France claimed a 200-mile (320 km) exclusive economic zone for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and in August 1983 the naval ship Lieutenant de vaisseau Le Hénaff and the seismic ship Lucien Beaufort were sent to explore for oil in the disputed zone.
In addition to the potential oil reserves, cod fishing rights on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland were at stake in the dispute. In the late 1980s, indications of declining fish stocks began to raise serious concern over the depletion of the fishery. In 1992, an arbitration panel awarded the islands an exclusive economic zone of 12,348 square kilometres (4,768 sq mi) to settle a longstanding territorial dispute with Canada, although it represents only 25% of what France had sought.

The 1992 decision fixed the maritime boundaries between Canada and the islands, though did not demarcate the continental shelf.



Located off the western end of the Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula, the archipelago of Saint Pierre and Miquelon comprises eight islands, totalling 242 square kilometres (93 sq mi), of which only two are inhabited. The islands are bare and rocky, with steep coasts, and only a thin layer of peat to soften the hard landscape. The islands are geologically part of the northeastern end of the Appalachian Mountains along with Newfoundland.

Saint Pierre Island, whose area is smaller, 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi), is the most populous and the commercial and administrative center of the archipelago. Saint-Pierre Airport has been in operation since 1999 and is capable of accommodating long-haul flights from France.

Miquelon-Langlade, the largest island, is in fact composed of two islands; Miquelon Island (also called Grande Miquelon, 110 square kilometres (42 sq mi)) is connected to Langlade Island (Petite Miquelon, 91 square kilometres (35 sq mi)) by the Dune de Langlade (also known as the Isthme de Langlade), a 10-kilometre (6.2 mi) long sandy tombolo. A storm had severed them in the 18th century, separating the two islands for several decades, before currents reconstructed the isthmus. Morne de la Grande Montagne, the highest point in the territory at 240m, is located on Grande Miquelon. The waters between Langlade and Saint-Pierre were called “the Mouth of Hell” (Gueule d’Enfer) until about 1900, as more than 600 shipwrecks have been recorded in that point since 1800. In the north of Miquelon Island is the village of Miquelon-Langlade (710 inhabitants), while Langlade Island was almost deserted (only one inhabitant in the 1999 census).

A third, formerly inhabited island, Isle-aux-Marins, known as Île-aux-Chiens until 1931 and located a short distance from the port of Saint-Pierre, has been uninhabited since 1963. The other main islands are Grand Colombier, Île aux Vainqueurs, and Île aux Pigeons.


Seabirds are the most common fauna. Seals and other wildlife can be found in the Grand Barachois Lagoon of Miquelon. Every spring, whales migrating to Greenland are visible off the coasts of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Trilobite fossils have been found on Langlade. The stone pillars off the island coasts called “L’anse aux Soldats” eroded away and disappeared in the 1970s.
The rocky islands are barren, except for scrubby yews and junipers and thin volcanic soil. The forest cover of the hills, except in parts of Langlade, had been removed for fuel long ago.


In spite of being located at a similar latitude to the Bay of Biscay, the archipelago is characterized by a cold borderline humid continental/subarctic climate, under the influence of polar air masses and the cold Labrador Current. The mild winters for being a subarctic climate also means it has influences of subpolar oceanic climate, thus being at the confluence of three climatic types.
The February mean is just below the −3 °C (27 °F) isotherm for that classification. Due to just three months being above 10 °C (50 °F) in mean temperatures and winter lows being so mild, Saint Pierre and Miquelon has a Köppen Climate Classification of Dfc, if bordering on Cfc due to the mildness of the winter and either Dfb or Cfb due to the closeness of the fourth-and fifth-warmest months to having mean temperatures at or above 10 °C (50 °F).

Typical maritime seasonal lag is also strong with September being warmer than June and March being colder than December. The average temperature is 5.3 °C (41.5 °F), with a temperature range of 19 °C (34 °F) between the warmest (15.7 °C (60.3 °F) in August) and coldest months (−3.6 °C (25.5 °F) in February).
Precipitation is abundant (1,312 mm or 51.7 in per year) and regular (146 days per year), falling as snow and rain. Because of its location at the confluence of the cold waters of the Labrador Current and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, the archipelago is also crossed a hundred days a year by fog banks, mainly in June and July.

Two other climatic elements are remarkable: the extremely variable winds and haze during the spring to early summer.



The inhabitants have traditionally earned their livelihood by fishing and by servicing the fishing fleets operating off the coast of Newfoundland. The climate and the small amount of available land militate against activities such as farming and livestock raising (weather conditions are severe, confining the growing season to a few weeks, and the soil contains significant peat and clay and is largely infertile). Since 1992 the economy has been in steep decline, following the depletion of fish stocks due to overfishing, the limitation of fishing areas and the ban imposed on all cod fishing by the Canadian Government.

The rise in unemployment has been countered by state financial aid for the retraining of businesses and individuals. The construction of the airport in 1999 helped sustain activity in the construction industry and public works.
Fish farming, crab fishing and agriculture are being developed to diversify the local economy. The future of Saint Pierre and Miquelon rests on tourism, fisheries and aquaculture. Explorations are under way to exploit deposits of oil and gas. Tourism benefits from the proximity to similar tourist areas of Canada. Distribution, public service, care, minor wholesale, retail and crafts are notable in the business sector.

The labour market is characterised by high seasonality, due to climatic hazards. Traditionally, the inhabitants suspended all outdoor activities (construction, agriculture, etc.) between December and April. In 1999 the unemployment rate was 12.8%, and a third of the employed worked in the public sector. The employment situation was worsened by the complete cessation of deep-sea fishing, the traditional occupation of the islanders, as the unemployment rate in 1990 was lower at 9.5%. The unemployment for 2010 shows a decrease from 2009, from 7.7% to 7.1%.
Exports are very low (5.1% of GDP) while imports are significant (49.1% of GDP). About 70% of the islands’ supplies are imported from Canada or from other parts of France via Nova Scotia.

The euro is the currency in Saint Pierre and Miquelon. The Canadian dollar is also widely accepted and used. The “Institut d’émission des départements d’outre-mer” (IEDOM), the French public institution responsible for issuing currency in the overseas territories that use the euro on behalf of the Bank of France, has had an agency in Saint Pierre since 1978. The islands have issued their own stamps from 1885 to the present, except for a period between 1 April 1978 and 3 February 1986 when French stamps not specific to Saint Pierre and Miquelon were used.



The total population of the islands at the January 2016 census was 6,008, of which 5,412 lived in Saint-Pierre and 596 in Miquelon-Langlade. At the time of the 1999 census 76% of the population was born on the archipelago, while 16.1% were born in metropolitan France, a sharp increase from the 10.2% in 1990. In the same census, less than 1% of the population reported being a foreign national.

The archipelago has a high emigration rate, especially among young adults, who often leave for their studies without returning afterwards. Even at the time of the great prosperity of the cod fishery, the population growth had always been constrained by the geographic remoteness, harsh climate and infertile soils.


Ruins show that Indigenous American people visited the archipelago on fishing and hunting expeditions before it was colonized by Europeans. The current population is the result of inflows of settlers from the French ports, mostly Normans, Basques, Bretons and Saintongeais, and also from the historic area of Acadia in Canada (Gaspé Peninsula, parts of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton) as well as Francophones who settled on the Port au Port Peninsula on Newfoundland.


The inhabitants speak French; their customs and traditions are similar to the ones found in metropolitan France. The French spoken on the archipelago is closer to Metropolitan French than to Canadian French though maintains a number of unique features. Basque, formerly spoken in private settings by people of Basque ancestry, had disappeared from the islands by the late 1950s.


The population is overwhelmingly Christian, with the majority being Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic Vicariate Apostolic of Iles Saint-Pierre and Miquelon used to manage the local church until it was merged into the French diocese of La Rochelle and Saintes in 2018.



Every summer there is a Basque Festival, which has demonstrations of harrijasotzaile (stone heaving), aizkolari (lumberjack skills), and Basque pelota. The local cuisine is mostly based on seafood such as lobster, snow crab, mussels, and especially cod.

Ice hockey is very popular in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, with local teams often competing in Newfoundland-based leagues. Several players from the islands have played on French and Canadian teams and even participated on France men’s national ice hockey team in the Olympics.

Street names are not commonly used on the islands. Directions and locations are commonly given using nicknames and the names of nearby residents.

The only time the guillotine was used in North America was on Saint-Pierre in the late 19th century. Joseph Néel was convicted of killing Mr Coupard on Île aux Chiens on 30 December 1888, and subsequently executed by guillotine on 24 August 1889. The device had to be shipped from Martinique and it did not arrive in working order. It was very difficult to get anyone to perform the execution; finally a recent immigrant was coaxed into doing the job. This event was the inspiration for the 2000 film The Widow of Saint-Pierre. The guillotine is now in a museum in Saint-Pierre.


For many years there was no direct air link between Saint Pierre and mainland France. Although the 1999 opening of the Saint-Pierre Airport was intended to overcome this problem, a direct air link was not established until Air Saint-Pierre announced it would conduct direct seasonal flights from Paris in the summer of 2018. Until then, all flights from and to Saint-Pierre passed through Canada. Air Saint-Pierre’s ATR 42 aircraft flies seasonally from the Canadian airports of Sydney and Stephenville, and year-round from Halifax, Montreal, and St John’s. A smaller airport on Miquelon provides inter-island flights.

Ferry services operated by SPM Ferries connect Saint Pierre with Miquelon and the Newfoundland town of Fortune. In the summer, additional services operate between St Pierre and Langlade and between Miquelon and Fortune. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, services to Fortune were suspended between March 2020 and August 2021. The ferries are capable of carrying up to 188 passengers and 18 vehicles.


Saint-Pierre and Miquelon have four radio stations; all stations operate on the FM band, with the last stations converted from the AM band in 2004. Three of the stations are on Saint-Pierre, two of which are owned by Outre-Mer 1ère, along with one 1ère station on Miquelon. At night, these stations broadcast France-Inter. The other station (Radio Atlantique) is an affiliate of Radio France Internationale. The nation is linked to North America and Europe by satellite communications for telephone and television service.

The department of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is served by one local station (Saint-Pierre et Miquelon 1re) and stations from metropolitan France, France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5, France 24
and Arte.

The islands are a well-known separate country-level entity among many radio amateurs, identifiable with ITU prefix “FP”. Those visiting, mainly from the US, activate Saint-Pierre and Miquelon every year on amateur frequencies. Amateurs collect (records of) contacts with these stations for Islands on the Air and DX Century Club awards; the Atlantic coast gives great takeoff for shortwaves. A few miles away is Signal Hill, St. John’s which first communicated across the Atlantic, namely with Marconi’s Poldhu Wireless Station in England.


SPM Telecom publishes local news online at the Cheznoo web portal.[78] Other publications include the magazine “Mathurin”.



The archipelago has four primary schools (Sainte Odile, Henriette Bonin, Feu Rouge, les Quatre-Temps), one middle school (Collège de Miquelon/Collège Saint-Christophe) with an annex in Miquelon, one state (government) high school (Lycée-collège d’Etat Emile Letournel) and one vocational high school.

The students who wish to further their studies after high school are granted access to scholarships to study overseas. Most students go to metropolitan France, although some go to Canada, mainly New Brunswick.

Saint Pierre’s institute for higher learning is the Institut Frecker, which is associated with Memorial University of Newfoundland. Since 2000 Frecker had been operated by the Government of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, with support of the federal government of Canada and the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador.



Saint-Pierre and Miquelon’s health care system is entirely public and free. In 1994 France and Canada signed an agreement allowing the residents of the archipelago to be treated in St. John’s.
In 2015 St-Pierre and Miquelon indicated that they would start looking for a new healthcare provider as recent rate increases by Eastern Health in Newfoundland were too expensive (increasing to $3.3 million in 2014 from $2.5 million in 2010). Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick were mooted as possible locations. Since 1985 Hôpital François Dunan provides basic care and emergency care for residents of both islands. The island’s first hospital was military in 1904 and became a civilian facility in 1905. L’Hôpital-Hospice-Orphelinat opened in 1937.


Fire services

Fire stations:

  • Both airports, St Pierre and Miquelon, separately
  • Service incendie Ville de St Pierre – Caserne Renaissance has five apparatuses: 2 pumpers, aerial ladders and a hazmat. This replaced Caserne Daguerre.
    Service incendie Miquelon has four apparatuses: aerial, hazmat, two pumpers

Most are second-hand units from North America though St Pierre acquired an aerial ladder from France in 2016.

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