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The Territorial Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon ( ;  ) is a group of small French islands in the North Atlantic Oceanmarker, the main islands being Saint Pierre and Miquelon, south of the Canadian province of Newfoundland & Labradormarker. The islands are as close as   from Green Islandmarker, part of Newfoundland.

The archipelago is the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France that remains under French control.


The early settlement of St. Pierre and Miquelon, prized by Europeans for their rich fishing grounds, was characterized by periods of conflict between the French and English.

There is evidence of prehistoric inhabitation on the islands (most likely Beothuk). The European settlements on the islands are some of the oldest in the Americas (with the Spanish and Portuguese settlements), dating from at least the early 16th century. At first Basque fishermen only visited the islands seasonally during the fishing season, but by the mid 17th century there were permanent French residents on the islands.

At the end of the 17th and into the early 18th century, British attacks caused the French settlers to abandon the islands, and the British took possession for 50 years (from 1713 to 1763). The French took back the islands in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris (which ceded all of New France to Britain except for Saint Pierre and Miquelon) and settlers returned to live peacefully for 15 years.

French support of the American Revolution led to a British attack on the islands, and the deportation of the French settlers. Possession of St. Pierre and Miquelon passed back and forth between France and Great Britain for the next 38 years, as the islands suffered attacks by both countries, voluntary or forced removal of the island's residents, and upheaval associated with the French Revolution.

France finally took the islands back after Napoleon's second abdication in 1815, after which followed 70 years of prosperity for the French fishing industry and residents on St. Pierre and Miquelon. However, political and economic changes led to a slow decline of the fishing industry after the late 19th century.

In 1920, a 13-year economic boom began on the islands fuelled by the period of Prohibition in the United States, when St. Pierre and Miquelon became prominent bases for alcohol smuggling. This boom ended with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, after which the economy sank into depression.

During the Second World War, the governor, Gilbert de Bournat, was loyal to the Vichy regime; he had to negotiate financial arrangements with U.S. authorities to obtain loans guaranteed by the French treasury. At the same time, Canada was considering an invasion of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Several pretexts were put forward, notably radio broadcasts of Vichy propaganda. It was alleged that the radio was helping German U-Boats on the Grand Banksmarker, though this was never proven. The Canadian Governor General at the time, The Earl of Athlone, never authorised the implementation of the plans.

Under orders from de Gaulle, Admiral Émile Muselier organised the liberation of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, without the consent or knowledge of the Canadian and U.S. authorities. On 24 December 1941, a Free French flotilla led by the submarine cruiser Surcouf took control of the islands without resistance, and installed Alain Savary as Governor. De Gaulle had a referendum organised, which was favourable to him, and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon thus became one of the first French territories to join Free France. The affair led to a lasting distrust between De Gaulle and Roosevelt.


The politics of Saint Pierre and Miquelon take place within a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic French overseas collectivity, whereby the President of the Territorial Council is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon also sends one deputy to the French National Assembly and one senator to the French Senatemarker.

Maritime Border Dispute

In 1992, a maritime boundary dispute with Canada over the delineation of the Exclusive Economic Zone belonging to France was settled by the International Court of Arbitration. In the decision, France kept the 12 nautical mile (nmi) (22.2 km, 13.8 mi) territorial sea surrounding the islands and was given an additional 12 nmi (22.2 km, 13.8 mi) contiguous zone as well as a 10.5 nmi (19.4 km, 12.1 mi) wide corridor stretching 200 nmi (370 km, 230 mi) south. The total area in the award was 18% of what France had requested.

The boundary dispute had been a flash point for Franco-Canadian relations. New claims made under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea by France over the continental shelf might cause new tensions between France and Canada.

Administrative divisions

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is administratively divided into two communes (municipalities), named Miquelon-Langlade and Saint-Pierre.

Geography and environment

Geographic location

Saint Pierre and Miquelon are situated south of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic Oceanmarker. Their distance north-south from Newfoundland is . The islands are even closer to the long Burin Peninsulamarker, which is situated just to the east. In addition, Green Islandmarker, which belongs to Newfoundland, is located about halfway between the southern part of Miquelon-Langlade and Newfoundland at , only from both Langlade and St. Pierre.

Physical geography

Simulated view of the islands by NASA
Saint Pierre and Miquelon is an archipelago of eight islands, Saint-Pierre ( ) and Miquelon-Langlade (total ) being the major ones. Collectively the area of the islands is 242 km² (93.4 sq mi). The total coastline is long.

The island of Saint-Pierre is surrounded to the south-east by smaller dependencies, Petit Colombier, Île aux Marinsmarker, Île aux Pigeons and Île aux Vainqueurs, and Grand Colombiermarker to the north. Some of these have been previously inhabited at one time or another, but none are permanently inhabited anymore.

St. Pierre is separated from Miquelon by a strait with very fierce currents. Fishermen call this section of ocean "The Mouth of Hell". The waters around these islands are very treacherous, and there have been over 600 shipwrecks along the coasts of the islands.

The island(s) of Miquelon-Langlade consists of three formerly separate islands, Miquelon ( ), Langlade ( ) and Le Cap. In the 18th century an isthmus of sand formed naturally between Miquelon and Langlade. The isthmus was reinforced by hand with sand and quaternary deposits to what is now an 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) sand dune. Local legend says that the entire isthmus was built around the over 500 wrecks that took place in the area. While the ships using that channel between the islands began to get stranded there and certainly contributed to the formation of the isthmus, the legend may be exaggerated. What was originally the island Miquelon is now also called Grande Miquelon while Petite Miquelon refers to Langlade.


The climate is damp and windy, and winters are harsh and long. Spring and early summer are foggy and cool. Late summer and early fall are sunny.

Seals and other wildlife can be found in the Grand Barachois lagoon of Miquelon. Every spring, whales migrating to Greenlandmarker are visible off the coasts of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Trilobite fossils have been found on Langlade. There were a number of stone pillars off the island coasts called "L'anse aux Soldats" that have been eroded away and disappeared in the 1970s.


The islands were dependent upon the cod fishery for the best part of the last four centuries. However, overfishing on the Grand Banksmarker has led Canada to impose a long-term closure of this industry. Since fishing quotas are governed by Canada, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and the French fishing fleet (whether based out of the islands or out of mainland France) have been seriously affected.

In Saint-Pierre and Miquelon many efforts are being made, with the help of the French government, to diversify the local economy. Tourism, fish farming, crab fishing and agriculture are being developed.

The islands have issued their own stamps since 1885 to the present, except for a period between 1 April 1978 to 3 February 1986 when French stamps were used. Domestic French postal rates apply to mail between mainland France and the islands. The islands' French postal code is 97500.


Between 1890 and 1965, the islanders used the Canadian dollar, and the Saint Pierre and Miquelon franc, which was equal to the French franc until 1945, then to the CFA franc between 1945 and 1960, and then to the French new franc until 1965, when the French franc was established, circulating alongside the Canadian dollar on the islands. Since 2002, the French franc has been replaced with the euro. Both the euro and the Canadian dollar are used on the islands.


The population of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon at the 2006 local census was 6,125 inhabitants. 5,509 of these lived in the commune (municipality) of Saint-Pierre and the other 615 in the commune of Miquelon-Langlade (all on Miquelon proper, and none on Langlade Islandmarker).

Langlade currently has no year-round residents, since its sole inhabitant, Charles Lafitte, died in July 2006. Langlade is a summer retreat for many inhabitants of Saint-Pierre, when its population can swell up to 1,000.

Most of the people by ethnicity are whites of mostly French descent (incl. Basque, Breton, Norman) with some Canadians from Newfoundland. Some residents also descend in part from ethnic groups living in other overseas French territories and departments.

Island names

Saint-Pierre is French for Saint Peter, who is a patron saint of fishermen .

The present name of Miquelon was first noted in the form of "Micquelle" in the Basque sailor Martin de Hoyarçabal's navigational pilot for Newfoundland. It has been claimed that the name "Miquelon" is a Basque form of Michael, but it appears that this is not a usual form in that language. Many Basques speak Spanish, and Miquelon may have been influenced by the Spanish name Miguelón, a form of Miguel meaning "big Michael".

The adjoining island's name of "Langlade" is a corruption of "l'île à l'Anglais" (Englishman's Island).


French is the official language of the islands. The local accent and many of the words used are similar to the Norman language.

Every year in the summer there is a Basque Festival, with demonstrations of harrijasotzaile (stone heaving), haitzkolari (lumberjack skills), and pelota (a game somewhat like Jaï-Alaï).

Hockey is very popular in Saint Pierre and Miquelon. Several players from the islands have played on French teams and even participated on the French national 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 ever used in North America was in Saint-Pierre in the late 19th century. Joseph Néel was convicted of killing Mr. Coupard on Île aux chiens on 30 December 1888, and executed by guillotine on 24 August 1889. The guillotine had to be shipped from Martiniquemarker 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 film The Widow of Saint-Pierre (La Veuve de Saint-Pierre) released in 2000. The guillotine is now in a museum in Saint-Pierre.

The islands are the home of the Roman Catholic Vicariate Apostolic of Iles Saint Pierre and Miquelon.


France is responsible for the defense of the islands.


While Saint Pierre and Miquelon has no railway, it has 114 km (70.8 miles) of highways plus 45 km (28 miles) of unpaved roads. Its only major harbour is Saint-Pierre. The dependency has no merchant marine and two airports; the runway at Saint-Pierre Airportmarker is long, and at Miquelon Airportmarker, .

A regular ferry service is provided between Saint-Pierre and the town of Fortune, Newfoundlandmarker by the Atlantic Jet, a high speed catamaran. The ferry does not carry vehicles.

Air transport is provided by Air Saint-Pierre which connects Saint-Pierre with Miquelon and several Canadian cities. Travel to France involves a plane change, normally in Montrealmarker. The Saint-Pierre - Miquelon route is one of the shortest scheduled airline routes in the world in terms of distance or flight duration.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon uses standard French vehicle registration plates, rather than issuing plates in the format of six inches high by twelve inches wide used by all other jurisdictions in North America. However, the islands do not follow the standard French numbering system. Until 1952, cars were simply numbered from 1 onwards, without any code to identify them as being from Saint Pierre and Miquelon. Beginning in 1952, they had serial numbers followed by the letters SPM, e.g. 9287 SPM. Since 2000, all numbers have begun with the letters SPM followed by a serial number and serial letter, e.g. SPM 1 A. Vehicles are mainly French or European. North American vehicles are also found.


Saint Pierre and Miquelon has four radio stations, all of them on the FM band (the last stations converted from AM band in 2004). Three of the stations are on St. Pierre, two of which are owned by RFO, along with one RFO 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 are served by three television stations: Télé St. Pierre et Miquelon (call letters FQN) on Channel 8, with a repeater on Channel 31, and Tempo on Channel 6. While Saint Pierre and Miquelon use the French SECAM-K1 standard for television broadcasts, the local telecommunications provider (SPM Telecom) carries many North American television stations and cable channels, converted from North America's NTSC standard. In addition, Télé St. Pierre et Miquelon is carried on Shaw Direct satellite and most digital cable services in Canada, converted to NTSC.

SPM Telecom also is the department's main Internet Service Provider, with its internet service being named "Cheznoo" (a play on Chez-Nous, French for "Our Place"). SPM Telecom also offers cellular phone and mobile phone service (for phones that adhere to the GSM standard). SPM Telecom uses the GSM 900MHz band, which is different from the GSM 850MHz and 1900MHz bands used in the rest of North America.

Time zone

The UTC-3 timezone is used in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, where Daylight Savings Time is observed according to the North American schedule.

The following tables compares the time of day, when standard time (non-summer time) is in effect, for various locales with Saint Pierre and Miquelon]].:

Locale Time of Day Common Time Zone Name Coordinated Universal Time
Paris, FRmarker 4pm Central European Time (CET) UTC+1
London, UKmarker 3pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) UTC
Nuuk , GLmarker 3pm Western Greenland Time (WGT) UTC-3
Saint Pierre and Miquelon Noon Saint Pierre & Miquelon Standard Time (PMST) UTC-3
St. John's, NFmarker 11:30am Newfoundland Standard Time (NST) UTC-3:30
Halifax, NSmarker 11am Atlatiic Standard Time (AST) UTC-4
New York, NYmarker 10am Eastern Standard Time (EST) UTC-5


See also


  1. Churchill, Winston S., Second World War: The Grand Alliance. p.666
  2. From
  3. Transport Miquelonnais Society (tour company)
  4. Charles Lafitte was widely known on the islands as "de Gaulle", and lived as a hermit on Langlade for many years with his dogs.
  5. Hoyarçabal, Martin de: Les voyages aventureux du Capitaine Martin de Hoyarsal, habitant du çubiburu (Bordeaux, France, 1579)
  6. The Basques of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Buber's Basque Page dated 30 April 2006 (accessed 27 September 2007).
  7. Saint-Pierre & Miquelon Tourism Agencies in Saint Pierre et Miquelon, Miquelon Consulting, 2006 (accessed 27 September 2007)
  8. Cormier, Marc Albert: Toponymie ancienne et origine des noms Saint-Pierre, Miquelon et Langlade. The Northern Mariner Vol. 7, Ottawa, 1997. pp 1:29-44

External links

General information
Territorial issues

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