Where Rivers Meet

The Story of Dr. S. F. Monestime Canada's
First Black Mayor

When two diverse and distinct cultures meet in Mattawa in the 1950s it makes for an improbable story. Read about a remarkable Black doctor from the Caribbean nation of Haiti and an attractive Russian woman from wartorn Europe and their struggle to find their place in a multicultural Canada. Will integrity and hard work be enough to overcome the odds and make for a meaningful life? Read this powerful and moving story that unfolds where the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers meet.

This book is a chronological history of the Monestime family from their places of birth to the present day. In the case of Dr. Monestime, it covers his life from his Haitian birth on December 16, 1909 through 100 years including his children and grandchildren, to the present day.  

This book is the story of a man, who was a doctor for forty years, including successful careers in Haiti and Canada, two long periods of medical training, thousands of operations as a surgeon, and many births as a doctor; he could be remembered for this alone. 

But the story is much more than that, when you add his widely recognized remarkable political career as Canada’s, if not North America’s, first Black mayor. The legacy of his achievements for the people of Mattawa and beyond has made him something of a legend.

PRESS RELEASE February 2010-Small northern Ontario town celebrates
election of
Canada’s first Black mayor in 1963 

PRESS RELEASE February 2009-Comment in Obama inauguration address evokes comparison to the story of the election of Canada’s first Black mayor in 1963

View article and  photographs in EBONY MAGAZINE from October 1965 called DOCTOR GETS CALL-TO MAYOR'S CHAIR

View Article in the BALTIMORE AFRO-AMERICAN newspaper from Dec 28, 1963 called HAITI NATIVE ELECTED MAYOR IN CANADA.

Excerpt from Chapter One: Mattawa

In the summer of 1951 Dr. Monestime, a recently Canadian certified MD and his colleague Dr. G. Lamontagne heard about openings for doctors in Timmins and decided to drive there from Ottawa to look the situation over. At noon on the trip, as they approached the beautiful town of Mattawa, they looked for a place to stop for lunch. As they entered Main Street, the Chez Francois restaurant caught their eye and they stopped. “I didn’t intend to come here,“ Dr. Monestime recalled years later….

In 1951 Dr. J.A. Bergeron, one of Mattawa’s two doctors, died after 27 years of service. The records show that at least three doctors visited briefly as a possible replacement—none stayed.

The story of what happened next when our two doctors driving from Ottawa entered the Chez Francois restaurant on Mattawa’s Main Street is local legend. Dr. Saint Firmin Monestime, a Black doctor from the Caribbean nation of Haiti, later recalled: “When I sat down I saw the manager look at me in surprise and I thought he didn’t want me in his restaurant. This part of the country wasn’t too familiar with negroes.”

Dr. Monestime’s experiences with prejudice in his home country of Haiti and in the U.S. had made him unsure of what reception he would receive in Northern Ontario.

8.5X11, 80 pages, over 180 photographs and Maps.

Also see:

Table of Contents

Chapter 2: Haiti to Canada

Appendix 1: Haitian History


The Book is beautifully illustrated and written in an interesting and easy to read style that would make a perfect resource for students interested in Haitian, Russian and local history... Those who remember him will have a great keepsake and those who do not will be introduced to a man who was not judged by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character.

Gerry Therrien in The Mattawa Recorder

Where Rivers Meet recounts the life of Dr. Saint Firmin Monestime, a Haitian immigrant who overcame all odds to become first a doctor then mayor of Mattawa, Ontario. Although not a children’s book, it is reviewed here because of its relevance to Black History and usefulness in school libraries, especially at the secondary level.

Abundant with photos, the book’s format is accessible to young people, but its description of the politics of Canada and of Haiti is obviously written with an adult audience in mind. Monestime’s humanity, his love for people, and his almost wilful ignorance of the pervading racism of the time are depicted very clearly, and he is presented as the prototype Canadian for a multicultural age.

From a review in cm magazine which publishes book reviews, media reviews, news, and author profiles of interest to teachers, librarians, parents and kids.

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