Vive l'Acadie!

On August 15, Acadians across the country, namely the Maritimes, will take to the streets for a noisy celebration of their progression as a people.

Today marks the Acadian National Holiday, la fête national dacadie. The streets of Moncton will soon be bustling with a tintamarre (noise made from uncoordinated pots, pans, trumpets), parades and concerts.

These are the same streets that were home to student protests for the recognition of Acadian culture in the 1970s.

The following piece outlines how the Acadians' fight for recognition has evolved throughout the years and how history paints a story of oppression in the Maritimes.

In 1881, the 15th of August, the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, was chosen as the Acadian National Feast. It was thought that the Acadians' return from exile and survival was a miracle, which they attributed to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The day is one to remember the deportations of their ancestors, their Roman Catholic faith and the more recent struggles that Acadians have endured.

Before they were forced off their land, from about 1755 to 1763, Acadians lived on farmland mainly along the St. John River and Beausejour.

Their refusal to pledge allegiance to England or France was one reason why the English forced them out of Acadia.

The link between Quebec and Louisbourg via Acadia worried the English, as did Acadians' settlement on the best land, which was detrimental to English colonization.

About 10,000 Acadians were deported to New England, St. John Island, Cape Breton, the West Indies, Falkland Islands, France and England, during these years.

An old poem, Evangeline, written by American, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was thought to outline the hardships Acadians had to endure when expelled from their land.

With the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, the English allowed Acadians to remain in Nova Scotia on two conditions — they had toswear an oath of allegiance to England and they had to disperse into small groups (so as not to be threatening).

When the deportation order was formally lifted in 1764, the Acadians returned to find their former land occupied by English settlers. They had to settle in what is now New Brunswick, areas of Nova Scotia,Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Gaspé, Que.

As the years passed, missionaries co-operated with the Acadians in an attempt to reorganize their religious life. This was to happen through the building of churches and schools.

College St. Joseph was founded in Memramcook, N.B., by Father Camille LeFebvre. It later became l'universite de Moncton, the first Francophone university in the Maritimes.

Many Acadians believe that the university enabled Acadians to truly make their place in New Brunswick.

But the construction of such institutions was not enough for Acadians to receive equal treatment. Mayor Leonard Jones, of the 1960s and early 1970s, earned Moncton a reputation as an English-only city, despite the francophones that make up one-third of the of itspopulation.

Acadians were outraged and university students held mass protests in the streets of Moncton in the 1970s to speak up for equality.

One influential man who promoted equal opportunity for Acadians was Louis Robichaud who became New Brunswick's first-elected Acadian premier in 1960.

In 2001, the Liberals denied a motion seeking a formal apology from Britain for the deportation of Acadians. The former columnist for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, Rosella Melanson, wrote on why an apology from Britain is vital to “setting history straight” and on what it means to be Acadian.

It was only in June 2003 that the Federal government passed a bill making August 15 a National Acadian Holiday.

Acadians have come a long way and today is the day to celebrate that!

Further Reading

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