This Week in History
National Acadian Day
This story was initially published in 1998
On August 15, Acadians throughout Canada, in particular the Maritimes, celebrate National Acadian Day. It marks the survival of their unique and vibrant culture in North America. This date—the Catholic Feast of the Assumption—has been the Acadian national holiday since 1881, when it was chosen by the first Acadian National Convention held at Saint Joseph's College in Memramcook, New Brunswick.
Acadia or "Nova Scotia" was contested by England and France almost from the time of first settlement, and changed possession seven times in a hundred years. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht finally transferred it to Britain. The government demanded that the Acadians swear an oath of allegiance to the British crown. The Acadians refused, offering instead to remain neutral in future wars.
As tensions between Britain and France increased in North America, the British feared an Acadian uprising in support of France. Sir Charles Lawrence, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, decided to disperse the Acadians throughout other British colonies. The deportations began in Grand Pré on September 5, 1755 and, by 1763, three-quarters of the Acadian population (approximately 10 000 people) had been forced out. Their homes were destroyed, families were separated and many died. The deportation was a great tragedy in Canadian history.
In 1764, Acadians were allowed to return to their homeland if they took the oath of allegiance to the British crown, which some did. Their old farms had been taken up by immigrants from England and the American colonies, but the Acadians were determined to preserve their culture in the new settlements of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and especially New Brunswick.
In honour of Father Lefebvre's leadership during the Acadian Renaissance, the Saint Joseph's College Alumni built the Monument Lefebvre in 1896. In 1994, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized this building as a national historic site. Many other national historic sites throughout Atlantic Canada chronicle the rich history of the Acadian people.
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