A lovely tree lined walk, named the Promenade des Acadiens, sits in the heart of Quebec City. The far end of the walk rises to meet the Monument aux Acadiens, accented from across the street by several flags of Quebec that stand proud along the “Promenade des Premiers-Ministres”. The monument in the form of a lighthouse topped by the colours and the star of the Acadian flag is entitled, “Vers la lumiere” (Towards the Light) and is a symbol and reminder of the important role and contributions of Acadians and their descendants in the history of Quebec.
The history of the Acadians is one of great pride for the descendants of the French colony even today in much of Eastern Canada and doesn’t come without some strife. Le Grand Dérangement is a period of history where nearly 12,000 of the 14,000 Acadians were forceably removed by the British to the Thirteen Colonies.
The devastation to Acadians is equal to that of the Scottish people who were removed from their land during the Highland Clearances in the late 18th-early 19th centuries and certainly to that of the Indian Removal signed into law in the US by President Andrew Jackson in 1830 that forceably removed the indigenous peoples of the US from ancestral lands they rightfully owned. Thousands of the 12,000 Acadians forceably removed died along the way, suffering disease and often ending up on boats to the colonies that were lost at sea. A remaining few settled along the eastern seabord and finally in Louisiana where they reestablished their culture, became part of the southern culture, and slowly “Acadien” became “Cajun”, a beautifully rich morphing of an already distinct French culture.
August 15 is known as the Fete Nationale de l’Acadie and is an important reminder of a vital part of Canada’s history and a chapter of Quebec’s history, and indeed North American history, that deserves to be taught and shared more prominently. And its food, music, and culture are something every Canadian should feel proud of.