November 09, 2009


Lest we forget

Lest we forget

To the editor,

Two hundred fifty years ago, several thousand Acadian men, women, and children were deported from their home; their property burned or confiscated the victims of crime against humanity.

This missive is to alert your readers of a series of interviews by the CBC on the subject of the Acadian deportation.

The first interviewee is Warren Perrin who will address the subject of an apology for the Crown for the deportation. It will be aired on November 10 at 7:15 in the morning.

Perrin is an attorney in Louisiana and the recent author of a biography on Acadian Redemption (copies at Acadian Village in V.B.) He is also President of CODOFIL in Louisiana. Perrin was a recent guest speaker at UMFK, at the invitation of History Professor Roger Paradis.

Perrin has been calling for des excuse de la Reine for over two decades, and, in a carefully researched document, cites numerous precedents for doing so.

David Le Gallant and myself will be interviewed on November 12 at the same time, in French and English.

Le Gallant is a graduate of Moncton University, with a degree in common law.

From there he went on to study at the European Institute for International Studies in France where he won first prize for an essay entitled, "La passion d'un voyage d'un Acadien errant.

He is also the past president of the Acadian Museum Association of P.E.I., and the Sr. Antoinette de Roches Historical Society.

Le Gallant is a man of the world several times over, and he has also endorsed Perrin's efforts to obtain an apology from the Queen for the so-called Grand DĂ©rangement.

For myself I continue to labor in the Augean Stables of Acadian history, 1604-1763.

My interview will focus on the issue of genocide, and whether it is an apt description of the deportation.

Until a few years ago, historians were in agreement to blame colonial underlings for the Acadian tragedy; some even blamed the victims.

I followed the money trail and it led me George II. The Crown has since admitted responsiblility, but the apology lingers. Without this, there can be no healings, no closure.

Two hundred fifty years ago, in 1758, the Acadians on Ile Royale, (Cape Breton Island), and those on Ile Saint-Jean, now Prince Edward Island, were deported to France.

Of the 4,000 who were deported from Ile Saint-Jean, some fifty percent never reached their destination.

Many died from fever on the squalid and over crowded ships; the others went down to a watery grave. Two ships sank in mid Atlantic, and another broke up on a reef.

While the insular Acadians were being rounded up for deportation, General Jeffrey Amhurst ordered Colonel Robert Monckton to clear the St. John River of the unwanted Acadians.

Their settlements were torched and most, though not all, fled up river to the St. Lawrence where they found host families.

Weakened by exposure, hunger and fatigue, many succumbed to disease and were hastily buried in unmarked graves along the river.

For the very elderly and very young, the long trek to Québec was a death march. The few that were found hiding in the forest were ultimately deported.

Among the settlements that were destroyed was Sainte-Anne, the largest with some 250 inhabitants, located at present day Fredericton.

In 1759, the settlement was felled upon in the dead of a winter's night. Among the dead were women and children.

Many of the refugees would eventually find homes here in the upper St. John Valley.

This Thanksgiving, while we are enjoying the comforts of home and family, we may want to pause and reflect on the fate of those refugees, many of them our ancestors.

They were embarked on often-leaky tubs to cross 3,000 miles of ocean during the hurricane season.

This was the most dreadful time to sail the North Atlantic when ships braced against 30 and 40-foot waves, and huddled below deck were hundreds of terrified, filthy, hungry, feverish people, gasping for every breath of fetid air, whose groaning and weeping and screeching mingled with the whimper of the dying.

Gaze upon the river before you and witness the pitifully long line of distraught refugees as they went their way, in fair weather and foul, to face a grim future in a strange and distant land.

In war as in peace, the innocent always suffers more than the guilty. T'was at this time, this season, 250 years past that the light almost went out for the Acadians.

Lest we forget.

Roger Paradis

UMFK Professor

Fort Kent