History

At the dawn of the 17th century, about one hundred French families created Acadia when they settled near the shores of the Baie française (the modern Bay of Fundy). The settlers had a very strong community spirit, and they gradually built up their very own culture in a new land that they worked hard to farm. The Acadian population grew to about 16,000 by 1755.

Acadia was a hotly disputed territory, and in 1713 it was taken over by the English. The Acadians became British subjects. The council of the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia was of the opinion that the Acadians were too prolific, that their population was therefore increasing too rapidly and, more importantly, that they were incapable of showing true allegiance of the British monarch, so in 1755, with the support of the governor of Massachusetts, it decided to deport them to the American colonies. Many families fled to what is now New Brunswick, and others would later return from exile and join then. They settled on land that in many instances was of very poor quality. They engaged in farming and raised cattle, but also lived off fishing and logging to some extent. Not only were the Acadians a minority, they also lagged behind economically because they had been forced to colonize new territories with only limited resources and no capital.

Located in isolated areas in the north and east of the province, the Acadian communities grew back around the parish and the village. While it is clear that their isolation prevented them from benefiting fully from a rapidly growing market economy, it did help the Acadian culture to survive. The Acadians established schools, convents and hospitals with the help of religious communities. Acadian nationalism developed in the period from 1860 to 1890, following the lifting of restrictions on Catholic education and the advent of a measure of economic prosperity. The Société nationale L'Assomption, which would be renamed the Société nationale des Acadiens, was founded in 1881. The establishment of the first college at Memramcook in 1864 and of a French-language newspaper, Le Moniteur acadien, in Shédiac in 1867 gave new impetus to the development of Acadia.

Under the leadership of the province's first Acadian premier, Louis J. Robichaud, New Brunswick became officially bilingual with the passage of the 1969 Official Languages Act. The 20,000 member-strong Société des Acadiens et Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick (SAANB) was established in 1973. The introduction of bilingualism in the Department of Education and, after a long struggle, the creation of homogeneous French-language school boards was the result of the SAANB's hard work during its early years. The Act Recognizing the Equality of the Two Official Linguistic Communities in New Brunswick was passed in 1981 and enshrined in the Canadian Constitution in 1993. The Congrès mondial acadien in 1994 and the 8th Francophone Summit in 1999 confirmed the Acadian community's new pride and self-affirmation. In 2002, the New Brunswick government passed a new Official Languages Act to replace the 1981 Act, which was considered outdated.

In 2004, all Acadians celebrated the 400th anniversary of Acadia. In New Brunswick, Acadians of course took the opportunity to take satisfaction in the progress made, but also to share ideas and discuss the work that still had to be done to make equality of the two linguistic communities a reality.