SEEKING JUSTICE FOR ACADIANS
(Journal-Pioneer, Aug 28 - Sept 1 )
BY DAVID LE GALLANT, TIGNISH
Having just recently arrived from a trip to Louisiana, I was surprised to find Carroll Kadey's article which appeared in the Summerside Journal-Pioneer (P.E. I. on April 10th about the Kosovo tragedy resembling the 1755 expulsion of the Acadians.
He could have added the 1758 expulsion from the Hillsborough River in Charlottetown (P.E.I.).
What surprised me most was that this was the exact same message that was being told at the International Music Festival of Lafayette, Louisiana. at its opening ceremonies!
With Kadey, I agree that the expulsion of the Acadians mars the history of Canada because of what the British did here. Every time the "cous rouges" (which is the terms 'red necks' called themselves in Louisiana, prevent Acadlans today from promoting their culture and their language in an officially bilingual Canada, the haunting spectre of the past injustices come to mind.
For Sheila Copps. for example, the ideal is to send all Acadians to French immersion schools, give them a bilingual education and "Canadianize" them by making them "think" and "identify" with the English-speaking culture like it is in Ontario.
French immersion schools are assimilating Acadian children by the thousands because it makes them identify with a standard French that is not theirs, a French their English-speaking peers identify as an official language only, to be learned and used when you apply for a job.
Like their peers, they identify with everything English outside their school environment! French immersion is good for English-speaking students but it is not the best ideal for Acadians!
Acadians must have not French but Acadian schools where their children identify wiith something else than Quebec and Ontario, Confederation and Anne of Green Gables.
Acadian children, among others, are also being taught falsehoods about their history. One case in point is the myth that the British government did not know a thing about their new British subjects since 1713 being deported to nine American colonies and to England and France in 1755 and 1758.
The expulsion began in Nova Scotia in time of peace and was like Carroll Kadey alluded to - a modern-day form of ethnic-cleansing like in Kosovo. It continued from Charlottetown on the Hillsborough River in 1758. That the British government was "unresolved" is presently being taught in our Island schools in the textbook The Story of Prince Edward Island (p. 59).
What actually transpired in Nova Scotia in the 1750s? At the time of the first expulsion in 1755, the Acadians had been loyal subjects to His Britannic Majesty for 42 years. having sworn the oath of allegiance in 1726, 1727, 1729, 1730 and 1748 on the condition that they never be forced to bear arms against Frence and against their friends, the Mi'kmaq people.
The so-called Conventions of 1730 even granted them the status of French neutrals, thereby exempting them from military service in the Nova Scotia militia.
The Law of Nations, which is also the law of nature, recognizes the right of a people to remain neutral in time of war for reasons of consanguinity. This right was later accorded to New England settlers as a condition of their settling on vacant Acadian lands.
The storm clouds of revolution were gathering in the American colonies and, like the Acadians, the British New Englanders who settled on former Acadian lands in the Annapolis Valley and elsewhere feared that in the event of war, they could be forced into arms against their New England kin.
This is why German Hessians were recruited to help British fight the war against the "Americans". Yet, Britain would no longer accord the same Law of Nations to those whom they called the French neutrals, even though they were British subjects now.
On the surface, the case was that life with the British was relatively benign, and perhaps preferable, to life with the authoritarian French regime in Quebec. However, the ruling British oligarchy in Nova Scotia was weary of the Acadians being Catholics and having natural ties to France, their mother country.
But the British needed the Acadians to run the complicated irrigation and dyke systems that facilitated Nova Scotia agricu:ture. This uneasy symbiosis and arrangement would endure until the founding of Halifax by Cornwallis.. The establishment of Halifax allowed the British to bypass the Acadian middlemen, so to speak, by getting supplies directly from New England. The balance of power changed almost overnight.
By 1755 the Acadians, frankly, were no longer needed by the British. With the restraint of utilitarian necessity now gone, the worst angels of English nature, the one which also would subjugate the Irish and Scots and stamp out the beautiful Gaelic languagee, took over, and we, Acadians, became just another obstacle to English colonial dominance in North America.
So, with cruel efficiency, the Acadians were forcefully exiled from the land that had been theirs for 150 years. Anglo-American and English-Canadian historians gloss over the ethnic cleansing and the genocide done to a peaceful people who were British subjects.
Perhaps we remember the story of Longfellow's Evangeline but for many English-Canadians and British, the Acadians are a mere footnote in the dusty old history of the British Empire: Unlike the Kosovars, Acadians had no generous Canadians and Americans to welcome them. Spain finally invited them to come to Louisiana 30 years later in 1785; these became the Cajuns.
In the State of Massachusetts (including Maine), the Acadians were never allowed off the ships that brought them and 1,500 exiles died of smallpox. In Connecticut, 750 exiles were dispersed among 50 townships where their movements were restricted.
In New York, of the 340 exiles, a third were sold as indenture servants, the rest restricted to nearby coastal islands. In Pennsylvania, many of the 450 exiles were imprisoned for not giving up their children to English-speaking families.
Today we force our Acadian children to attend English-Canadianized French immersion schools instead of giving them theirown schools in their own town of Summerside.
In Maryland, laws were passed to restrict the freedoms 900 exiles. In North Carolina, 230 exiles escaped en route. In South Carolina, 940 exiles fled to the interior. Some returned to Acadia to fight guerrilla warfare against the English. In Georgia, 900 exiles died escaping in open boats and 200 were sold as indentured servants.
In Virginia, the Acadians were not allowed to disembark; months later, 1,500 exiles were sent to internment camps in jolly England in the ports of Bristol, Portsmouth, Liverpool. Southampton, Falmouth and Penhyrn.
When the war between the European powers began in 1756, Acadians became prisoners of war for seven years; at least two-thirds of them died in these internment camps. Their names are today inscribed in the parish registers of those British seaports designated as the plot of the French neutrals. Like then, they still call us "French" while destiny made us ultimately "Acadians".
And among those deported in 1758 from Charlottetown, we know, for example, that about 700 were drowned at sea in the ships, the Duke William and the Violet.
Charles Lawrence, lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, has been demonized as the main culprit of the expulsion of the Acadians in spite of the fact that a tight leash was kept by the British home government regarding the ultimate disposition of the Acadians.
In all matters of foreign policy, the buck stopped at the Court of St. James, and that included Charles Lawrence. The truth of the matter is that King George II, the ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II, is the real villain behind the deportations of the Acadians in 1755 and 1758, according to previously-ignored evidence.
A recent book published in Madawaska, Maine, entitled Papers of Prudent L. Mercure, by historian Roger Paradis, proves the fact that was suspected all along. Historian Paradis tells it as only an American can tell it and doesn't pussyfoot around the crown like old and famed Acadian authors, such as Edouard: Richard and Placide Gaudet, are want to do.
It seems that Acadians, in order to remain good Canadians, cannot afford to call a spade a spade. The proof against the British monarchy is the most direct indictment in print up to now. Lawrence was only a cipher in a gigantic geo-political struggle that began and ended at the Court of St. James.
Historian Roger Paradis' thesis can be summed up as follows. The personal papers of British General Edward Braddock, captured by France, referred to a plan to reduce Acadian to "death and slavery". Lawrence convened a meeting on July 14, 1755, to discuss the Deportation, only six days after he received secret instructions from George II. The cost of the operation itself, in excess of 100,000 pounds, was twice the annual budget of the colony.
Historian Paradis doubts Lawrence could have spent that much money without London's approval.
Then there was Colonel John Winslow, commander of the Grand Pré deportation. He told the Acadians there that he was acting on "His Majesty's intentions" as they had been given to Lawrence. He referred several times to the authorization for the "final resolution" coming directly from the King. Winslow also referred to the "King's command " in his own private journal, which Paradis says is "proof positive" that George II authorized the Deportation himself. The deportation would be too big of a career risk for Lawrence if he had done it on his own.
Paradis continues by saying that Lawrence had nothing to gain from doing this. Usurping of royal prerogative could lead to court-martial or even execution, but instead Lawrence was promoted after the deportation. The career risk, especially if something had gone wrong, would have been far too great for Lawrence to have acted on his own.
Paradis points out that the lieutenant-governor did not even "make minor repairs to British installations in the colony without checking with his superiors. Paradis writes: "Whatever may be said of Lawrence ....he was no usurper, and he understood that British officers never take the name of their king in vain".
At least one descendant of the Acadians, Warren Perrin, a lawyer in Lafayette, Louisiana, has been seeking an apology from Queen Elizabeth for the deportation. The British government has tried its best to downplay the significance of Perrin's petition to the Queen of Canada and the United Kingdom.
It is true that for many the petition may seem absurd. The exile and ethnic cleansing took place in Nova Scotia 244 years ago and in Prince Edward Island 241 years ago. There are no living survivors with tangible claims.
Rather Perrin's petition represents the collective grievance of a people 12 generations removed from the event. Furtherrnore. there are no morally-culpable individuals to indict for these crimes. Only the institutions responsible remain. The British monarchy is that institution.
But when one looks around the world, it is evident that time alone does not always heal the old wounds of ancient atrocities. Witness the First Nations of the Americas! Witness the Scots and the Irish who were subjugated by the English!
At present, the British government maintains that any obligations arising from the deportation are the liability of Canada by virtue of the British North America Act now called the Constitutional Act of 1867. But Britain fails to consider that Queen Elizabeth is monarch of both Great Britain and Canada, and therefore, it makes no difference, really, which nation the responsibiility has devolved upon.
The crown must, as a starter, own up to the atrocities of 1755 in Nova Scotia and 1758 in Prince Edward Island.
Why should Queen Elizabeth and her government submit themselves :o adjudication? First, those who perpetrated the genocide of the Acadians were servants of the British Crown acting in the scope of their official duties.
Secondly, because the.Royal family itself has taken part,in the systematic planning and implementation of the ethnic cleansing of the Acadians. George II was sovereign like Queen Elizabeth is sovereign.
In 1995, Queen Elizabeth, in Maori regalia, apologized to the Maori people of New Zealand for having confiscated their land in New Zealand and offered compensation via the Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement. With the Acadians, the apology has to do with forced exile, ethnic cleansing and genocide of British subjects. The deportation order has never been rescinded, so it is still in effect!
If Queen Elizabeth made amends for 19th century colonial injustices to the Maoris in the name of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, she can make amends to the Acadian people worldwide for their deportation caused by her ancestor King George II.
We are not merely dealing with confiscation of land here but the crime of genocide perpetrated by the British.
President Clinton. on Nov. 23, 1993, offered an apology to native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow in 1893 of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
There is a trend of restitution for wrongs done in the past. Even unimpeachable Canada apologized to what it did high-handedly to Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War!
Thirdly, there is what is called the "phenomenology of taint" when atrocities of the past, like in Kosovo, are continually revisited in the psyche of the Acadians. English-Canadians often scoff at Acadians because Acadians always refer to what some red necks called the "myth" of the deportation!
But Acadians have no other history! Where must they turn? The taint remains in our collective psyche and the dealing is just beginning! When the Acadian people beg for a French school in Summerside, for street signs that are bilingual in Tignish, for insistence to fly their distinctive banner without being told by fellow Canadians that they have to fly the Maple Leaf with it in order to be respected, for service in their language in all government departments and for recognition that their contribution is important to the mosaic that is Canada.
What they are saying is that they want, perhaps at first symbolically, to break away from the atrocities committed by the British royal family and its government against them. All these inroads in wanting to be recognized as Acadians and not lumped up all as French-Canadians like Sheila Copps wants, help to wash away the feelings of incompleteness that flow from wounds unmended by past and present injustices.
Fourthly, it is in both the interest of Great Britain and the world community that this dispute receive a fair inquiry which would help preserve the sanctity of the rule of law, for the word of the Queen derived its power from the ancient notion that the monarch was "king by the grace of God".
More than an apology, international rites of reconciliation between the British Crown and the Acadians like what transpired in South Africa need to be initiated. We have before us a high degree of bad faith on the part of the Crown regarding the Acadians because the institution of the monarchy has consistently refused to grant a hearing to the Acadian people on this issue. Yet, King George II and Queen Elizabeth took essentially the same oath at their respective coronations, to wit:
Archbishop: Will you to your powei cause law and justice, in mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?
King/Queen: I will.
Fifthly, there is a gross violation of the principles of the Magna Carta for the military govemment in Nova Scotia systematically arrested the Acadians, making no distinction between those who could have been associated with specific crimes and those who were innocent. That same British government subsequently imprisoned all of the Acadian men it could lay its hands upon, interned their wives and children, and eventually exiled them from their homeland. confiscating in the process a century and a half of accumulated wealth to pay fur the King's trouble in deporting them.
Thus, without due process of law, the Acadians, who were British subjects. were uprooted Iroin their free holdings, unjustly imprisoned and collectively and individually denied a fair and impartial hearing so that they might defend themselves against the allegations of sedition that had been levied against them.
Isn't the Magna Carta the heart of the English Constitution or is it being eaten away by European dictates from Brussels?
Sixthly, Queen Elizabeth and her government cannot afford not submitting themselves to a hearing if only to avoid the status of pariah in the international community. Every nation in the world now at least pays lip service to the universal disdain for genocide, the most ternble of crimes against humanity. There is even now in international law a crime called "complicity to genocide".
Forcible exile is a crime under Article II of the Genocide Convention. The exile of the Acadians was intended to scatter the Acadians across the vast possessions of the British Empire in an effort to forcibly assimilate them into Anglo-Protestant society. And British colonial government required the indenture of Acadian children by their refugee parents.
Seventhly, Queen Elizabeth and her government may face immediate ascertainable liability by refusing for whatever reason to face the situation in an official manner. As such, Queen Elizabeth and her government are violating Article III (e) of the Genocide Convention by implicitly condoning the brutality of the past. This is tantamount to violating international law.
This is not the type of stigma that the British people want or deserve. Accordingly, Great Britain should avoid the shame of condoning genocide, real or alleged, like it does in Kosovo, by allowing herself to submit the events of the expulsion of the Acadian nation to a fair hearing per Warren Perrin's petition.
History provides ample evidence that some of Great Britain's most cherished ideals were tamished by the Acadian exile. Most profoundly, the trustworthiness of the Monarchy's word has been called into question by the bad faith of the period. Furthermore, the spirit of contemporary international law, if not the letter, demands that Queen Elizabeth and her government, act in such a way as to distance themselves from the atrocities of the past, by washing British and Royal history clean in the waters of justice.
Justice for Acadians! Justice for Acadians! Thank you, Carroll Kadey from Ellerslie, for having ignited the excruciating revelation that what is happening in Kosovo happened to us, Acadians, lest we forget!
David Le Gallant, C.P. 550, Tignish, I.-P.-É., Acadie, Canada, COB 2130
(The author of this article is indebted to historian Roger Paradis for his book published in 1998 entitled: Papers of Prudent L Mercure, Histoire du Madawaska, to Carl A. Brasseaux for his excellent study of the wanderings of the Acadians at the time of the Deportation in his Scattered to the Wind (ISBN: 0-940984-70-9) obtainable for $5 US at the Center for Louisiana Studies in Lafayette, Louisiana and to Shane P Landry whose paper for Professor Blakesley's International Law Seminar was the inspiration and the core of the author's own plea for justice for his people.)