P.E.I.'s Acadian community makes some noise to celebrate National Acadian Day

·3 min read
Members of the P.E.I.'s Acadian community grabbed their noisemakers and took part in a tintamarre commemorating National Acadian Day at noon on Monday in Rustico, P.E.I. (Kate McKenna/CBC - image credit)
Members of the P.E.I.'s Acadian community grabbed their noisemakers and took part in a tintamarre commemorating National Acadian Day at noon on Monday in Rustico, P.E.I. (Kate McKenna/CBC - image credit)

Members of the P.E.I.'s Acadian community grabbed their noisemakers and flags Monday at noon to take part in a tintamarre in Rustico commemorating National Acadian Day.

The parade was followed by a flag-raising ceremony and the singing of the Acadian national anthem, Ave Maris Stella, and Ô Canada, before a traditional Acadian meal at Rustico's Farmer's Bank.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 3,486 people in P.E.I. who identified as Acadian in 2015, representing less than one per cent of the Island's total population that year.

Isabelle Dasylva-Gill, executive director of the Société Acadienne et Francophone de l'Î.-P.-É., said the annual event is all about being heard.

"Historically the community is very discreet and everything like that, but it's kind of a time to make noise," she said.

"It's basically our way to say we've been here for a long time and we're still here. Hear us, join us in the celebration."

Kate McKenna/CBC
Kate McKenna/CBC

Chef Robert Pendergast was in charge of preparing the main course this year. He said he chose to make chicken fricot, an Acadian stew, because that's what his mother, who's from western P.E.I., would often cook at home.

"When my mom went to high school, she was picked on for being Acadian and for having a heavy French accent. And she basically said, 'Well I'll be damned if I'm going to let these people push me around.' And I'm kind of very lucky that that was her attitude," Pendergast said.

"We lived in Saulnierville in Nova Scotia, and that kind of made me realize that there were lots of Acadians in other places. And then coming home, it also made me realize that, you know, there was nothing to be sort of shy about or ashamed of, that [being] Acadian was actually a good thing."

'Hope for the future'

Arnold Smith, chairman of the board of the Farmers' Bank and Doucet House Museums, was helping by cranking out some ice cream.

Smith, who isn't Acadian, said that seeing many young people participating in the celebrations and learning about Acadian history gives him "hope for the future."

"When I went to school ... 50-some years ago, we had this little Prince Edward Island history book and the mention of the Acadians were just superficial in it," Smith said.

"We never learned about the expulsion from Prince Edward Island and to the degree and the tragedy that it was. And so there's all these things about our own history we don't know and understand. And it's a sight like this that brings that forward."

'Everybody is welcome'

This year, the celebrations opened with a land acknowledgement that mentioned the friendship between the Acadian and Mi'kmaw communities on P.E.I.

Dasylva-Gill said that without that friendship, the Acadian community wouldn't have been able to survive deportation.

"They were here, they welcomed them, they help them. And I think that throughout the years that friendship grew," she said. "We never forgot, I think, that friendship and we always trying to find ways to revive it and really pass it on to the next generation."

"Everybody is welcome," said Pendergast. "I think that it's important to be inclusive, not just all across the board with cultures, but also to make sure that we get young people involved."

Dasylva-Gill encouraged people who are interested in learning about Acadian culture to participate in activities in the six community hubs in the region.

She said that regardless of whether or not you speak French, having fun is a "universal language."