LARRY’S RIVER – A long-awaited provincial resolution recognizing the Acadians in the Tor Bay region of Guysborough County was passed unanimously earlier this month.
Minister of Acadian and Francophone Affairs, Colton LeBlanc, introduced it in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly on Nov. 2.
Larry’s River resident Jude Avery, chair of La Société des Acadiens de la Région de Tor Baie (SARTB), explained how the recognition came about, and what it means for the Acadian communities in the region.
The recognition happened, in large part, due to a presentation Avery made to the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE) at its annual meeting in Halifax in late October. At that time, he requested that “the provincial body – La FANE – would accept the Tor Bay region as an official Acadian region for the Province of Nova Scotia.”
People of the Tor Bay region made a similar request approximately 30 years, but FANE rejected it.
The outcome was far different this year when Avery made his presentation on Oct. 24.
Avery recalled, “I addressed the assembly. I gave them our history, who we were, what we were, what we’ve done, what we are doing and where we hope to go – and surprisingly – not only did I get unanimous approval, but I got an ovation for the prestation, which means they were open to us. And it made me feel good knowing that. Unanimity is always a desired result. Having achieved that made me realize that the rest of the province is behind us. I left the meeting very pleased and happy that that had occurred.”
The invitation to make the proposal came about due to Avery’s persistence in advocating for Acadian culture in the Tor Bay region. This past summer, he read an article that included a map of Acadian regions in Nova Scotia and “Tor Bay was conspicuously absent.”
Troubled by the omission, Avery contacted the email address attached to the article which, he soon found out, belonged to none other than the Directrice Générale of FANE, Marie-Claude Rioux, who quickly responded to his email with a phone call.
In the ensuing discussion, Avery expressed his frustration that Tor Bay was being excluded from recognition as an Acadian region, and Rioux asked “if I was willing to try to right that wrong with her, and I said ‘yes.’”
Gaining recognition meant applying once again to become a member of La FANE. Consultation took place among the members of the SARTB, paperwork was submitted and finally Avery’s proposal at the annual meeting sealed the deal and the Tor Bay region’s recognition by La FANE as an Acadian region.
Shortly thereafter, Guysborough-Tracadie MLA Greg Morrow and LeBlanc both recognized the Tor Bay region as an Acadian region in the provincial legislature.
What benefits does recognition confer?
“We now have, as part of the provincial body [FANE], more recognition in terms of tourism,” Avery said.
The area will now also fall under the umbrella of numerous provincial programs and qualify for consideration of development of a Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) school – the Francophone school board for Nova Scotia.
“It has already begun to happen,” said Avery, noting that members of the SARTB have already met with Rioux and CSAP Directeur Général Michel Collette in Larry’s River.
“They were very, very pleased and amazed by what they discovered when they came there [Larry’s River] in terms of involvement, in terms of creation, in terms of development – on our own without external help and they left us with a firm commitment to do a thorough study on the feasibility of developing an Acadian school in our area.
“That has already begun. We have a meeting scheduled for Nov. 17, which will be to develop a survey of the possibility of developing such a school,” Avery said.
Avery would also like to see a cultural centre in the area to display, on a permanent basis, art and artifacts – including an aboiteau (a dyke sluice-gate, constructed in 1640), one of only three on display in the province – related to Acadian culture and history in the Tor Bay region.
The centre would ideally build upon the work already undertaken to enhance and proclaim the Acadian heritage of the area such as the Place Savalette in Port Felix and the Parc de nos Ancêtres in Larry’s River.
With the recent recognition of the Tor Bay region as an Acadian region, Avery is optimistic about the future. “Recently, all the attempts we made to revive and to rebuild, when the event was done, things were returned to attics and basements even the language [was] put back almost into a vault to be used next year at the event. We don’t want that to continue; we want our culture and our language to be a daily thing. We want these things to be expressed on a daily basis not [only] on special occasions.”