We served 7 years as member of le Conseil d’Administration de la FANE in the 1980s and early 90s. Very few fellow Acadians knew of our existence, and some did not know where Tor Bay was. We were a member of le C.A. as an adjunct to Pomquet, but always made sure la FANE knew that we also existed as an Acadian Region. We made several informal requests to have us recognized, but it fell on deaf ears. Bill Gerrior and Jude finally met with the executive of la FANE in Port Hastings as they were returning from a Cheticamp meeting. Here we made our formal request at inclusion and were told a curt, ‘no”. In anger and bitter disappointment, we returned home and we never associated ourselves with la FANE again. This divorce endured almost 30 years and our only communication was periodic tirades whenever we saw the map of the Acadian regions of Nova Scotia without our inclusion.
In the meantime, we decided to promote our presence ourselves. In 1994, some 30 people from our community attended le premier Congès Mondial Acadien, in Moncton, New Brunswick. Those who attended were touched and moved by this event and we left there determined to show our pride in being Acadian by doing something tangible in our area. Suddenly, our Acadian world began to open. Our community was no longer just us in the Tor Bay area. We now established communication channels with Cajuns from Louisiana, Acadians from New Brunswick, PEI and other parts of Nova Scotia. However, it was the 3rd CMA held in Nova Scotia in 2004 that really was our ‘réveil’. La Société des Acadiens de la Région de Tor Bay was founded in 2002, to plan and organize local events to celebrate the Pellerin and Bonnevie ‘retrouvailles’. Brad Pellerin was our founding President and several planning meetings were held. Unfortunately, Brad died of cancer that year and the Société decided to continue the task at hand in his memory.
The result of our planning was staging one of the best CMA celebrations in the province (according to provincial organizers). The celebrations that endured for 4 days in August 2004 moved our people to the point of disbelief. The pride expressed from this success and opening our doors to the world, left us with a newly discovered drive for further development of our culture and history. The following evolved from this experience:
- Our Société continued with a new mandate to promote our culture and history in tangible ways
- The annual Festival Savalette was established in 2005 as an annual cultural celebration
- Parc de Nos Ancêtres was conceptualized and built in 2006/07
- Salle Acadienne was established in 2011 as a Resource Centre
- Place Savalette Site Historic was built in 2019 in Port Felix
In July, 2019, we read an Acadian tourism advertisement and observed again that the Tor Bay area was omitted. A website was given, and in anger we wrote a scathing message about this intentional omission that we find insulting and unjust.
The next day, we received a phone call from Marie-Claude Rioux, la Directrice-Générale de la Fédération Acadienne de la Nouvelle Écosse. She was very saddened by our irritability and proceeded to explain why we were not indicated as an Acadian Region. She knew nothing of our history of inclusion requests, and when we informed her of the refusals of such, she felt very upset and saddened as well. She then proceeded to inform us of the steps required to right this wrong. But first, she planned on visiting our area and seeing first-hand our needs. However, the COVID pandemic struck and all traveling was abandoned and this follow-up was put on hold.
August 2021-another Acadian promotional ad, and another omission. This time we called Marie-Claude Rioux and explained that we were still angry and insulted. She gave us a to-do list in order to change this situation. The steps were as follows:
- Have our Société des Acadiens de la Région de Tor Bay registered with la FANE thus becoming an active player. Did so immediately! Check!
- Have a member attend l’ Assemblée Générale Annuelle, on October 22-24, 2021, and present a formal request to have our region designated as an official Acadian Region. We attended and made the proposal that was unanimously endorsed. Check!
- Have her and the Director-Générale du Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial visit our area.
They came for a meeting with our committee and interested others on November 1, 2021. Twenty people attended this meeting that was well organized and with a beautifully decorated Acadian theme at our CABMF Centre. The Fougère family made a delicious fricôt, tarteau tanné, biscuits blancs, des tarteaux à la mélasse et deux sortes de tamarin. They were completely wowed by this reception that also included a visit to Geneva Fougère’s to meet the area’s Acadian matriarch. They left after also visiting our two parks and determined to place their full efforts in bringing in an Acadian school and Cultural Centre. We were buoyed by their commitment and enthusiasm to see the development of our ultimate dream.
November 5, we received a phone call from Stéphanie Blanchet, of Radio-Canada and asked if we were willing to do an interview that afternoon in Larry’s River. We agreed and she and a colleague arrived for a 3 PM interview where they sought reactions to our being recognized as an Acadian region. They interviewed our Société president at the footbridge and then we went to Sylvester Pellerin’s house where they interviewed him as well and then did a video shooting of the two having a casual discussion. All went very well with the interviews aired on Saturday, November 6.
The aftermath of this aired telecast was incredible! Information was sent to all in our contact list, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia and many viewed the newscast and reacted enthusiastically to it. We began getting kudo messages from people across Canada with the general feeling being one of pride and disbelief. It feels so good to have positive vibes replace ones of pessimism and despair.
Received a copy of Louisiana’s “Petitpas/Guédry Newsletter on November 8, with a story taken from, “Forgotten Acadians”, on our local legend, Geneviève (Petitpas) Pellerin-la sage femme (mid-wife) It was so nice to see another local story reach international prominence for her great work and displaying her Acadian qualities of compassion and hospitality.
Yvette d’Entremont wrote a lengthy article in a Nova Scotia Review entitled, “Tor Bay officially recognized as an Acadian Community”, on November 9. Several more kudo messages followed that edition and on it goes. It’s a great ride!
On November 17, we had a virtual meeting with Marie-Claude Rioux, Michel Collette, Nicole Dupuis (Fédération des Parents Acadiens) and me to draw up survey questions to be circulated among local residents to determine if we have sufficient support for an Acadian school. That was done and all went well. Nicole is now preparing une ébauche for us to review and comment on. This was done a few days later and all had an opportunity to comment on it. Very well done and simple to interpret.
On November 19, we had a meeting here with local residents and our new MLA, Greg Morrow, to voice our priorities and seek his support in the coming months. Myself, Allister and Bob Weber attended this meeting. He listened to our priority list of Footbridge, LR to Port Félix road, and the completion of the Lundy road. No promises, but a good meeting, nonetheless. There is so much happening so fast!
Tuesday, November 30–Zoom meeting with Natalie Chavarie, Langues Officielles Atlantique-to discuss available programs and funding through various government departments.
Thursday, December 16, 11 AM-meeting in person with François Rouleau and Nicole Dupuis and our committee to discuss the rollout of the school survey.
We have a Zoom meeting with Natalie Chavarie. Langues officielles Atlantique, tomorrow as per above.
November, 26, 2021-Received 1ère ébauche du projet “Un chemin de mémoire, entre Chezzetcook et Tor Baie” and circulated this among all those I feel may be interested in getting to know our roots and our history. Received several positive reactions immediately, so I am judging there will be significant interest.
We had a Zoom meeting with Natalie Chavarie of Patrimoine Canada, Langues Officielles, at 9 AM, to do an overview of the application process for us to use when applying for project funding. It is very detailed and would scare most people away from this involved process. We conveyed that very message to her and she assured me that help is always available to us when needed. We immediately sent a circular message out to all interested participants inviting project ideas to be sent in to me to be worked on in the New Year. Perhaps a music workshop involving Acadian and Mi’kmaq artists would be a place to start.
Many congratulatory and supportive messages were received immediately. (Father Doug Murphy, Michael Pellerin, Pam Richard, Ann Roy, Pat and Rick MacDermid, Bill Gerrior, Syl and Marilyn Pellerin, Roma Kennedy, etc.)
We received a copy of “la dernière ébauche du sondage préparatoire” pour distribuer aux parents. A meeting will be held on December 16 with Nicole Depuis and François Rouleau and our committee to review this and decide how and when to roll this out to parents and how to collect the results. It’s getting very exciting! This was canceled due to Omicron, but done virtually.
January 7, 2022-We had another Zoom meeting with Nicole Depuis and Stéphanie Comeau (Coordinatrice de médias, CSAP) today to discuss the Sondage and media releases prior to the mailout. Stéphanie is preparing this while Nicole is looking after 2000 making copies of the Survey and have them sent to us to give to area Post Offices for distribution. All this is being paid by the parent bodies. We are getting great support and direction.
We have a Zoom meeting January 13 with the Executive of la FANE to review and input policy objectives. We have been away from the current FANE management for years, so we have little to offer, but much to learn at this time. This will be more educational than actively participating for me. We will also engage in a Zoom meeting on January 17, to discuss criteria policies for Acadian School inclusion. We am looking forward to this one since that directly affects us now as we plan our local school project. We have not been this busy in years. This “being busy”, we like!
We have engaged Waterline Graphics to produce a Logo for our Société. We have received three samples to review and comment on and these were circulated among our members for feedback. We have heard back from 16 people and good suggestions have been put forward. Chris Bell has come up with another version that will be shared later today and voted on. We want to get this right! It’s encouraging to see the level of interest being expressed. People are getting engaged!
We have done two more interviews with Radio-Canada to discuss the advancement of our school project and the overall significance of being a recognized Acadian Region.
Our sondage was mailed out to area households on January 31, 2022, with an addressed envelope for these to be returned to FPANE (Fédération des Parents Acadiens de la Nouvelle Écosse) by the deadline date of February 28, 2022. Although we are not privy to these results, we have heard of great interest expressed by local parents who have signed their children into the proposed program. Under Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our rights to an education in our native language is stated. To obtain that right, we must have 10 students from Primary to Grade 12 register. We are confident of more than this minimum number, and are now waiting to see what the number will be.
We did interviews with the Guysborough Journal and le Courrier de la Nouvelle Écosse for articles to appear in those newspapers. These articles will follow a Press Release to the various media groups (social media, newspapers, and radio) to further explain the planned program and how to register. We received an email today from a former area resident in Georgetown, Ontario, who read the Press Release in the Canadian Media Press (parent company of the Toronto Sun). She wrote to congratulate us and is hoping for positive results. (she is a Richard descendent) This coming week should see these in our provincial media. There is major activity on our social media site with hundreds of visits and sharings. This is a great ride and we are now focused on the larger picture. Laissons le bon temps rouler!