Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 - Grand Pré Statement
Grand-Pré UNESCO World Heritage Site
Hon. Rose-May Poirier: Honourable senators, on June 30, 2012, UNESCO added Grand-Pré to its list of world heritage sites. This exclusive list includes 750 sites around the world, including the Rideau Canal, the Canadian Rockies, Old Québec City, and now the Grand-Pré historic site.
Grand-Pré is widely recognized for its beautiful, unique and untouched landscapes. However, as an Acadian, and to thousands of other Acadians like me, the site represents a memorial commemorating one of the most tragic events of our history: the deportation, known as the "Grand Dérangement."
Settled in the 1680s and located near the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, Grand-Pré was one of the first Canadian and first Acadian settlements. Still today, Grand-Pré continues to exist with its original settlements protected by excellent conservation practices. Acadian engineering has been crucial to maintaining the settlement. A system of tide gates that still work today was essential to the all-important annual harvests and ensured the survival of Acadians through the harsh North American winters.
Since 1755, the year of the Grand Dérangement, Grand-Pré has been recognized as an important memorial site for the Acadian people. Driven from their land, our Acadian ancestors had to begin their lives over again elsewhere. Whether they found themselves in Louisiana, Quebec or New England, the dispersion of the Acadians had begun.
Despite the separation of over 12,000 Acadians, their flame was never extinguished. In 1847, Longfellow wrote an epic poem telling the story of Évangéline and her undying affection for her lover, Gabriel. The pair was separated by the deportation. Little by little, the Acadian people forged their identity around the poem and myth became reality: the Acadians would not lose hope and would return to their land, just as Évangéline would be reunited with her Gabriel.
Nearly three centuries later, the Acadian people triumphantly returned to their homeland. We will never forget this tragic and legendary past, as well as the perseverance of our ancestors. Now UNESCO is also recognizing the unique nature of Acadian history and culture.
Grand-Pré is an iconic place of remembrance where Acadians can come together to celebrate our history and our triumphant return, as one big family. I invite all honourable senators to come and join us, and enjoy the beautiful landscapes, experience an untouched historic site and celebrate this international recognition with us.