Over the weekend, Radio Canada published an interesting piece about the Tor Bay region in Guysborough County being officially recognized as an Acadian community 200 years after they first settled there.
Reporter Kheira Morellon spoke to several people, including area resident Jude Avery who founded la Société des Acadiens de la Région de Tor Baie (Tor Bay Acadian Society) in 2002. Avery had long fought for his community to be recognized and described the acknowledgement as a feeling of great accomplishment.
In an interview with the Halifax Examiner on Monday, the executive director of the province’s Acadian federation (la Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse–FANE) said Tor Bay was officially recognized and accepted as a member of the FANE during its annual general meeting held the weekend of Oct. 22 to 24.
“Jude (Avery) came to our AGM and made a plea about why it was important for his region to be incorporated or included as part an Acadian region for la fédération acadienne, and the vote was unanimous,” Marie-Claude Rioux said. “It was so touching, it was very emotional.”
Rioux estimates that there are about 500 Acadians living in the Tor Bay region. She first learned about the Tor Bay area Acadians just three years ago when speaking with a friend who knew Avery. Shortly after, they connected and Rioux planned a visit.
But then COVID-19 hit and halted her plans.
This spring, Avery reached out again and asked Rioux how he could go about getting Tor Bay recognized as an Acadian region under the umbrella of the FANE. He wrote a letter and then made a passionate plea during the association’s AGM last month.
“It’s emotional because it’s pretty much as if you realize all of a sudden that you’ve had a brother or a sister that you didn’t know about and you meet for the first time,” Rioux said.
“We all felt like, ‘Oh my God, how come we didn’t know about the Acadians from Tor Bay? How come we didn’t know the history of Acadians from Tor Bay? And I guess it brings us back to the history of all Acadians in Nova Scotia. After the expulsion, we were forced to relocate in areas that nobody else wanted.”
Last week, Rioux made her first trip to Tor Bay where she was greeted by a large group gathered at a community centre decorated with Acadian flags and served a fricot lunch. She described the experience as emotional.
So what does becoming a member of the FANE mean for the Acadians of the Tor Bay area?
“All of a sudden all the Acadian communities know about Tor Bay…and all of a sudden, all the tools and all the programs and all the activities from now on will have to think of Tor Bay,” Rioux said, pointing to the FANE’s 29 member organizations that range from health to education.
“They will have to think of Tor Bay when they develop those activities…It means that they will benefit from all the programs that our organizations are creating.”
When the Acadians of Tor Bay created their own society to host the Pellerin/Bonnevie family reunion during the 2004 World Acadian Congress held in Nova Scotia, it was suggested no one would go to such a remote spot. Rioux said it ended up being one of the biggest family reunion success stories of the congress.
Rioux pointed out how despite having had no support from the Acadian community, residents in the Tor Bay area have reignited their culture, creating Place Savalette in Port Felix and Parc de Nos Ancêtres (park of our ancestors) at Tor Bay Provincial Park in Larry’s River.
“What I found very emotional is that despite everything, they kept their language, they kept their pride in their Acadian heritage,” Rioux said.
“We can certainly use that as a perfect example of the Acadian resilience, that after all these years, after being separated for that long, even then they managed to keep the language and the pride of Acadians alive.”