A Look Back
Acadians have a long history in Nova Scotia that began more than 400 years ago with the arrival of the first European settlers. In 1605, they established a settlement at Port Royal, in what would become known as Acadie.
By the early 1700s, the colony’s population grew to several thousands. Acadie encompassed fishing villages along the southern coast of Nova Scotia and farming communities to the north, stretching from Grand-Pré to Amherst and into New Brunswick. A distinct identity and culture emerged.
Over the years, control over Acadie was repeatedly fought over and exchanged hands between England and France. In 1713, what is now mainland Nova Scotia came under British rule. Despite the conflicts between France and England, Acadians always remained neutral.
When England and France were again at war in 1744, the Acadian population far outnumbered the British, which was perceived to be a threat. The events that followed would mark the most tragic period in Acadian history.
From 1755 to 1763, the British uprooted and deported the Acadian population. Between 10,000 and 18,000 Acadians were displaced during the Great Upheaval, or Grand Dérangement. More than 6,000 were dispersed among the 13 American colonies. Up to a quarter of the population escaped into French territory – Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), Île Royale (Cape Breton), and modern-day New Brunswick and Québec. Approximately 3,000 were deported to France when the British captured Fortress Louisbourg in 1758.
After the war ended in 1764, small numbers of Acadians were allowed to return to Nova Scotia. With their homes gone and farmlands taken over, they resettled in areas along the coast. Many made their living off the sea, establishing strong communities that exist to this day including Chéticamp and Isle Madame on Cape Breton Island; Pomquet near Antigonish; Wedgeport and Pubnico and the communities of Clare along the Baie Sainte-Marie in southwestern Nova Scotia.
Acadians prospered through the 1800s, contributing much to Nova Scotia. They gained new rights, took up positions of power and founded educational institutions. In 1881, the first Acadian convention was held, establishing August 15th as National Acadian Day. In 1884, the Acadian flag and national anthem, Ave Maris Stella, were adopted.
With a history defined by tragedy, courage and perseverance, Acadians have preserved their traditions and culture for over four centuries. The French language and a vital Acadian culture are part of the diversity celebrated in Nova Scotia today.
Acadian Timeline – Read about significant events in the history of Acadians from past to present.
Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse – Learn more about Acadie and the historic Acadian village in Lower West Pubnico, part of the Nova Scotia Museum.
Acadians and Francophones Today
The Acadian and francophone community in Nova Scotia includes 34,585 people with French as a mother tongue (3.8% of the population), according to 2011 Census Data from Statistics Canada.
Nova Scotia’s French-speaking population is dispersed throughout the province, from the southwestern tip to the far reaches of Cape Breton Island. Traditionally based in rural areas, recent years have seen rising numbers of Acadians and francophones in urban areas.
Acadians make up the majority of the population in the municipalities of Clare and Argyle. In Cape Breton, French is the dominant language on Isle Madame and in Chéticamp.
French is a first language for 11,935 people living Halifax Regional Municipality, representing 34.5% of the total population with French mother tongue in the province.
The French Language in Nova Scotia
About 10% of the population or 94,310 Nova Scotians can speak French.
French-language media outlets in Nova Scotia include the weekly newspaper Le Courrier de la Nouvelle-Écosse and Radio-Canada television and radio. Four French-language community radio stations broadcast in Acadian and francophone communities throughout the province: CIFA serving Clare and Argyle, CKJM serving Chéticamp, CITU (Coopérative Radio Richmond) serving Isle Madame, and CKRH (Radio Halifax-Métro), serving the Halifax region.
Acadians and francophones in Nova Scotia are most involved in the fisheries, forestry, services, and tourism sectors. The province is home to a vibrant Acadian and francophone arts and culture scene, represented at the provincial level by the Fédération culturelle acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse.
A strong entrepreneurial culture is visible in Acadian regions. Businesses compete locally and internationally in industries such as aquaculture and food processing.
The fishing industry is prominent in the regions of Argyle, Clare, Isle Madame and Chéticamp. The fishing industry in Argyle is among the most prosperous in Atlantic Canada.
Acadian communities offer many cultural tourism experiences that are an important part of Nova Scotia’s tourism industry – from national historic sites at Grand-Pré and Port Royal, to some of North America’s oldest churches, festivals and museums.
The Conseil de développement économique de la Nouvelle-Écosse is a provincial organization that provides leadership in economic development and employability for the Acadian and francophone community.
Acadian and francophone families have access to the French-language public schools of the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, with more than 20 schools serving nearly 5,000 students across Nova Scotia.
More than 15,000 students were enrolled in French immersion programs in English-language School Boards during the 2011–2012 school year.
Université Sainte-Anne offers post-secondary education in French through its main campus in Church Point and four satellite campuses across Nova Scotia.
Note: Demographic statistics are based on 2011 Census Data from Statistics Canada. Education statistics from the Nova Scotia Department of Education.
Acadian Celebrations and Commemorations
There are a number of celebrations and events that bring together Acadians and francophones to share their culture and heritage. Read more ...