“Today, I call on Canadians and people around the world to stand with people seeking shelter from enormous hardship and violence…” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, issued on World Refugee Day 2017.
French Acadians, the people of “Acadie” (modern day Nova Scotia), in the Canadian Maritimes, are among the millions who are remembered in the world histories of refugees.
Sadly, the documentation of their forced evacuation from 1755-1764, from “Acadia”, during Le Grand Dérangement, (the great upheavel) was a horrible episode in North American history . In fact, the French Acadians were forced to leave their homes in the settlements they built, because they were victims of the colonial wars fought between the French and English, over control of Canada. Among those who escaped deportation, were refugees who found their way to French speaking Canada. They built an Acadian colony in the Madawaska territory, located on both sides of the St. John River, dividing Maine and Canada.
A centuries old cliché is timely:
Plus les choses changent, plus ils restent les mêmes (The more things change the more they stay the same).
In fact, Canada continues to offer safety to refugees, as in this official statement published by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remembered World Refugee Day on June 20, 2017.
“Canadians are fortunate to live in a country shaped, over the centuries, by the dreams and hard work of millions of immigrants and refugees. Today, we recognize their dignity and potential. Despite the hardships they face, these individuals make many contributions to shape the diverse, strong, and prosperous country Canada is today.
“Canada has a long tradition of welcoming refugees, and today, Canadians continue to help newcomers establish their lives here with compassion and openness. In recent years, communities across the country have welcomed over 40,000 Syrian refugees. Their generosity illustrates the spirit of compassion that defines us as Canadians. When we embrace our differences and come together to welcome newcomers, we strengthen our communities in enduring ways.
“Rising conflict, insecurity, and persecution today have led to migration levels not seen since the Second World War. We have a global responsibility to respond to this crisis and to support those who are forced to leave home. We must address the root causes of forced migration by seeking diplomatic solutions for violent conflicts and standing united in the fight against terrorism. We must also redouble our efforts on climate change, so that it does not further exacerbate insecurity in the world.
“Today, I call on Canadians and people around the world to stand with people seeking shelter from enormous hardship and violence. Refugees are forced to leave home, but they carry with them dreams for their children and the hope of creating a better world. Let us show compassion for their plight, recognize their dignity, and continue to see ourselves in each other.”
Certainly, the dire circumstances of being a refugee are compounded by the situations from which they are fleeing, as well as by those providing safety for them, where they are eventually resettled. When my family lived in the Philippines, we witnessed the trauma of the tens of thousands of Vietnam refugees, in 1975 and for several years thereafter, who fled their nation after the fall of Saigon.
In the story of the Acadians, their diaspora is referred to as being “scattered to the winds”, because many of them were forced by the British to board deportation boats, without their families accompanying them, when they were brutally sent to various foreign ports.
As we can imagine, nobody along the North American Eastern seaboard was expecting the Acadians to arrive and most would have liked to bid them farewell, wrote Rene Babineau, in A Brief History of Acadia. “American colonies were not ready for them. They were not assimilated.” A French Canadian presence in the largely Protestant colonies caused social tensions. Yet, those who avoided being deported, hid in New Brunswick, Canada where they established a rebirth of Acadie.
And so it continues today, as the young and bilingual Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, was among the few world leaders to issue a formal statement about World Refugee Day. In fact, he posted his link to the official statement on his Twitter handle.
This is what Justin Trudeau’s “Tweet” said, “When we embrace our differences & come together to welcome newcomers, we strengthen our communities. #WithRefugee ”