Monday, 28 July 2014

Acadian Descendant Resists Eviction, Lives in National Park Decades Later


A hand-painted sign marks the property claimed by Acadian
descendant, Jackie Vautour, within Kouchibouguac National Park
and warns against trespassing by government employees.

Over the last year, I have become increasingly aware of and disturbed by contemporary cases of legally sanctioned theft by means of expropriation, also known as eminent domain. These government expropriations (i.e. legalized invasions and occupations of private properties) have resulted in forced evictions and demolitions of family homes, businesses and even entire neighbourhoods throughout North America.

Recent cases of government-sponsored property rights abuses, such as that of Ontario farmer Frank Meyers, have garnered some national media attention, and sparked public outcry. But growing awareness of and opposition to the issue of expropriation has done little to curb its practice, or even to protect individual property owners against these instances of government aggression.

Government abuse of, and total disregard for property rights is by no means a new trend in North America, and has been occurring since the continent was first settled by Europeans. The expulsion of the Acadians, or the first Acadian deportation occurred in the mid-seventeen hundreds, when the French-speaking inhabitants (Acadians) of what is now the Canadian Maritimes and northern New England were forcibly relocated by the British Imperialists throughout the American colonies, with some deported to France.

 
The Acadians, a largely ungoverned people since their settling of the continent in the early 1600s, were victims of the imperial battle between the British and French governments for the North American continent.

A contemporary case of expropriation with startling echoes of the Acadian expulsion, sometimes referred to as the second Acadian deportation, has recently come to my attention.  In the late 1960s, the Canadian and New Brunswick governments began an expropriation campaign to make way for Kouchibouguac National Park. The expropriation would account for the displacement of about 250 families, largely farmers and fishermen, and mostly of Acadian descent.

Despite early resistance from those families whose property was being expropriated, most eventually took the $5000-$7000 offered by the government for their land, and reluctantly accepted the reality of relocation. Many even accepted employment with Parks Canada at the newly established national park.

One man and his family, however, refused to surrender their home and livelihood (the expropriation also entailed surrender of fishing rights) to the government.

Painting of the Vautour home being demolished.
By Rocky Vautour (Jackie's son)


For seven years, Jackie Vautour steadfastly refused to sell his land to the government. With the Vautours unwilling to leave, in 1976, they were forcibly evicted, and their home demolished by the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources. Shortly thereafter, in 1977, Jackie Vautour, his wife and their children returned to the site of their home, where they took up residence in tents.

Jackie Vautour and his wife have remained at the site of their original home to this day. Over the course of several decades, the Vautours have lived in tents and other makeshift shelters. However, with little money, and their livelihood constantly threatened by the government (the Vautours have been arrested on several occasions for illegally fishing), their living environment has deteriorated in recent years.

Jackie Vautour and his wife, Yvonne.
Earlier this year, local businessmen donated a temporary shelter in the form of a mobile trailer, and the children of Jackie and Yvonne Vautour have started a fundraising campaign to raise money to buy or build a more permanent and safe structure for the Vautours to call home in the middle of Kouchibouguac National Park, where they have remained for more than thirty years, in bold defiance of government aggressors.

Jackie Vautour is a largely unsung hero, who has confidently and consistently asserted his right to his property. How successful might government expropriation campaigns continue to be if more property owners refused to surrender, not only by demanding their rights be respected by governments in courtrooms, but by exercising their property ownership in a very real way, by occupying and using their land in spite of an arbitrary legal framework that tells them they don’t own it?

For more information about the Vautour family's fundraising campaign, visit their Facebook page.

Click here to donate to the campaign.

Learn more about the second Acadian deportation, the Kouchibouguac expropriations, at www.returningthevoices.ca .


4 comments:

  1. Unfortunately they still struggle to this very day.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here is the link for the fundraiser for our fighting M├ętis-Acadian couple!

    https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/cpMUf/ab/03mXu6

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Simon, I've added the link to the main text of the post.

      Delete