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Did Canada apologize to the Acadians?

In the 18th century, the Acadians were a French-speaking people living in what are now the Maritime provinces of Canada. In 1755, the British forcibly expelled thousands of Acadians from their homeland in an event known as the Great Upheaval. Many Acadians lost their lives and their communities were destroyed. It was a dark chapter in Canada’s history, one that caused great suffering for the Acadian people.

When did the expulsion of the Acadians occur?

The expulsion of the Acadians began in 1755 during the French and Indian War. The British saw the Acadians as a threat due to their close ties to the French and their refusal to swear unconditional allegiance to the British crown. On July 28, 1755, the British governor Charles Lawrence issued an order to deport the Acadian population. Over the next several years, approximately 11,500 Acadians were deported from Nova Scotia and other parts of Atlantic Canada. Many went to the American colonies, while others were sent back to France.

What hardships did the Acadians face during the expulsion?

The expulsion of the Acadians was carried out in a brutal manner. Families were torn apart, their homes were burned, and their land confiscated. During the deportation itself, Acadians faced hunger, disease, and exposure to the elements aboard overcrowded ships. Many died along the journey or upon arrival in the colonies. Those who managed to return to Atlantic Canada found their lands occupied. They faced discrimination and were forced into marginal areas. Overall, thousands of Acadians lost their lives as a direct result of the expulsion. It left a legacy of pain and resentment for generations.

When did the British government apologize?

While individuals and groups called for an apology over the years, it was not until the late 20th century that the British government formally apologized.

On December 9, 2003, Queen Elizabeth II issued a Royal Proclamation acknowledging responsibility for the deportation and establishing July 28th as a Day of Commemoration. The proclamation stated “We acknowledge these historical facts and admit that the treatment of the Acadian people during the Great Upheaval, today known as the Great Expulsion, was unjust and had devastating consequences for them.”

This was seen as an important step by Acadian groups. However, the apology stopped short of being an official government apology.

When did the Canadian government apologize?

After lobbying by Acadian groups, the Canadian government also issued an apology for the expulsion and its consequences.

On December 9, 2014, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a formal apology in the House of Commons, saying “On behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, we stand today in this House to offer a full and sincere apology to the Acadian people.”

The apology recognized the deportation as unlawful and acknowledged the devastating impacts it had on Acadian communities. It helped mend relations between English and French-speaking groups in Canada. The day was proclaimed a National Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval.

How did Acadians react to the apologies?

The apologies from the British monarchy and Canadian government were seen as long-overdue by Acadian groups. They provided validation for the suffering and injustice inflicted during the expulsion. The statements also opened up opportunities to further educate Canadians about this difficult history.

However, some Acadians felt the apologies did not fully account for the intergenerational trauma caused by the expulsion. There have been calls for reparations and further reconciliation efforts, though no concrete steps have been taken by the government.

Overall, the apologies marked an important symbolic break from past denial or avoidance of responsibility. They signified a new willingness to acknowledge a shameful act and make amends. For a people who had struggled to maintain their identity and culture in the wake of the expulsion, this recognition was profoundly meaningful, even if more is desired.


The expulsion of the Acadians was unequivocally a low point in Canada’s history. Thousands of lives were uprooted and destroyed by the forced deportation beginning in 1755. After facing discrimination and marginalization for generations, Acadians had to wait until the early 21st century to receive an official apology and acknowledgement from the British and Canadian governments.

Queen Elizabeth’s proclamation in 2003 and Prime Minister Harper’s apology in 2014 helped validate Acadian accounts of injustice and suffering. The apologies also opened the doors to further reconciliation and education around this chapter of Canada’s past. However, work remains to be done to fully make amends for generations of trauma caused by the expulsion. The Acadian story is a sobering reminder of the need for respect, inclusion, and human rights to prevail over fear, prejudice, and xenophobia.