Today is National Acadian Day (Journée de la fête nationale des Acadiens) in Canada, honouring the history and culture of the descendants of French colonists who settled in Acadia in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Historian and folklorist Georges Arsenault kindly offered this photo (the winter one) and information about the monument to those in the Mont Carmel (Prince Edward Island) parish killed in WW1.
The archway of fieldstone embedded in concrete was built by Cajétan Arsenault of Saint-Raphael. It forms an imposing entrance to the cemetery for Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Church and frames a view to the Northumberland Strait beyond. The family names of the 10 men leave no doubt about the Acadian roots of the community: Arsenault, Gallant, Poirier, Richard.
The monument was unveiled in August 1923 by Governor General Byng of Vimy. The Governor General was addressed by Justice Aubin-Edmond Arsenault, speaking to the sacrifice of Acadians in the war:
Vous avez sous les yeux un groupe d’infortunés parents qui pleurent des enfants chéris tombés sur le champ d’honneur. Vous avez aussi sous les yeux de nombreux jeunes gens qui répondirent vaillamment à l’appel et coururent au secours de la mère patrie. Et, Excellence, si tous les parents des enfants enrôlés étaient groupés, ils constitueraient la moitié du nombre entier des familles de cette paroisse. Et ce qui fut accompli ici, fut aussi l’oeuvre des autres localités acadiennes de cette province.
Excellence, si nous prenons la liberté de vous entretenir de ces faits, c’est que nous sommes convaincus que nous nous adressons à un patriote et à un soldat; c’est que nous n’ignorons pas que nous nous adressons au Héros de Vimy qui a immortalisé son nom par ses tactiques militaires, qui a conduit à la gloire nos soldats canadiens.
Translation: You are looking at a group of wretched parents mourning their beloved children who fell on the field of honour. You also have before you many young people who valiantly answered the call and rushed to the aid of the motherland. And, Your Excellency, if all the parents whose children enlisted were gathered, they would constitute half of all the families in this parish. And what was accomplished here was also the work of other Acadian communities in this province.
Your Excellency, we take the liberty to speak of these facts because we are convinced that we address a patriot and a soldier; we know that we address the Hero of Vimy who immortalized his name by his military tactics, which led to the glory of our Canadian soldiers.
The trumpeting angels and cross were added to the top in 1927. A centre plaque names those killed in WW2.
The parish church and cemetery are worth a visit. Even more beautiful in summer when snow is nowhere in sight. (August 2020 update: I added a summer photo, looking over the cemetery and the bay.)
Félicitations to Georges Arsenault on being named a Member of the Order of Canada. The Governor General’s announcement of this year’s recipients on June 30 cites “his contributions to the research, conservation and promotion of Prince Edward Island’s Acadian history, culture and traditions.”
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