Monday 26 June 2017

French Cross

"French Cross is a sombre reminder of past animosity between French and English in Canada, and of the sufferings of ordinary people who happen to be caught in national or international power plays."(Alan Reynolds)

Alex Colville's painting French Cross is both peaceful and menacing.  The Christian cross represents the hope of Jesusand His resurrection while the grey clouds might indicate a coming storm.  Grand Pre, or Grand Prairie, is where the Acadians erected dykes to prevent the sea from encroaching on their farmlands.

French Cross features a monument erected in 1924 at Grand Pre, Nova Scotia to honour the Acadians (French population) deported to the Thirteen Colonies by the British, known as Le Grand Derangement.     In 1755, the army of King George II gathered the men of the area together at a church, burned their houses and barns, and forced them onto ships heading south. (  The British population was more established in the Thirteen Colonies at the time and therefore the King reasoned that the French would pose less of a threat there then in Nova Scotia.  The expulsion ejected the French from their land, some of whom had been there since 1604 when Acadia was founded.

"French Cross is a sombre reminder of past animosity between French and English in Canada, and of the sufferings of ordinary people who happen to be caught in national or international power plays."  But at the same time, the Cross reminds us that the future brings hope. While the Acadians were persecuted, their history and culture survive.  While most of us are familiar with the Acadians (Cajuns) of New Orleans, not all of the Acadians got on the ships heading south. Some hid in the forests of New Brunswick.  That is why today, New Brunswick retains a significant French population (about a third) and is officially bilingual.  "In spite of their struggles, they are not 'separatist'."(  The Acadians remain an integral part of Canada's culture, honoured by both Alex Colville's painting and Henry Wadworth Longfellow's poem, Evangeline.


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