Nova Scotia

Organization representing Acadians in N.S. takes push for Chéticamp district to court

The group representing Acadians in Nova Scotia is going to court to try to get a provincial electoral district for the small community of Chéticamp. Acadians there want their own MLA, even though the province's boundary review commission recommended against it.

Group says province's independent electoral boundary commission did not deal with community's needs fairly

Ken Deveau, president of the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse, says the court should reconsider a request for Chéticamp to have its own representative in the legislature. (Submitted by Federation acadienne de la Nouvelle-Ecosse)

The group representing Acadians in Nova Scotia is taking the province to court to try to get the community of Chéticamp its own provincial electoral district.

Several years ago, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse forced the province to establish an independent commission that recommended the restoration of two Acadian ridings on the mainland and one in Richmond County, Cape Breton, along with one for Black Nova Scotians.

In 2019, the provincial government agreed with the recommendations and made the changes.

A minority of the electoral boundaries commission members recommended an electoral district for Chéticamp, but the commission ultimately said the area's population was too small.

Ken Deveau, president of the federation, said the commission did not properly consider the needs of the people living in the region.

"I agree that that part of Inverness County covering Chéticamp, St. Joseph du Moine, and so forth would be small, but there are other small ridings in Nova Scotia," he said.

The Acadian culture and heritage in the Chéticamp area needs to be protected, Deveau said.

"Thirty years ago it was one of the strongest and most vital French language bastions in Nova Scotia, and for a number of reasons related to economy, geography, population, it's becoming more difficult, and I think it's time to act," he said.

Alfred Poirier, Inverness County councillor for the Chéticamp area, says the community deserves its own MLA because of its historical culture and language. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Alfred Poirier, the Inverness County councillor for the Chéticamp area, said the community deserves its own MLA in the legislature because of its historical culture and language.

"We are here, separated from the other French area, and we don't have anybody representing us," he said. "It's a respect, a respect that we should have, because the others had it and at the same time, we were left out."

Poirier also said the area has a strong Acadian culture, but it is losing population and those who remain are losing their connection to the French language.

"We are the second official language in Canada, so why can't we have respect like the others?" he said.

With the addition of three new Acadian ridings and one for Black Nova Scotians, the electoral districts will rise to 55 from 51 whenever the next election is called.

A hearing date for the federation's application for an additional seat in the legislature is expected to be set in Port Hawkesbury court on July 9.

The Department of Justice said in an email that it respects the independent commission's wishes from two years ago and it cannot comment further, because the matter is before the courts.

'This is going to take some time'

A provincial election must be called by next year, but Premier Iain Rankin is widely expected to call one sometime this year.

Deveau said the federation needed two years to put together what is a complex constitutional case.

He said the timing of the court filing is unrelated to the current political climate.

"Electoral maps, we don't change them at a whim," said Deveau. 

"Ideally, we'd love to see a riding in Chéticamp by the time the next election arrives ... but it likely won't happen that quickly."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 17 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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