Acadians are one of the founding peoples of Canada with the first permanent settlement established at Port Royal in 1605, which marked the beginning of the colony known as Acadia, a colony of New France covering today’s Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, parts of eastern Quebec and Maine.
From 1605 to 1713, for over 100 years, the ownership of the land occupied by the Acadians changed hands many times between the British and the French until the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 gave the territory to the British for good. The Acadians maintained their traditions, language, culture, way of life and religion and remained politically French neutrals.
However, when England and France were again at war in 1744, with the foundation of Halifax in 1749 as its new capital, the British government changed its policy and turned towards acquiring land ownership in this colony and ensuring its “Britishness”. The Acadian population was then perceived as a threat.
From 1755 to 1762, around 11,500 Acadians were deported during what is called Great Upheaval, or “Grand Dérangement”. Some of them were dispersed among the 13 American colonies, some of them, with the help of indigenous people, escaped into the then French territory (Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, New Brunswick and Québec), some of them were deported to Britain and France, and many perished at sea. Georges Island, in the Halifax Harbour, hosted Fort Charlotte, which served as one of the four forts where Acadians were imprisoned over the years of the deportation.
After the war ended in 1764 and France ceded all its American colonies to Britain, British allowed Acadians to return to Nova Scotia in small isolated groups. With their homes destroyed and previous settlements taken over, Acadians resettled in areas along the coast and formed communities that exist to this day.