Jackie Vautour

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John L. "Jackie" Vautour is a Canadian fisherman, born about 1930 in Claire-Fontaine, New Brunswick. He is best known for his fight against the expropriation of 250 families in the early 1970s to create Kouchibouguac National Park on land formerly occupied by eight villages.[1][2][3]

Origins and Family[edit]

Jackie Vautour was born circa 1930 in Claire-Fontaine, New Brunswick. He and his wife Yvonne have nine children (Roy, Ronny, Rocky, Jeanne, Linda, Simonne, Maureen & Rachelle). He is nicknamed the "Eastern Louis Riel" and "Rebel of Kouchibouguac."

Jackie Vautour case[edit]

In the late 1960s, the Acadians of Kent County, New Brunswick were the poorest people of the province, and Louis Robichaud—who was both the MLA for Kent, and the Premier of New Brunswick—sought to eliminate poverty by creating a national park.

Kouchibouguac National Park was established in 1969 during the expansion of the national parks network in Atlantic Canada. An agreement was signed between the provincial government of Louis Robichaud and the federal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau to create the park. However, a requirement was that land be expropriated for park creation.[4] The private properties within the future park area were evaluated by professional evaluators working for or hired by the Department of Natural Resources. When they reported the estimated value of the properties to be expropriated, Louis Robichaud decided to cut the total estimate in half. A provincial civil servant, who had been involved in a similar expropriation for military Camp Gagetown, stated the original Kouchibouquac estimates were approximately half of those for Camp Gagetown for equivalent properties.

Seven villages were expropriated, comprising 228 families, representing 1200 people. These families, mostly all Métis fishermen and farmers, had inhabited the area for several generations and were mostly poorly educated and less fortunate.

Auguste Landry negotiated the purchase of homes and land by the government. Families received an average of $10,000 to $12,000 depending on the value of properties. Nearly half accepted the offer. Some of the expropriated residents complained because they received much less than others. The expropriated residents also felt cramped in the new, more expensive, communities where they settled. Forced to sell their fishing rights, they also lost their profession.

During the late 1960s, the issue of expropriation sparked student interest. One of the students, a recent graduate and social activist, was Gilles Thériault, head of the Southeast Regional Planning Council (an organization funded by the New Brunswick government). The organization was very active and Jackie Vautour was noticed. Vautour, chairman of the Claire-Fontaine citizens, directed the resistance to park creation. On November 5, 1976, the Kent County sheriff arrived at Claire-Fontaine with an eviction warrant. Vautour's house was demolished, and his personal effects were sent to a warehouse. The Vautour family was housed at provincial government expense in a Richibucto motel. They were expelled in March 1977 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police using tear gas. The charges were dropped in July 1978, and the Vautour family returned to live in the park. In 1978, 600 expropriated residents signed a petition to get back their properties. Several clashes occurred with the police. Vautour refused all offers of land or money from the government: they offered him $20,670, while he requested $150,000. In 1979, he challenged the expropriation in court but the court ruled the expropriation was legal. Two hundred people then rioted in the park, followed by another riot a few weeks later. The riots precipitated the creation of a commission of inquiry, which placed blame on the federal government, granting compensation of $1,600,000 to those who were expropriated.

In 1980, Louis Robichaud said that people were "happy to be expropriated". In response, some citizens burned him in effigy.

Vautour

In 1998, Jackie Vautour, his wife Yvonne and their son Roy and Ron were arrested for illegally harvesting shellfish in the park. In 1999, they were convicted under the Law on National Parks of Canada. They were exonerated on appeal, and were compensated. Jackie and one of his sons then got a second trial and invoked their ancestral rights. The trial, scheduled to begin in 2002, was repeatedly postponed until 2006. In 2008, Jackie Vautour announced the discovery of evidence that they had never been legally expropriated. In 2009, he returned to court, defended by lawyer Robert Rideout. His defense is based on the assumption that the ancient inhabitants of Kouchibouguac are Métis (i.e., they descend from both Mi'kmaq and early Europeans settlers), and therefore his clients have an aboriginal right to harvest clams, according to the Canadian constitution.

According to historian Alan MacEachern, the Jackie Vautour case has changed the history of national parks in Canada and how the land is expropriated. According to Professor MacEachern, Parks Canada has especially focused on opening parks in northern Canada, because there are fewer residents. The law now prohibits Parks Canada from expropriating residents to create a park.

In 2009, the Canadian government invested $1.3 million in the park, especially to showcase its history and dispossessed communities.

In Culture[edit]

The Louisiana musician Zachary Richard met Jackie Vautour for the first time in 1977. He later organized a benefit concert for the expropriated and wrote "The Ballad of Jackie Vautour".

The film Massabielle, made in 1982 by Jacques Savoie, recalls the story of Jackie Vautour. In 2007, Jean Bourbonnais directed the documentary Kouchibouguac. The film opened at the International Francophone Film Festival in Acadia in the same year. Zachary Richard, the narrator asks, in a message shown before the screening that governments officially recognize "the injustice that was committed against the dispossessed families".

Annual reunions have been held in the park since 2006. In 2009, historian Ronald Rudin of Concordia University, announced his intent to write a book and develop a website focusing on the park's history.

In 2011, the young Acadian playwright Emma Haché presented a play telling the expropriation story.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Disenchanting Les Bons Temps: Identity and Authenticity in Cajun ... Charles J. Stivale - 2002 p181 The expropriation was contested by a group of residents led by Jackie Vautour. While he was ... After over 10 years of resistance including time spent in prison, Jackie Vautour finally settled with the government of Canada. Crazy Horse was an ...
  2. ^ Where are the voices coming from?: Canadian culture and the ... Anne Howells - 2004 p 191 "There were many examples of conglomerate mining companies engaging in such actions, but the most celebrated example was the refusal by Jackie Vautour to leave his village when the Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick was ..."
  3. ^ Alan MacEachern - 2001 Natural Selections: National Parks in Atlantic Canada, 1935-1970 -p 238 "... the Association for the Preservation of the Eastern Shore.39 Kouchibouguac was established, but its story was hardly one of success.40 Beginning in 1970, the family of Jackie Vautour, one of about 225 families to be dispossessed, mounted"
  4. ^ "Kouchibouguac Park's Controversial Land Expropriation Told in New Book". cbc.ca. CBC/Radio-Canada. Retrieved May 14, 2017. 

Additional information[edit]

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