Kouchibouguac National Park is located on the east coast in Kouchibouguac. The creation of the park in 1969 was to set aside sensitive sand dunes and bogs. The rules of the time dictated that all permanent residents had to be removed for a park to be created. These residents were mostly Acadians, whose ancestors had been deported at the hands of the British in the eighteenth century. As a result, Parks Canada encountered great difficulty expropriating land from numerous land owners who lived in seven communities (approximately 215 families, including over 1200 individuals). These seven communities were Claire-Fontaine, Fontaine, Rivière au Portage, Kouchibouguac, Guimond Village, Cap St-Louis, and Saint-Olivier.
The residents were generally seen as so poor that government officials believed they would benefit from having to start their lives again elsewhere. The government patronizingly created courses so that people might lead more productive lives. Government officials believed that they were rehabilitating the people by forcing them to move. But the residents resisted this move shutting down the park on several occasions. The most notable of these was Jackie Vautour, whose home was buldozed in 1976, but who returned to squat there two years later, where he still remains. Vautour’s decades-long struggle has turned him into a folk hero.
The park’s various public activities attract thousands of visitors each year. Kouchibouguac offers a range of activities including a number of bogs, a boardwalk trail, eight hiking trails, a network of bicycle trails, two campgrounds, canoe and boat launch and the Cap-St-Louis fishing port. Kelly’s Beach, a very long sand dune is popular with naturists as the long sandy beach allows privacy and seclusion. This beauty cannot eliminate the pain experienced by the former residents, whose story is now told in a permanent exhibit at the park’s Visitor Centre.
The park has a Mi’kmaq name which is reflected in the name of the Kouchibouguac River. The river’s name means “river of the long tides” in Mi’kmaq. The decision to name the park in this manner did not sit well with many local residents, Acadians who wanted a name that better reflected their identity. Many wanted the park to be called Claire-Fontaine, after one of the communities that was destroyed.
As a result of the resistance to the park, Parks Canada changed its rules, so no one would ever again experience forced removal.
Kouchibouguac National Park is open year-round.
Kouchibouguac National Park
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