Historical figures

Isidore LeBlanc was the first Acadian cabinet minister in Nova Scotia.

Born in a county where Acadians formed the majority, LeBlanc repeatedly defended the right of Acadian children to be educated in their own language.

On April 17, 1879, he addressed the Assembly in French (a rare event in the annals of this institution) to lend weight to his arguments.

Recognizing the forlorn economic conditions in Richmond County, he lobbied for a bounty for fishermen to alleviate some of the hardships caused by hard times in the industry.

Aware of the importance of communications for the survival and development of the region – and especially for Isle Madame which was accessible only by sea – as early as March 19, 1886, LeBlanc tabled a proposal in the legislature for the construction of a bridge across Lennox Passage to link the island to the mainland.

He was relentless in advocating for his proposal and took every opportunity to advance his agenda. Perhaps his proudest moment was when construction began on the bridge in 1916, three years before his death.

Although he retired from provincial politics in 1886, LeBlanc maintained an active interest in local affairs and in the economic future of the region. The French language newspaper L’Evangeline was founded in 1887 and he acted as the newspaper’s agent in Arichat.

The fourth Convention Nationale des Acadiens, was held in Arichat on August 15 and 16, 1900 and the keynote speaker was Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier. LeBlanc had been elected as vice president for Cape Breton and served as chairman for the event. He addressed the convention twice calling for the importance of education for Acadian youth in securing a future for their language and culture.

It was he who – on each Assomption Day, August 15 – was in charge of firing the cannons below Notre Dame de l’Assomption Church in Arichat. He was assisted in this task by George Spry, who had been a Petty Officer in the British Navy.

These cannons were presented to Bishop Cameron when his Excellency resided at the Bishop’s Palace in Arichat by the late Henry N. Paint, a resident of the Strait area and at the time a federal Member of Parliament for Richmond County.

On a more personal note, Hector MacNeil, in an article in the Galley writes: “In those earlier days, all businessmen dressed, particularly on Sundays, with silk hats, Prince Albert coats, dress trousers, half wellingtons, canes, etc. In our day, the only one we saw so dressed-up for church was the Honourable Isadore LeBlanc. As youngsters, we used to admire his shining collars; home starching didn’t give a shine to our linen, but he had his done up in Halifax.”

And according to Sally Ross: “Isidore Le Blanc died [June 16, 1919] five months before his 82nd birthday. He had witnessed the rise and decline of Arichat’s prosperity as a seaport and shipbuilding centre. Like many of the merchant captains of his generation, he had also seen his children leave Isle Madame to make their lives elsewhere. A man of many talents, LeBlanc made his mark on the political scene and played an important role in the maritime industry of his native region.”