In the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors summer adventure part 6:

In the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Patricia Roussel 

2022-2023 Parks Canada Youth Ambassador

Standing on rich ancestral grounds, we felt a history that has witnessed the greatest joys of a people, the darkest tragedies, and that has united communities over its protection. This is the sounding legacy of Grand-Pré National Historic Site – located in the heart of its UNESCO World Heritage Site. During our East Coast trip, we had the esteemed honour of visiting this site. We learned the history that granted its UNESCO land designation and took part in celebrating the 10th anniversary of this accolade.

Upon arriving at Grand-Pré, we took a short walk from the Visitor Centre to the View Park, where Parks Canada colleagues and contractors were busy at work preparing for the evening’s commemorative celebration. We got lost in the captivating ancestral landscape surrounded by the Bay of Fundy’s Minas Basin.

At the View Park, we had the privilege of speaking with longtime Parks Canada associate and Executive Director of the Landscape of Grand-Pré Inc., Claude DeGrâce. First, Mr. DeGrâce broke down what it meant to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site: a landmark or area internationally recognized and protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for its Outstanding Universal Value. This esteemed designation grants Grand-Pré the same global significance and protection as renowned World Heritage Sites like the Great Pyramids of Egypt or The Great Wall of China. 

The journey to Grand-Pré’s UNESCO land designation began in 2004 when the Government of Canada placed Grand-Pré on its Tentative List for World Heritage designation. Grand-Pré is classified under two main criteria for selection: as an outstanding example of traditional Acadian farming settlements of the 17th century still in use today and as an iconic place of remembrance for the Acadian diaspora, the result of the Grand Dérangment of Acadians in 1755. Its successful nomination is thanks to the championed efforts of multi-layers of government and community stakeholders, including the local Mi’kmaq, farming, and surrounding communities, Parks Canada, the Province of Nova Scotia and the Municipality of the County of Kings. In these recollections, Mr. DeGrâce recounted how all of these stakeholders had put away their differences to come together and protect these sacred lands. 

After checking into our cozy oTENTik, we explored the beautiful Victorian gardens outside the Memorial Church, the Visitor Centre and the rocky shores of Evangeline Beach.

That evening we returned to the View Park for a community commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the Landscape of Grand-Pré’s UNESCO inscription. As we talked with event attendees, I reflected on our earlier conversation with Mr. DeGrâce and his emphasis on the collective that achieved this international distinction. Whether it was talking with locals about their fond memories of View Park sunrises, listening to local Miꞌkmaq community members open the ceremony with the ‘Honour Song’ or listening to different stakeholders representatives fondly recall the morning of June 30th, 2012 when the news rang out from St. Petersburg, Russia that the Landscape of Grand-Pré had become Canada’s 16th World Heritage Site, there was an overwhelming sense of love, pride, and community that rang down the rolling farmlands of Grand-Pré.

We were extremely fortunate to have participated in this ceremony by raising the UNESCO world heritage flag. Personally, visiting Grand-Pré, being able to reconnect with my Acadian ancestry, and having the honour of raising a flag that embodies the strength of united communities is a memory I will cherish forever.

– Patricia

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