Prince Edward Island has undergone major social, cultural, and economic changes since the 1960s. A wind of change was blowing on the Island and particularly on the Acadian community. More than ever, the French language and Acadian culture were valued.
To stimulate economic development and modernization in the province, the federal and provincial governments jointly developed and funded the Prince Edward Island Comprehensive Development Plan. This plan, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, was implemented in 1969 and was a significant contribution to modernizing the school system, diversifying the economy, and increasing government services. The standard of living of Islanders started showing vast improvement.
Also in 1969, the Canadian Parliament passed the Official Languages Act, which established English and French as Canada’s official languages. The federal government then implemented programs to encourage and support bilingualism in Canada and to support minority language communities. The Acadian community quickly benefited from these programs. The federal government recognized Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin as the voice of the Island’s Francophone community and granted some funding to the Société to allow it to better develop Francophone life on the Island.
Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin has worked hard to provide Acadian and Francophone Islanders the required tools to foster development. It has continued to help set up several cultural, educational, and economic associations which are contributing to strengthen French-speaking life in the province. One of its most significant achievements is the establishment of six school-community centres.
Over the years, major transformations have also occurred in the Island’s population in general. Large families are disappearing, the average age of Islanders is increasing, the number of people earning a living in the fishing and farming industries is decreasing, the rural population is declining in favour of the cities, and religious practice is declining.
Since the late 1960s, Prince Edward Island’s population has become increasingly ethnically diverse with the arrival of people from many countries. Thus, the Francophone community, which was made up almost exclusively of Acadians from the Island, is now continually enriched by Francophones from many countries, but also from other Canadian provinces.
The Acadian Tourism Association of Prince Edward Island gratefully acknowledges the cooperation of the P.E.I. Department of Education and Lifelong Learning for allowing us to use this text from L’Acadie de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard, 300 ans d’histoire by Georges Arsenault and Linda Lowther, published in 2021 by Chenelière Education.