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Publisher Puts Acadia Back Into History Text

A SMALL publishing house on the second floor of a Moncton, New Brunswick, office building is trying to change how French-speaking Canada understands its history.

Until recently, authors and publishers from Quebec have dominated French-speaking classrooms. The leading textbook for teaching Canadian history to French high school students has been "New History of Quebec and Canada," published by the Montreal-based Centre Educatif et Culturel Inc.

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The key to Canadian history, the text argues, is to understand how Quebeckers and Canadians understand each other and strangers.

"French-speaking Acadians won't find very much about themselves in such texts," says Marcel Ouellette, director general of ditions d'Acadie, a Moncton-based publishing house that launched an alternative history text last year.

The Acadian textbook, "The Canadian Experience," tries to give a full range of Canadian groups, including its native peoples.

The book "was a deliberate choice to present a history that wouldn't a priori favor any one group, including French speakers," Mr. Ouellette says.

"Our aim was to restore to each group its part in history," he says. "In United States history, we see much written about blacks who left the United States to go to Canada, but in our histories we never saw them arrive."

Moreover, Quebec-based texts and classroom manuals were too focused on Quebec, he says. "Acadians were the first Francophones to locate in North America. The two colonies - Acadia and Quebec - were once equivalent. France decided to develop Quebec more."

THE Acadian text notes New Brunswick's contributions to Canada's political history, including its 1981 law recognizing the equality of both French and English languages.

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ditions d'Acadie was founded in 1972, at a time when Canadian nationalism was in full revival. But many French writers outside of Quebec still had a tough time finding a publisher. "The [Francophone] University of Moncton published an appeal for writing in 1972," Ouellette says. "Two hundred manuscripts arrived. They were sent to Quebec [publishing houses], but received no response. To Quebeckers, they must have seemed a foreign text, without interest for Quebec," he says.

ditions d'Acadie, which now publishes some 300 French titles, was formed to give such writers a voice - and to give Francophone classrooms a choice.

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