Palmes académiques

Published November 11, 2021 by A.J.B. Johnston

I was gently reprimanded recently about a post I had made. I had put an image of a certain purple ribbon and medal on my Facebook site without any word of explanation.

Andrée Crépeau, a friend and a former archaeologist at the Fortress of Louisbourg, pointed out that there was likely more to the story than just the image.

She was right.

Sometime back in the 2000s, the late Robert Pichette—a remarkable individual who wrote distinctively in many genres and who along the way designed New Brunswick’s flag—put together a dossier on me and sent it on to France’s Ordre des Palmes académiques (Order of Academic Laurels).

Time went by and then more time.

Robert occasionally told me that my case was strong and I should be hearing from France eventually.

One day in 2010, or maybe 2011, I found in my mailbox a letter (with gilded embossing) from the office of Canada’s Governor General. The letter informed me that Canada had approved of me (and a few dozen others) receiving honours from foreign countries. In my case, it was an honour from the French Republic. I was to become a chevalier of France’s Ordre des Palmes académiques.

I later learned, from the date on the French certificate reproduced below, that my honour had actually been awarded to me back in October 2008. It seems that it takes quite a while for Canada to vet any foreign distinctions given to its citizens.

Eventually, a ceremony was held at the Consulat de France in Moncton, NB, when I received the distinction that Robert Pichette had sought for me. One of the photos captures Robert and I shaking hands at the end of the ceremony. The good looking young people standing with Mary and me are our son Michael and his wife, Emily.

The event is a wonderful memory.

Special thanks to all my friends and colleagues at the Fortress of Louisbourg who very much contributed to every publication on Louisbourg that had my name on it.

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