While researching my family tree for the last 15 months, I accidentally stumbled across some well hidden secrets.
According to the history and distinguished seal of my ancestors, they were supposedly from well respected family ties in France. The family crest consists of a lion issuant, the coat of arms was silver with a black eagle displayed. And the family motto bore the words: Labore Justitia.
In accordance with the family history, my ancestors first came to Canada in 1664 and settled along the banks of the St. Lawrence where large tracts of land enabled the good family name to prosper over the many decades that followed.
Not much was ever mentioned as to how their vast fortunes were acquired, let alone how the land was obtained in the first place.
During my long quest to find the answers to certain questions, the truth was revealed.
According to the genealogy department of the Cloverdale Public Library, my ancestors were indeed of noble blood. The problem being, that was in France and not here in Canada.
The first ancestors to settle in Quebec were not only entrepreneurs but they were also feudal lords who received financial backing from both the King of France and the Roman Catholic Church.
Rene LePage, Seigneur, Rimouski 1670
Pierre LePage dit St. Barnabe, Seigneur, 1716
Louis LePage, Seigneur, Rimouski 1813
The most notorious of them all was yet another feudal lord named Louis LePage de Sainte-Claire (Canon and Seigneur). People of Quebec simply referred to him as Abbe LePage.
He was not only an entrepreneur of the highest calibre catering to the whims of the French monarchy and the Church, but he was also lord and master of Terrebonne, a so-called seminary for Quebec's First Nation peoples.
Abbe LePage also had a sawmill among other enterprises in the Seigneurie of Terrebonne and the sawmill itself belonged to Quebec's newly established religious institution. At the time, there were an estimated 70 sawmills in operation throughout Quebec that brought in large revenues to the Catholic Church.
It's a well-known and proven historical fact that the seigneurial system was simply a system of feudal exploitation and Abbe LePage was by no means an exception to the rule.
The cornerstone to his success was the right as Seigneur of Terrebonne to appropriate unpaid labor of his work force. Interestingly enough, this unsolicited request was deemed as an unpaid tribute to the Seigneur and the Catholic Church.
Another interesting fact about Abbe LePage was that this forced tribute was inherent in the relationship with the unpaid laborers. As fate would have it, Abbe LePage and his religious counterparts viewed the Indian population as being nothing more than a group of savage pagans waiting to be baptized into the Catholic faith.
Against their will, many of Quebec's First Nation peoples were taken to the seminary at Terrebonne and ordered to perform various duties and tasks in tribute to their lord and master, Abbe LePage.
With the Roman Catholic endorsement of Indian slavery came the actual beginning of the native bloodline of the LePage family tree.
One aspect that allowed my noble ancestors to develop a surplus of Indian slaves was the mingling with the native peoples to produce Metis (Franco-Indian) children.
Without a doubt, the mixed French and native bloods strongly influenced the way my family tree was leaning. For this reason, according to family records, most of the genealogy for my ancestry doesn't start until 1762.
As it so happens, Abbe LePage coincidentally died in that exact same year.
By 1800-1850 many of this distinguished family name were prominent in social, cultural, religious and political affairs in Quebec, holding an assortment of portfolios from priests to mayors and commissioners, as well as lawyers and judges.
Thanks to the United Metis Association in Cloverdale, I'm just now starting to learn a lot more about the hidden secrets of my ancestors. A history that has been kept in the dark for far too long as far as I'm concerned.
As a proud member of the Metis family, I thank you in advance for your patience and understanding while reading this letter.
BENOIT J. LePAGE,
P.S. A series of court decisions in the years 1797-1803 undermined in effect the legal right to possession of slaves in Quebec.