Off the Beaten Path with Warren A. Perrin
Off the Beaten Path with Warren A. Perrin by Stuart BreauxThis installment of “Off the Beaten Path” features Warren A. Perrin, a partner in the law firm of Perrin, Landry, deLaunay, LLP. No issue of The Promulgator highlighting the contributions of LBA members to our local culture would be complete without reference to Perrin. He has been best described by Esquire Magazine as the defender of the Cajuns. Indeed, in The History of the Acadians of Louisiana, Zachary Richard listed Perrin as one of the seven most militant promoters of Acadian culture. A full list of Perrin's accomplishments, accolades, and activities would fill an entire issue of this venerable publication, but a précis would include that Perrin is the author of eight books, with a ninth to be published in June; that he served as President of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) from 1994 through 2010 and continues to serve on its Board of Directors; that he founded and serves as cultural director of the Acadian Museum in Erath; that he is a member of the French National Order of Merit and the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Université Sainte-Anne; that for many years he has served as a skills professor at Loyola Law School; and that he spearheaded the successful legal effort to obtain a Queen's Royal Proclamation decreeing July 28 of each year as an annual Day of Commemoration of the Acadian Deportation. By: Stuart Breaux
Why are you so passionate about Acadian culture? Descendants of French settlers who settled Acadia in 1604, Acadians hold a unique place in world history. In the late 1700s, they survived deportation from their homeland of Acadie/Nova Scotia, during which a third of their population perished. This brutal ethnic cleansing helped them survive relentless persecution here in America. Despite these hardships, Acadians grew into a distinct ethnicity forged wholly in North America with a beautiful language, a colorful culture, and a rich set of customs. Today, Acadian—in Louisiana called Cajun, a corruption of Acadien—music, poetry, literature, and cuisine entertain and inspire people around the world.
Of your many contributions to the effort to preserve and promote the Acadian and Francophone cultures, which do you consider the most important? Inspired by the actions of the United States in apologizing to Japanese-Americans for their internment during WWII, I sought to challenge history by filing a petition in 1990 seeking an apology on behalf of the Acadians throughout the world from Queen Elizabeth II and the British government for the wrongs inflicted upon the Acadian people by the Acadian Deportation. The initiative captured the attention of the five million Acadians worldwide and brought a much-needed re-evaluation of the ethnic cleansing–the first launched against Europeans in North America. This thirteen-year international effort was successful and resulted in the signing of a Queen's Royal Proclamation on December 9, 2003. As a result, I was selected to represent the United States and make presentations at the World Human Rights Conference in Caen, France and the World Francophone Summits in Bucharest, Romania; Moncton, New Brunswick; Hanoi, Vietnam; Québec City, Quebec; and Montreux, Switzerland.
What is the biggest threat to the preservation of the Acadian and Creole cultures in Louisiana? Sadly, there are many threats. One such threat is Francophobia, which is manifested by intolerance, prejudice, bias, and discrimination. Another threat is the misguided effort by politicians to make English the official language of the United States. (This was attempted in 1912, but the Supreme Court ruled the act unconstitutional).
Are these cultures stronger today than they were twenty-five years ago? Will they be stronger twenty-five years from now? As we celebrate 50 years since CODOFIL was created in 1968 (inspired by the 1964 Civil Rights Act), we should also take time to recognize the people and communities at the heart of America's success. Cajuns—about half a million strong—reflect the vibrant diversity that defines us as a country, and they continue to make important and unique contributions to our national fabric. We are stronger today because of our pride in being distinct, French Immersion, festivals (CODOFIL helped to create Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, Congrès Mondial Acadien and Festival Internationale de Louisiane) and the economic benefits from cultural tourism. Happily, in Acadiana, the Acadian flag has displaced the confederate flag.
What role can lawyers play in helping to preserve and promote the Acadian, Creole and Francophone cultures? Even if you do not speak French, I encourage you to join our Francophone Section—and travel with us to France! As chairman of the Francophone Section of the LSBA, I am leading an effort, with the help of Justice Jimmy Genovese, to formalize a twinning between the Louisiana Supreme Court and the highest court in France, le Cour de cassation. Hopefully, this effort will sustain and strengthen ties between Louisiana, France and other Francophone countries. The signing should take place in Paris in June of 2018, during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.