LE BLANC, ISIDORE, captain, shipowner, merchant, and politician; b. 30 Nov. 1837 in Arichat, Cape Breton, N.S., son of Pierre (Peter) Le Blanc and Barbara Landry; m. there 9 Jan. 1860 Séraphine Babin, daughter of Captain Simon Babin, and they had three sons and three daughters who reached adulthood; d. there 26 June 1919.
Isidore Le Blanc’s grandfather Mathurin Le Blanc, who was born in Grand Pré, N.S., escaped deportation in 1755 and settled in Arichat around 1775, drawn like many other Acadians to the important fishing station there owned by the Robins, a well-known Jersey family [see Charles Robin*]. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, Isidore became a mariner. After attending the Arichat school he went to sea at the age of 14. For more than 20 years his career as a merchant captain took him to Europe, the United States, South America, and the West Indies. He piloted several French war ships between Halifax and Arichat, as well as on the St Lawrence. In 1870 he established a general store in Arichat from which he provisioned ships for about a decade. At the same time he continued to buy and sell boats. In 1875, for example, he commissioned a 410-ton three-master, the County of Richmond, “the largest vessel produced in the southern part of Cape Breton.”
Le Blanc was made a justice of the peace in 1866, a sign of his social and financial status. Increasingly interested in politics, he ran unsuccessfully as a Liberal in the provincial election of 1871. In 1878 he won a seat in the House of Assembly as an independent. Having sat in the opposition for four years, he became a member of the government after the Liberals came to power in 1882. Appointed to the Executive Council on 18 Feb. 1883, Le Blanc was the first Acadian to attain cabinet rank in Nova Scotia. He represented Richmond County with energy and eloquence until the dissolution of the assembly in 1886. He did not stand for election again, but in March 1887 he was appointed to the Legislative Council, on which he sat until his death.
Born in a county where Acadians formed the majority, Le Blanc repeatedly defended the right of Acadian children to be educated in their own language. On 17 April 1879 he addressed the assembly in French (a rare event in the annals of this institution) to lend weight to his arguments. In March 1880 he vigorously supported the establishment of a bounty for fishermen, describing in detail the disastrous situation of the fishery in his region. Always concerned about the issue of transportation, he showed vision with his proposal on 19 March 1886 for the construction of a drawbridge linking Isle Madame, where Arichat was located, to Cape Breton. The project would be carried out only in 1916, three years before his death.
Although from the 1890s Le Blanc was less politically active, he maintained his interest in the economic future of Isle Madame and in Acadian issues. After the founding of L’Évangéline in 1887 [see Valentin Landry], he acted as the newspaper’s agent in Arichat. “This old and venerable compatriot,” as judge Pierre-Amand Landry called him, was elected vice-president for Cape Breton at the fourth Convention Nationale des Acadiens, held in Arichat on 15 and 16 Aug. 1900. Le Blanc spoke twice in the course of the convention, expressing his hopes for the future of the French language in Cape Breton and urging young people to educate themselves and follow the example of such great orators as Pierre-Amand Landry and Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
Isidore Le Blanc died intestate five months before his 82nd birthday. He had witnessed the rise and decline of Arichat’s prosperity as a seaport and shipbuilding centre. Like many of the merchant captains of his generation, he had also seen his children leave Isle Madame to make their lives elsewhere. A man of many talents, Le Blanc made his mark on the political scene and played an important role in the maritime industry of his native region.
L’Évangéline (Weymouth Bridge, N.-É.), 23 août 1900, 22 janv. 1903. Le Moniteur acadien, 23 août 1900. Canadian biog. dict. Philippe Doucet, “La politique et les Acadiens,” in L’Acadie des Maritimes: études thématiques des débuts à nos jours, sous la direction de Jean Daigle (Moncton, N.-B., 1993), 299–340. Legislative Assembly of N.S. (Elliott). N.S., House of Assembly, Debates and proc., 1879–86. J. P. Parker, Cape Breton ships and men (Aylesbury, Eng., 1967; [2nd] ed., Toronto, 1980). Sally Ross, “Majorité ou minorité: le cas de l’île Madame,” Soc. Hist. Acadienne, Cahiers (Moncton), 23 (1992): 143–57.