an ambitious and necessary film

With his docufiction L’Ordre secret, Phil Comeau signs his most ambitious documentary production. This film lifts the veil on The Patent, this powerful secret association that worked, from 1926 to 1965, to advance the rights of French Canadians.

Through unpublished testimonies from former members of the Order, their descendants, historical reconstructions and animation, this film paints a moving picture of the social and political struggles of Francophone minorities in Canada. This work comes at a good time in the current political context in New Brunswick, where language issues are resurfacing. The Acadian filmmaker and nationalist wants there to be a collective consciousness.

“I would like people to react more than write articles in the newspaper. I would like people to say enough is enough, to stop treating a third of the population as if we were second-class citizens. It’s appalling what’s going on right now,” said the filmmaker that he shares his life between Moncton and Montreal.

He points out that the Blaine Higgs government is doing everything it can to diminish the influence of Francophones. “That’s what we want (more rights) with the revision of the official languages. We really want full equality, but we don’t have it there.”

A confidence from his father.

Phil Comeau began envisioning this film project when his father, Julius Comeau, revealed to him on his deathbed that he had been a member of the Order of Jacques-Cartier (The Patent). The filmmaker had never known, not even a doubt. Thus began his investigation. His investigation spanned two years. He dug into archives in Ottawa, Moncton and Montreal. Among other things, he had in his hands the list of members.

The Ordre de Jacques-Cartier had more than 72,000 members in Canada, including 2,000 in the three Maritime provinces.

“It was in Moncton that there were the most members, that is, 227. In Caraquet, it’s quite phenomenal, there were 122 members for a town of less than 5,000 people. It means that everyone has a connection with The Patent”.

Influential Acadian personalities such as Martin J. Légère, Gilbert Finn (former Lieutenant Governor), Euclide Chiasson, Donat Lacroix, Léon Thériault, and former Prime Minister Louis J. Robichaud have all been part of the Ordre de Jacques-Cartier. Additionally, Louis J. Robichaud’s first cabinet included six French-speaking ministers, all members of La Patente, mentions Phil Comeau.

He worked on this documentary project for five years. Former members of the secret society trust the camera. Others refused to reveal themselves on camera, apparently so as not to break their oath even though the association dissolved in 1965.

“At the time, New Brunswick wasn’t bilingual, so they couldn’t do anything public. They had to work secretly and infiltrate all the associations to try to influence. The English also had their secret associations, the Orangemen and the Freemasons, and there was also the Ku Klux Klan in New Brunswick.”

A helping hand to youth

The filmmaker incorporates fiction into his documentary by reconstructing historical scenes, thus wanting to arouse the interest of young people.
“I know that the future of La Francophonie in New Brunswick, in Acadie, in Canada, is youth. I thought to myself, are they going to come see the movie if they know it’s everyone 75 and older who’s in the movie? So how do you interest them?

Thus he had the idea of ​​reconstituting an initiation ceremony for young recruits.

From a manual on initiation ceremonies dating from 1955, he was able to recreate such a ceremony. This initiation ritual in various tests symbolizing the values ​​of the Order, constitutes in a certain way the framework of the documentary. These scenes are performed by actors from Acadie, including André Roy, Ludger Beaulieu, Félix Basque, Raphaël Butler, and Gabriel Robichaud.

“I insisted that they be actors from here because we mainly talked about the Order of Jacques-Cartier in the Maritimes. They are all actors that I admire.

The commanders (extras) are played by members of the Richelieu Club or people fighting for the francophone cause.

“They were passionate people about the subject. We were filming and I didn’t have to convince anyone of the importance of the subject.

During his investigation, Phil Comeau learned that in addition to being a commander, his father, as an officer, played a crucial role in the recruitment and initiation ceremonies.

Although La Patente has not always been unanimous within Acadia, the truth is that what emerges is more positive than negative, says the filmmaker. In addition to demystifying this fascinating secret society, the documentary bears witness to the progress of Francophones and what they have been able to build in 50 years. A team of 150 technicians and actors worked on this ambitious project.

Phil Comeau, who has made around a hundred film and television productions, signs his 8th feature film. For the first time, he appears in one of his films.

Produced by the NFB, L’Ordre secret opens Monday at 8 pm at the Capitol Theater in Moncton as part of the Festival International du cinéma francophone in Acadie. The session is already full. The film will be released in theaters on December 2, in particular in Caraquet and Dieppe.

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