HÉBERT, CHARLES-DAVID (often called Charles or Charles‑D.), professor, school inspector, and Acadian patriot; b. 7 Dec. 1874 in Cap-Pelé, N.B., son of Narcisse Hébert, a merchant, and Margaret Mulryne; m. 24 June 1907 Alma Léger (d. 4 July 1920), a teacher, in Cocagne, N.B., and they had seven children, three of whom died in infancy; d. 2 Aug. 1932 in Cap-Pelé.
In September 1889 Charles-David Hébert left Cap-Pelé, where he was born, to enrol in the College of St Joseph [see Camille Lefebvre*] in Memramcook. At this institution of higher education he was first a student and then, from 1894, while continuing his studies, a professor. He very quickly attracted attention as a brilliant pupil whose scholastic achievements earned him many prizes, which is almost certainly why he became a professor two years before completing his classical studies. In 1900, while he was still on the faculty, the college granted him an ma. After the 1901–2 academic year he entered the Normal School in Fredericton [see Alphée Belliveau*], where he received his grammar-school teaching certificate in 1902. The following year he was appointed inspector of schools for the counties of Westmorland, Kent, Albert, and part of the county of Northumberland. He thus became one of the first Acadians to hold such a position in the province of New Brunswick.
Most of the schools in the area for which Hébert was responsible being Acadian, he soon noticed that there was a dearth of French-language textbooks. From 1904 he represented New Brunswick on an interprovincial commission set up to prepare French readers for the Acadian schools of the Maritime provinces. He was charged with developing a reader, while Father Philéas-Frédéric Bourgeois* was given the task of writing a history of Canada. Thus, around 1907, Hébert published Deuxième livre de lecture, a work that was approved for use in Acadian schools in the Maritimes. With fellow inspector Jean-Flavien Doucet and Professor J.‑Théodule Lejeune, Hébert also succeeded in obtaining authorization for textbooks in supplementary French grammar and Canadian history for New Brunswick’s Acadian schools. In 1923 he released a pedagogical treatise on the phonetic method of teaching students how to read. He was appointed to a commission of inquiry to study the New Brunswick school system in 1931, but, since he died the following year, he participated only briefly. In 1914 he had been involved in organizing, at Cap-Pelé, one of the first Acadian teachers’ conferences in the province.
After his marriage to Alma Léger, Hébert had in fact returned to that village of farmer-fishermen and to the house he had inherited through marriage from his wife’s grandfather, Ambroise Dupuis, one of the notables of the community. “Inspector Hébert,” as he was known to his family and friends, was the parish organist for more than 40 years. He was an active member of the Jolicœur branch in Dupuis Corner (Cap-Pelé) of the Société l’Assomption (also known as the Société Mutuelle l’Assomption) [see Rémi Benoît*]. For example, he organized a theatrical performance that took place on 9 May 1915 and starred members of the branch: farmer-fishermen and women who worked in the fish shops. Although he was close to the people, Hébert was equally a highly influential member of the Acadian nationalist elite from early in the 20th century.
Living near Moncton, which was establishing itself at the time as the nerve centre of Acadian institutions, Hébert worked alongside the pioneers of Acadian nationalism, including Pierre-Amand Landry*, Pascal Poirier, and Abbé Marcel-François Richard*. Like Antoine‑J. Léger, a young lawyer, and Henri‑P. Le Blanc, an office clerk with the Intercolonial Railway, Hébert represented the new blood that the members of the old elite, veterans of the first Acadian national conventions, were seeking as their successors. And so, beginning in 1913, he acted as secretary of the Société Nationale l’Assomption [see Pascal Poirier], where he set up the Fonds pour l’Éducation des Institutrices. In 1915, within less than a year, the sum of $2,500 was raised to help Acadian women teachers follow a more comprehensive course of studies at the normal school and obtain first- and second-class teaching certificates instead of merely the local licence. Hébert was also secretary of the Société Acadienne de Colonisation, d’Agriculture et de Rapatriement (from 1913), as well as of a committee formed to purchase and develop the land for the commemorative church in Grand Pré, N.S., in 1921 [see David-Vital Landry*].
During the 1920s the Société Nationale l’Assomption began to lose momentum and it gave way to the Société l’Assomption, which increasingly focused on Acadian national causes. In L’Évangéline (June 1926), Aubin-Edmond Arsenault*, a Prince Edward Island judge, went so far as to chide Hébert when he failed to attend a meeting of the Société Nationale l’Assomption; a national assembly planned for that summer had been on the agenda. The ninth Convention Nationale des Acadiens did not take place until the following year in Moncton. It was the last that Hébert would attend, since Alfred‑N. Roy, the editor of L’Évangéline, replaced him as secretary, having received twice as many votes as he did.
Charles-David Hébert was widowed in 1920. He himself died on 2 Aug. 1932 at the age of 57, leaving four children. The cause of death was cancer, for which he had been treated and operated on in Montreal. He was still in office as a school inspector. With his passing, Acadia lost a man who had served it well by contributing to the advancement of his people, especially in developing the education sector.
Centre d’Études Acadiennes Anselme-Chiasson, Univ. de Moncton, N.B., 679. L’Évangéline (Weymouth Bridge, N.S.), 9 avril 1903; later published in Moncton, 29 avril 1914; 13 janv., 3 févr., 19 mai 1915; 18 avril 1917; 25 sept. 1919; 5 juill. 1923; 16 oct. 1924; 17, 24 juin 1926; 11 août 1927; 2, 4 août 1932. Le Moniteur acadien (Shédiac, N.B.), 14 mai 1895, 8 déc. 1896. Maurice Basque, De Marc Lescarbot à l’AEFNB: histoire de la profession enseignante acadienne au Nouveau-Brunswick (Edmundston, N.B., 1994). College of St Joseph, Calendar (Saint John), 1889–96. Gilberte Couturier LeBlanc et al., “French education in the Maritimes, 1604–1992,” in Acadia of the Maritimes: thematic studies from the beginning to the present, ed. Jean Daigle (Moncton, 1995), 523–62. A.‑J. Savoie, Un siècle de revendications scolaires au Nouveau-Brunswick, 1871–1971 (2v., [Edmundston], 1978–80), 1. Univ. of St Joseph’s College, Calendar (Saint John), 1897–1902.