Leaders of New Brunswick's Acadian community are rallying behind an effort to stop the province's plan to create two health districts, replacing the existing eight, because they see it as a threat to francophone rights.
A letter of protest has been sent to Premier Shawn Graham, signed by more than 100 prominent Acadians, including Yvon Fontaine, president of l'Université de Moncton, and Denis Losier, president of the insurance company Assumption Life.
Last week, Health Minister Mike Murphy tabled a bill in the legislature that will replace the eight existing health authorities with two districts and a health council.
As he described it, Regional Health Authority A would be based in Bathurst, and would serve northern New Brunswick's French-language hospitals, including Beausejour, Edmundston, Campbellton and Bathurst.
Regional Health Authority B would be based in Miramichi and would be responsible for the province's southeast English-language hospitals, including Saint John, Fredericton and Miramichi.
The Moncton area would be jointly served by both of the new authorities, and its administration would be split between both languages.
But the lawyer who drafted the Acadians' letter to the premier, Michel Doucet, said Wednesday the divisions between French and English are not that clear. For instance, he said, there is a hodge-podge of French and bilingual hospitals in what is supposed to be the French health district.
"What the francophones are saying is we have some hospitals, and some health authorities, where we have the control over the destiny on how we wanted health care to be addressed to the francophones, and we believe this reform will take it away from us," Doucet said.
For example, Doucet is concerned that Acadians may lose control over the Georges Dumont hospital in Moncton.
The letter also asks for a French equivalent to the Saint John-based corporation that will oversee non-clinical health services such as laundry and food services in the hospitals.
The minister of health has said he'll amend the law to protect language rights in French hospitals, but Doucet says that's not enough. He and his group want the legislation put on hold until they can have some say in how the health districts will be run.