Premier David Alward says community leaders in the province, including the media, have a "responsibility" to provide balanced viewpoints in the contentious language debate.
The collection of 119 citizens, including several high-profile politicians, business leaders and prominent francophones, released an open letter this week that criticized stories about bilingualism and duality that were published in the Times & Transcript and Telegraph-Journal, which are both controlled by the Irving-owned Brunswick News Inc.
The authors said the stories have been "stoking the flames of discontent, thereby creating unnecessary division and increased tensions between communities."
'My hope is that we continue to focus and respect the differences and build on those differences to make a stronger New Brunswick.' — Premier David Alward
Alward was asked about the letter by reporters on Wednesday in Fredericton. He said there are people with "significant concerns" with the way the language debate has unfolded in recent months.
"There is a responsibility by all leaders and all media quite frankly to present balanced reporting and balanced message and public understanding as to where we have come as a people, the diversity, the value that each of us share and bring to the province," Alward said.
L'Acadie Nouvelle, the province's French-language daily newspaper, has printed the group's open letter. CBC News and Radio-Canada have also published the letter.
Brunswick News Inc. has not printed it yet. The company has stated it is confirming all of the names on the open letter support it.
The province has seen language debates flare up again recently in the province.
The Alward government had to defend its decision that allowed a special legislative committee that is reviewing the Official Languages Act to hold its meetings in private.
Alward said on Wednesday the committee is expected to release its report on proposed changes to the act either this fall or next spring.
Alward told reporters he hopes the controversial debate does not jeopardize the progress made between the two language groups.
"As part of that over the last 40 years we've seen tremendous growth in the richness and understanding of who are as two different linguistic communities," he said.
"My hope is that we continue to focus and respect the differences and build on those differences to make a stronger New Brunswick."
The group’s letter ended with a call for unity in the contentious language debate.
"The time has come for those of us who believe in justice, fairness and equality to stand up and be counted. The future of this province depends on it. New Brunswick deserves better," the letter states.
"We have come a long way and we have a long and tough road yet to travel, but we can only achieve the goals we hold dear in a spirit of mutual respect, honesty and co-operation. We will all be much better off if we focus on what unites us rather than what divides us."