New Brunswick's official languages commissioner is calling on the provincial government to ban bilingual daycares by extending the policy of duality that currently covers the education system.

Michel Carrier said in his annual report that was released on Thursday the same rules that divide kindergarten to Grade 12 into French and English systems in New Brunswick should also apply to daycares.

Carrier said experts have told him that in a bilingual daycare, French preschoolers tend to lose their French and learn English instead.

He said that makes it harder for them once they get to French school.

"The French school system are facing challenges in accepting students whose ability to understand and speak French is not all that great," he said.

'It should be remembered that bilingual settings often spell assimilation for members of minority communities.' — Michel Carrier, official languages commissioner

Carrier said he's raising this issue because the province is considering proclaiming the Early Learning and Childcare Act. The act would allow bilingual instruction for preschoolers at daycares.

There are 622 daycares registered in the province and of those, 349 (56 per cent) are English, 199 (32 per cent) are French and 73 (12 per cent) are classified as bilingual.

The provincial government has approved a curriculum framework for the early childhood centres in each official language.

There is also the possibility that one centre could use both frameworks, which sets up the chance that these centres could be bilingual.

Carrier said a lot of francophones are worried about the growing number of bilingual daycares.

"It should be remembered that bilingual settings often spell assimilation for members of minority communities," the commissioner’s report said.

"This is also why New Brunswick has two public school systems, one for francophones and one for anglophones."

Bilingual daycares are common

In Moncton, an officially bilingual city where an estimated 40 per cent of the population speak both English and French, bilingual daycares are common.

Private daycare statistics
English 349 56%
French 199 32%
Bilingual 73 12%
Not specific 1 0%
Total 622 100%

Linda Babineau, who runs Garderie A Plus daycare, said a bilingual daycare hasn't hurt her children.

"My children are French and they've been with English children all their lives at daycare and around our neighbourhood and they haven't lost their French language at all," Babineau said.

Babineau said the earlier children learn both languages the better.

Carrier said it should be up to the school districts not daycares to decide how best to offer second language instruction.

Challenging francization

The commissioner said in his report that his recommendation should be viewed as a challenge to tackle the issue of francization.

The Department of Education has set up a policy that outlines the schools where children can sign up. The official policy states that children can attend a school if they speak the language of that institution, both official languages or neither official language.

There is an exception for children who are considered to be an ayant droit.

Ayant droit refers to children who have one parent who was schooled in French and has protection under the constitution's minority language education clause. The constitution grants those children the right to attend a French school even if they are not fluent.

School districts, particularly District 1 which oversees the French schools in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, have set up francization programs to help ayant droit become fluent in French even if they come to school unable to speak the language.

Carrier said the heart of his recommendation could help end this issue being faced by the school districts.

"Obviously, homogeneous nursery schools constitute an important tool in order to meet the challenge of francization," Carrier said in his report.