Bilingualism consultations launched in N.B.

The federal minister of heritage and official languages has launched a series of country-wide consultations on how to best promote bilingualism when the government's current five-year plan ends next year.

Minister of official languages started talks Tuesday

Heritage Minister James Moore started the tour by meeting with Acadian groups in Dieppe, N.B., on Tuesday. (CBC)

Federal Heritage Minister James Moore has launched a series of country-wide consultations on how to best promote bilingualism when the federal government’s five-year plan ends next year.

Linguistic duality is one area of spending that has survived federal  budget cuts.

"For me, it's about nation-building, it's about respecting our past and present and our bilingual future," said Moore, who is also the minister responsible for official languages.

Moore started his cross-Canada tour by meeting with Acadian groups in Dieppe on Tuesday.

Moore also announced nearly $2.6 million in funding for the arts, cultural and official languages sectors in New Brunswick. The funding will support a total of 49 projects that will help boost tourism and strengthen the province's economy, he said.

The current Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008–2013: Acting for the Future, was also based on consultations, said Moore.

The $1.1 billion investment is used for education, the arts, economic development and to encourage immigration, he said.

"Canada's two official languages help define who we are as Canadians. They are the languages of our national dialogue and the ones that allow new arrivals to this country to participate fully in our society," Moore said in a statement.

"Thanks to our official languages, together we are building a prosperous Canada. These are the reasons why we are proud to hold follow-up consultations on the Roadmap."

Positive start

The federal heritage minister received a positive reception from Acadian groups in Dieppe. (Marc Genuist/CBC)

Nadine Duguay, the manager of Dieppe's centre for arts and culture, told CBC News she was so moved by the minister’s enthusiasm for bilingualism, she found herself shaking as he spoke.

Jean-Marie Nadeau, the president of the Acadian society, said he was also impressed by the federal minister.

He said it's a pleasure to meet an anglophone from Western Canada who is fluent in French.

Nadeau is also pleased that money set aside for bilingual programs is secure, despite federal budget cuts in other areas, such as Old Age Security and veterans affairs.

More than 17 roundtables

Moore currently has 17 roundtables scheduled country-wide.

Host cities will include Victoria, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury, Québec City, Montréal, Fredericton, Halifax, Charlottetown, St. John’s, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Iqaluit.

Consultations will also be held in smaller communities across Canada and additional communities will be added to the list and announced at a later date, he said.

An online forum has also been set up to give Canadians who are unable to attend consultations the opportunity to share their views.

The current roadmap, launched in 2008, was based on seven roundtables by former premier Bernard Lord, said Moore.

Impact on N.B. review unclear

It's unclear if or how the federal consultations will affect the New Brunswick government's review of the provincial Official Languages Act, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

When the act was revised in 2002, it included a mandatory provision to review the law in a decade.

The provincial government updated the act after the Court of Appeal ruled in the case of Moncton property owner Mario Charlebois. The ruling dealt with whether Moncton should translate its bylaws.

That court decision forced the provincial government to change the province’s language law.

New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual province.

The original act dates back to 1967.