Francophone groups plan legal challenge over riding law
Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission cut ridings to 49 from 55
Two francophone organizations plan to launch a legal challenge against the province's electoral boundary law, arguing it fails to protect minority language groups.
The independent Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission released the final version of the new riding boundaries in June.
The commission was forced, by law, to reduce the number of constituencies to 49 from 55.
Those changes, however, reduced the political clout of several Acadian communities, according to the groups.
For instance, the group moved one francophone village, Memramcook, into a majority English riding and in several others, francophones make up a smaller share of the vote.
Roger Doiron, the president of the francophone municipalities association, said these changes violate minority-language protections in the constitution, an argument that has worked before.
Doiron pointed to a ruling a decade ago based on similar linguistic arguments, which forced the redrawing of two federal ridings in New Brunswick.
"The principles are basically the same," he said.
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The two groups will argue not just the new map but the law itself needs stronger minority-language protections.
Jeanne d’Arc-Gaudet, the president of the Acadian Society, said the groups understand the legal fight could take a long time to work through the legal system.
"This is the first step. We don't know how long it's going to take before we get an answer. It can take a long time," she said.
But the clock is already ticking on the groups. By law, the next New Brunswick election will be in September 2014 with months of preparation required ahead of the campaign.
No one from the Office of Attorney General could be reached for comment on the groups’ decision to challenge the law.
The Acadian society had warned in June the group was looking at challenging the riding map.
The commission dismissed most of the 23 objections raised against the map.
The Village of Memramcook started expressing its concerns about being placed in a riding with Sackville earlier this year.
The riding boundary law allows exceptions in special circumstances, but the commission said the predominant language of a riding does not qualify as a special circumstance in New Brunswick.