Newfoundland's French newspaper Le Gaboteur's future uncertain

The future of the only French language newspaper in the province, Le Gaboteur, is uncertain. Its two employees have been laid off, and its Christmas edition cancelled.

Le Gaboteur is not quite an ordinary newspaper. And that may be one reason for the turmoil.

Mireille Pinsent has run Le Gaboteur in Stephenville for 7 years, more appropriately, she used to run Le Gaboteur, the only French paper in the province. She has been laid off. In a few days, she will be gone.

"I have asked for explanations without success," says Pinsent. The board of Directors of the non-profit community paper advised her simply that she no longer met the requirements of the position.

In Cap Saint-Georges, the Vice-President of the board, Tony Cornect explains. If you read the last issue of the paper, Cornect says, it is obvious that both employees lacked professionalism. Cornect refers to the two editorials printed side by side by reporter Eric Blanchette and manager Mireille Pinsent. Blanchette who, in previous editorials, had made a point of slamming various Francophone groups, this time accused his own board of political interference. "It is a fact of life at the paper, but Eric decided to write about it and the Board did not like it," says Cornect. Pinsent on the other hand, alluded in her column to the possibility that the Gaboteur may be moved to St. John's soon, a decision she opposed vehemently.

Tony Cornect insists that no decision has been made regarding such a move and that the paper is in no danger. But when questioned on freedom of speech and the right of journalists to report without interference from a volunteer board, the answer is evasive. The board is free to hire and fire employees.

Le Gaboteur is part of 12 community newspapers across the country run by volunteer boards whose mandate is to promote the Francophone community. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the sad reality is that the single, solitary Francophone voice of a province hangs in the balance.