Moncton votes to become Canada's first bilingual city

Moncton council passes resolution to become Canada's first officially bilingual city.

Moncton city council unanimously passed a motion in both languages on Tuesday night to make the city officially bilingual, the first city to do so in Canada.

"Bilingualism is precious because it defines us and it's the absolute unique quality that makes us special," said Mayor Brian Murphy.

That sentiment is a far cry from former mayor Len Jones's vehement opposition to bilingualism 30 years ago.

Now, Moncton wants to be the poster city for bilingualism and Canadian unity.

"This new title is in fact recognition of the type of service we've been providing to citizens for the past few years," said Coun. Michel Cyr.

Moncton passed its first languages bylaw in 1991. At that time, council decided all public information, documents and correspondence would be provided in both languages. That policy was expanded in 2000.

The resolution passed Tuesday says New Brunswick has both French and English as official languages and citizens have the right to communicate and receive government services in the language of their choice.

Moncton will now provide all services and make all public notices and information in both languages.

That is expected to cost $200,000 to $300,000 annually.

Councillors say no unilingual city employees will lose their jobs, but some may be shifted to new areas so workers who deal with the public are bilingual.

Chambers were filled by representatives of both the French and English communities. A standing ovation followed the unanimous vote.

Former city councillor Steven Campbell recalls a very different environment three decades ago, when mayor Len Jones refused to allow Acadians to speak French in the council chambers.

"I thought it would come some day but there was a time 30 years ago when that light at the end of the tunnel was nothing more than a pin prick," he said. "Tonight, the mayor and council took us out into the daylight."