Quebec speaks out about New Brunswick's 'very worrisome' French immersion reforms

Jean-François Roberge, the Quebec minister responsible for the French language, says he is concerned by recent developments in New Brunswick but is reluctant to interfere in another province's business.

Minister concerned that neighbouring province's education reform is bad news for Acadians

Man at podium.
Formerly the education minister, Jean-François Roberge now holds the language portfolio in François Legault's cabinet. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government says it is worried about the future of the French language in New Brunswick and is looking at what actions it can take.

Quebec's minister responsible for the Canadian Francophonie today called the New Brunswick government's plan to reform French immersion in schools a very troubling sign.

Jean-François Roberge says he is following the situation in New Brunswick closely.

His government considers New Brunswick's Acadian minority to be struggling, but he did not specify what actions Quebec could take to help them.

New Brunswick's current immersion program offers up to 90 per cent of class time in French, while the program to be introduced in September devotes half the day to learning in French and the other half to English instruction for subjects such as math, reading and writing.

Roberge notes that he has to be careful not to meddle in the administration of another province.

"I am looking at how we can act," he said. "It's certainly very worrisome when a Franco-Canadian community outside Quebec is in difficulty."

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) caucus is meeting in Laval ahead of the next session at the National Assembly.

Premier François Legault said at a party event Thursday that he has an added responsibility as the only political leader in North America representing a francophone majority.

The New Brunswick government says the goal of its reforms is to ensure all graduates in the anglophone sector have at least a "conversational level" of French. The province prides itself on being the only officially bilingual province in Canada but has lamented how most of its anglophone graduates can't speak French.

Critics have packed public consultations held over the past week, questioning what evidence the government has on the shortcomings of the existing immersion program and demanding that the reform be scrapped.

WATCH: N.B.'s education minister says no final decision before end of consultations:

N.B.’s French immersion replacement program could change, says education minister

4 months ago
Duration 4:17
Hundreds of parents, teachers and community members attended public hearings over proposed changes to French immersion that would see students in kindergarten and Grade 1 spend half their days learning in French come September.


Patrice Bergeron works for The Canadian Press.