New Brunswick

Acadian society joins Ontario, Quebec groups to promote minority language rights

Acadian rights advocates have joined minority language groups in Ontario and Quebec in an effort to better protect minority language groups in anticipation of October's federal election.

Recent political developments provoked groups to sign memorandum of understanding

Robert Melanson, president of the New Brunswick Acadian Society, said a memorandum of understanding signed Tuesday sends a message that minority language groups are united and are paying attention. (CBC)

Acadian rights advocates have joined minority language groups in Ontario and Quebec in an effort to better protect minority language groups in anticipation of October's federal election.

The New Brunswick Acadian Society signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday with the Francophone Assembly of Ontario, which advocates for French language rights in Ontario, and the Quebec Community Groups Network, which advocates for English language rights in Quebec.

Robert Melanson, the Acadian society president, said recent blows to minority language rights brought about the memorandum. 

He cited the Quebec government's decision to make three Montreal English schools French, cuts to francophone  government services in Ontario, and last year's New Brunswick provincial election.

The ultimate winners of that election, the Progressive Conservatives, have only one MLA who is francophone.

At the same time, the People's Alliance of New Brunswick made a breakthrough with the election of three members. 

Alliance supporters have been accused of being anti-bilingual, although the party says it isn't. The party has, however, taken stands against duality in the provision of some health and education services. 

Setting a tone

"For a while, there was a lot of linguistic tension," said Melanson.

Melanson said the MOU isn't targeted at any proposed federal initiative, since the election is months away and political parties haven't released their platforms. 

He said the MOU is supposed to send a message that minority language groups are united and are paying attention.

"I think that this move will probably set a certain tone," said Melanson.

"And to break stereotypes that says that … we cannot and never can work with the other linguistic group."

A news release from the three groups indicates that combined, they represent 2.4 million people, or almost 90 per cent of official language minority groups in the three provinces.

Good for more than francophones

Melanson said collaboration among the groups is important, especially in New Brunswick, where a small but vocal group of English speakers has treated official bilingualism with suspicion.

Melanson said he hopes joining forces with the Quebec Community Groups Network will show New Brunswick anglophones that minority language rights don't just benefit French speakers.

"I think that we have to show that every linguistic group has something to gain out of that social contract," said Melanson. 

"Because let's be clear here that the language law of Canada, the same as the one in New Brunswick, [is] a social contract between two communities."

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