New Brunswick

Bilingual school buses proposed by Dominic Cardy

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy is raising the idea of sending anglophone and francophone students to New Brunswick schools on the same buses.

NDP leader says idea would not violate language rights

CBC's Terry Seguin hosts the New Brunswick Political Panel. This week's topic is duality. 52:27

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy is raising the idea of sending anglophone and francophone students to New Brunswick schools on the same buses.

Cardy says he and his party support bilingualism and equality. But he contends bilingual buses would not violate the fundamental rights of the minority French-speaking community.

"[Buses] are not classed as being part of the education day. So when you're in your school bus, you're not at class. That's not counted towards your hours of education," he said during CBC's political panel this week. "The reason why it was separated is because it was administratively simpler to do it."

"These days, there are all sorts of traffic flow systems you could use to easily combine the systems if we wanted to. The problem is … there are a number of people in the province who are actually anti-French and the concern from the francophone minority, who 40 years ago were fighting for the right to have any teaching in their mother tongue, is that they believe, you open the door a little bit and it's going to slam open."

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy says bilingual school buses would not violate the fundamental rights of the minority French-speaking community. (CBC)
​Cardy's comments come on the heels of Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside sparking a firestorm on social media last week when he suggested in a tweet that duality in government departments, such as education and health, "makes no sense" and should be reviewed.

"Bilingualism I understand, duality makes no sense. This should be on the table Mr Premier as we look to save money. You asked," Woodside tweeted.

Woodside later tweeted he had heard from Premier Brian Gallant and "duality is not on the table, therefore I shall cease and desist."

Twitter reaction

Cardy's comments also sparked some reaction on Twitter from francophones.

Marie-Michèle Doucet tweeted in French, "This debate is over and it's not worth reopening."

Thierry Arseneau also tweeted a thought in French, saying "Not really, we're not starting that again?"

Michel Doucet chimed in by saying, "I'd like to know what Yvon Godin thinks." Godin is the MP for Acadie-Bathurst and the official opposition's critic for official languages.

No one from government was available to join the CBC political panel on Thursday morning, but Premier Brian Gallant's press secretary emailed a statement about the government's strategic program review.

"Donald Arsenault, the minister responsible for Official Languages has stated the government's strategic program review is an exercise of wide scope. All options are on the table except for official languages and other constitutionally guaranteed rights," said Shawn Berry.

"The government of New Brunswick has a duty under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to preserve and promote equality of status and the equal rights and privileges of the English-speaking and French-speaking communities of New Brunswick, including duality in education," he said.

Cardy says much of the linguistic tension in the province can be traced to poor language skills and competition for scarce government jobs.

He says New Brunswick should learn from the example of Poland, which increased the rate of students taking second language training from one per cent to 74 per cent between the years 2000 and 2006.

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