New Brunswick

Early French immersion task force starts hearings

The Alward government will reopen the early French immersion debate when a task force starts public consultations on Tuesday night.

The Progressive Conservative government will reopen one of the most contentious political debates in the province’s recent history when it starts public consultations over early French immersion on Tuesday.

Education Minister Jody Carr announced on Oct. 19 that a panel of two former New Brunswick cabinet ministers would lead a special task force designed to review the early entry point into the French immersion program.

The first meeting will be held at Fredericton High School at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Elvy Robichaud, a former Progressive Conservative education minister, and James Lockyer, a former Liberal education minister, will lead the four-person task force.

Public meetings

  • Nov. 1: Fredericton
  • Nov. 23: Oromocto
  • Nov. 28: Woodstock
  • Nov. 30: St. Stephen
  • Dec. 1: Saint John
  • Dec. 5: Sackville
  • Dec. 7: Bathurst
  • Dec. 8: Campbellton
  • Dec. 12: Moncton
  • Dec. 14: Miramichi
  • Dec. 15: Hampton

Paul-Émile Chiasson, an expert in second-language education at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, and Linda Lowther, a retired assistant deputy minister of education in the P.E.I. government, are also on the task force.

Premier David Alward promised during the last election to revive the French immersion debate.

The former Liberal government of Shawn Graham faced a massive revolt in 2008 when it announced significant changes to the early French immersion program.

The Graham government announced in February 2008 the provincial government was cutting the early French immersion program, which started in Grade 1, in favour of a five-month intensive French program for all Grade 5 students.

It did not take long for parents around the province to mobilize against the decision. Some parents launched a lawsuit against the changes, saying the provincial government did not consult enough on the reforms.

A New Brunswick judge ordered the provincial government to enter into another round of public consultations.

By August, the Liberal government modified the early French immersion program after the consultation with parents and language and education experts.

Instead of scrapping early French immersion, the entry point was moved to Grade 3.

French-language training is now available to all students in Grade 5.