New Brunswick

Francophones concerned about rise in People's Alliance support

Some francophone New Brunswickers say they are feeling alienated by anti-French sentiment and worry about an increase in political division along language lines.

'It doesn't feel like New Brunswick. It doesn't feel like Canada at all'

A perceived increase in anti-French sentiment has some young francophones, like Sebastien Cyr of Edmundston, wondering what place they have in New Brunswick's future. (Jennifer Sweet/CBC)

Some francophone New Brunswickers are feeling uneasy about the provincial election results.

Three candidates from the People's Alliance of New Brunswick party have been elected — in Fredericton-Grand Lake, Fredericton-York and Miramichi.

The People's Alliance is in favour of things like ending duality for school busing, loosening bilingual requirements for paramedics, and eliminating the office of the commissioner of official languages.

Some say the increase in support for the party represents a rise in anti-French sentiment.

Sebastien Cyr is a student at University of Moncton's Edmundston campus.

He said he was made to feel like an unwelcome stranger during a recent trip to the provincial capital.

"I've been to Fredericton last week," Cyr said.

"I've been to Winners to shop for my clothes. And I was just talking to one of my friends. And an old lady came to me and touched my elbows and she said, 'Hey, here we speak only English. We don't speak French.' I was like, 'Wow, OK.' 

"I don't know. I don't know where we're going ... I don't know at all. 

"It's not like home. It doesn't feel like New Brunswick. It doesn't feel like Canada at all."

The newly elected People's Alliance MLA for Miramichi, Michelle Conroy, said her party wants to bring bilingualism 'back to where it's meant to be.' (Radio-Canada)

Chantal Martin of Edmundston said she worries the province is becoming increasingly divided along language lines.

Virtually all of the predominantly francophone ridings voted Liberal or Green, while predominantly anglophone ridings voted Tory or People's Alliance.

"It sure feels like the French voted for a Liberal government and the English the opposite. And it's a little bit frightening because we are afraid that if the Conservative government makes an alliance with the Alliance party, well, it's not going to be good for the French people," said Martin.

The newly elected People's Alliance MLA for Miramichi, Michelle Conroy, said her party is not against any culture but suggested language rights have gone too far.

"It's about bringing bilingualism back to where it's meant to be and where we started to. It's meant to be as a bilingual province."

You can only stretch the social fabric so much ... sometime it tears.- Ali Chiasson , executive director, Acadian Society of New Brunswick

The prospect of any reduction in French-language services is unacceptable to the Acadian Society of New Brunswick.

"Official bilingualism was the consolation prize during the high tension of the late '60s," said Ali Chiasson, the group's executive director.

"It's a social contract, and this has the musings of going back to a very grey time … you can only stretch the social fabric so much … sometime it tears," he said.