New Brunswick

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside's language comments spark firestorm

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside is backpedaling after his tweet suggesting that duality in government services should be reviewed sparked a firestorm on social media.

Woodside faces calls to recant after suggesting duality in provincial departments should be reviewed

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside tweeted that duality should be on the table as the provincial government looks for ways to save money.

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside is backpedalling after language-related comments he made on Twitter sparked a firestorm on social media.

Woodside, who is also president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities's (FCM) board of directors, suggested in a tweet Thursday night that duality in government departments, such as education and health, "makes no sense" and should be reviewed.

The controversial tweet resulted in more than 300 comments on both sides of the issue, as of late Friday afternoon. It was also retweeted more than 140 times and favourited an equal number of times.

The New Brunswick Association of Francophone Municipalities issued a statement on Friday, denouncing Woodside's comments and demanding a retraction.

Association president Roger Doiron, who is also the mayor of Richibucto, said it's hardly conceivable that Woodside, the mayor of the capital of an officially bilingual province, wants to reopen the language rights debate.

"As president of the FCM, which is a bilingual organization representing francophone and anglophone municipalities across the country, it has a moral duty to defend the language rights of both official language communities," Doiron said in French. "Mr. Woodside has failed in this task."

Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre also chimed in on Twitter, describing Woodside's comments as ignorant and regrettable.

Lapierre also called on Woodside to recant and suggested a boycott of FCM's national conference, slated for June in Edmonton, if he refuses.

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

Health Minister Victor Boudreau, the minister responsible for the provincial government's strategic program review, has said repeatedly that all ideas are "on the table," "except for constitutionally-protected rights."

Woodside also issued a written statement clarifying that his comments regarding duality of services did "not reflect in any way the position of FCM."

"FCM was not consulted on this matter, nor would FCM ever be supportive of any measure that would question the fundamental rights of French-speaking New Brunswick residents," Woodside said.

"I take this opportunity to clarify that I am a supporter of bilingualism and of the French language rights of N.B. residents. I have advocated for, and supported several measures that have expanded FCM’s ability to reach out to francophone municipalities."

Fredericton is scheduled to host the Jeux de l'Acadie in June 2017. The Acadian games, which are a mix of sporting and cultural activities, are held every year for Acadian and francophone youth throughout Atlantic Canada.

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